4 Ways to Create Value-Added Performance Reviews

4 Ways to Create Value-Added Performance Reviews

The needs of a modern workforce have evolved. Has your performance review process done the same?

Many companies are holding onto traditional performance reviews because they think it adds value to their organization, even though in most cases research shows otherwise. Studies show that employees want development, motivation and recognition that will help them grow and benefit their companies. Incorporating these actions into the performance management process could equally benefit both the organization and their employees.

Whether you are reevaluating your current process, or thinking about implementing a new performance review process, consider these four (4) tips:

1)     Define your objective.

First, determine your objective or the ultimate outcome you are trying to achieve. For example:

•        Are you seeking a method to differentiate performance and reward individual employee efforts through merit pay? Or;

•        Are you looking for a consistent method to provide employees with performance feedback?

The answer to these questions would result in two very different performance review systems. The first would likely include a rating system that would differentiate employee’s performance outcomes, while the latter may simply be a structured format in which to provide feedback and doesn’t include a performance rating.

2)     Determine frequency.

The complexity of the process should help inform the frequency. Going through a rating process is time consuming and only realistic once or twice per year. However, we know that a modern workforce wants performance feedback much more frequently than that. Consider mid-cycle performance checkpoints that ensure employees are tracking towards their goals.

3)     Keep it simple.

Don’t overcomplicate the process so much that it’s cumbersome for managers (and thus a deterrent) and confusing for employees. Stay true to your objectives and desired outcomes.

4)     Make it meaningful.

BambooHR reports that 4% of respondents feel that performance reviews motivate and engage employees. Instead, employees reported they prefer to be motivated through:

•     Open, informal conversations

•     Getting raises

•     One-on-ones more geared toward career path

•     Managers listening to their ideas and using them

•     Getting more employee recognition

Incorporating these outcomes into your performance review process is a win-win!

Can I Use Unpaid Interns?

Can I Use Unpaid Interns?

It’s a complicated question, but more often than not the answer is NO.

Well-structured internship programs benefit both interns and employers. By participating in these valuable on-the-job learning opportunities, interns augment their work experience, hone important work skills, and develop their career goals. In turn, internships give employers access to a pool of motivated individuals who bring fresh thinking and innovation to their workplaces.

Interns are generally students or recent graduates who work on a full- or part-time basis and perform work for an employer that is relevant to their degree program. Internships in the “for-profit” private sector are most often viewed as an “employee” and subject to minimum wage requirements under the FLSA.

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships may do so without compensation. Refer to Internships and the FLSA to determine if your intern program may meet the definition of a trainee program.

Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations are generally permissible.

What about unpaid co-ops?

Cooperative education, commonly known as a "co-op", is a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience. A cooperative education experience provides academic credit for structured job experience.

Cooperative learning falls under the umbrella of work-integrated learning (alongside internships, service learning and clinical placements) but is distinct as it alternates a school term with a work term in a structured manner, involves a partnership between the academic institution and the employer, and generally is both paid and intended to advance the education of the student.

Unpaid co-op arrangements may be possible if the program meets the above FLSA definition of a “trainee program.” The work must be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience versus performing productive work that benefits the employer.

Similar to internships, unpaid co-ops in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations are generally permissible.

Can someone ‘volunteer’ their time to work for my company?

It is unlikely that a for-profit business would meet the criteria for a volunteer. According to the DOL, an unpaid volunteer is: an “individual who performs hours of service….for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.”

To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer engaged in “ordinary volunteerism,” the DOL considers a number of factors. No single factor is determinative. The factors include:

  • Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
  • Is the activity less than a full-time occupation?
  • Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
  • Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
  • Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
  • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?

A volunteer position is likely to be regarded as “ordinary volunteerism” and safely exempt from the minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if you can answer “yes” to the first four questions and “no” to the final two questions.

It is unlikely that a for-profit business would meet the above criteria, and therefore should carefully consider the legal ramifications of using an unpaid “volunteer” that may in fact meet the definition of an employee. Misclassification of an employee can give rise to a variety of liabilities.

FINAL THOUGHTS: When in doubt, always pay minimum wage!

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees.



4 Reasons Why Effective Job Descriptions Add Value to Your Business

4 Reasons Why Effective Job Descriptions Add Value to Your Business

Effectively developed job descriptions are communication tools that greatly contribute to your organization's success. Poorly written employee job descriptions, on the other hand, add to workplace confusion, hurt communication, and may leave employees unsure of what is expected from them. Further, having a written description of duties accomplishes many important things that protect your business and positions you for success:

1)     Legal Protections. If a dispute arises over job duties, the job description will be used to settle the matter. An accurately written job description may avoid potential lawsuits and defend a termination decision for an employee who did not satisfactorily meet the requirements of the job.

