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Use middle managers to help evaluate employee performance

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 31 December 2012

Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series on developing middle managers. Click here to read the first part of the series. Click here to read second part of the series.

With the right people on the Scandinavian warship and everyone busy rowing, it is time to see who rows the best, who needs more direction and who might need to find a seat on another ship.



“Employee evaluations remind the employee what your expectations are, give you a better handle on performances and provide marching orders for retraining, replacing or rewarding,” said Mary Kraft, a dairy producer from Fort Morgan, Colorado.

When Kraft led a workshop at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Business Conference last spring, she said she learned the hard way how proper evaluations needed to be done.

In the past, managers would recommend awarding raises based solely on the employees’ friendly attitudes. Since then she has come up with a more objective methodology to use on her two dairies.

“It’s important for everybody to know what the expectations are, to know what the deliverables are and what the scale is,” she said.

Evaluations are now done every six months and are used to determine the employees’ salary.


To eliminate some of the bias, Kraft likes to have two people evaluate each employee. Typically, an employee is evaluated by their direct manager and another member of their team.

They do not know the member of their team that evaluated them and, when the scorecard is returned to the employee, the name of the scorer is removed.

All scores are kept private. They remain between Kraft and that particular employee. They are never posted on a wall or pulled up in front of another individual on the dairies.

Figure 1
Kraft keeps her evaluation form simple. (See Figure 1.)

It is written in Spanish and in English so whoever is filling it out can do it in the language that is most comfortable to them.

For each performance category, the employee is scored horrible, okay, good or above and beyond. If the employee is horrible, she said, an “x” is placed in the left column with a