2)     Reward & Recognition. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities provide the basis for employee reviews, salary increases, setting goals, and growth paths. Employers also use job descriptions during evaluations for raises, promotions and recognizing employees that go above and beyond.

3)     Employee Compensation. A job description serves as a reference guide when determining comparable industry salaries and helps maximize dollars spent on compensation for the position by ensuring experience and skills needed for the job are detailed.

4)     Recruiting the Right Talent. Job descriptions provide the foundation for effective job advertisements and developing interview questions that ensure you are screening and selecting candidates with the skills and experience necessary for the position.

“Other Duties as Assigned” is the most important element of a job description.

Make certain employee job descriptions have enough flexibility so individuals can "work outside of the box." Ideally, employers are hiring highly motivated and skilled employees who are eager to do more than just their assigned tasks. But not all workers are as dedicated to their jobs or the companies. Employees who refuse to do more than their job description specifically states can create avoidable headaches for their employers.

By including “other duties as assigned” to a job description, the employer has flexibility to add new tasks to the position as needed. You want people who are comfortable taking reasonable chances and stretching their limits. You don't want to encourage people to think "that's not my job."

Finally, job descriptions should always include an “Employee Signature” at the bottom. All employees should sign to demonstrate acknowledgement of their job description. Signed copies should be retained in the employee file.



Reward and recognition should be individualized to be effective. What motivates one team (or person for that matter) won’t be as effective for another. It’s worth the effort to find what motivates each of your people. Further, consider that not all employees appreciate a public display of recognition. It’s equally as important to find out HOW they like to be recognized in addition to learning WHAT type of rewards motivate them. Asking these questions in the form of a survey is a very effective method to gather the intel you need.

Reward and recognition doesn’t have to be expensive! In fact, sometimes it’s the most basic forms of appreciation that make the biggest difference. When crafting your rewards and recognition programs, also consider what is in-line with your company values. Some types of rewards will map directly back to your company culture. And the way you recognize your employees should line up too.

Here are 10 effective and FREE ways to recognize your employees:

  • A sincere “thank you” and handshake face-to-face.
  • Write a personal note specifying exactly what the employee did that you want to recognize.
  • Recognize a job well done in a meeting or get others involved in applauding the great work.
  • Send a shout-out around in your company’s blog, private social site or other public social media channel.
  • Mention an employee’s success story in a presentation, webinar or even in the company newsletter.
  • Give a long lunch, an extra break or a get-out-of-work-free day.
  • Offer a stretch goal or even let an employee take on a more managerial role—like a team lead.
  • Arrange for the CEO or other top manager to stop by and say, “Great job on _________!”
  • Offer extra flexibility or more chances to work from home if desired.
  • Create a “Wall of Fame” or white board where you display what employees do that’s extraordinary.

Employee Handbooks Aren’t Just About Policies

Employee Handbooks Aren’t Just About Policies

Employee Handbooks are the backbone of an organization’s culture and guiding principles. More than just policies, they should tell the story of who you are and describe the motivations and priorities that drive your business. Many employers mistakenly think a Handbook only serves the purpose to ensure legal compliance….but that’s not what is most important about a Handbook!


The policies you establish are what align your employee behaviors, organizational philosophy and leadership expectations. An Employee Handbook is like having a rulebook for sports. It defines your company’s boundaries, gives ground rules and explains what is and is not considered acceptable behavior internally and externally.

Legal protections. Of course, Handbooks also protect the company and ensure your policies are compliant with federal and state requirements. While a handbook can’t protect you from being sued, it can provide documentation that can help protect you if you are. For instance, if your handbook explains how overtime is calculated you may be able to use your policy as documentation to help protect yourself and your company in the event of an accusation.


Review contents annually. The employment landscape changes frequently, as such employers are encouraged to review and update their Employee Handbook every year. Avoid creating such detailed policies that require more frequent updates to the Handbook making the process overly burdensome.


It’s not enough to just update the contents each year. You must make sure your employees are aware of your policies and that you review them with your employees every year. Employers are encouraged to provide employees a copy of the Handbook upon hire and every time you update it. Always have them sign an acknowledgement that it was received.


Don’t have a Handbook? It’s time to build one. Think there is a stigma with the name? Call it something fresh, like a Culture Book. No matter what you call it, having a documented set of guidelines that direct your employee’s behavior and allows you to hold them accountable is a win-win!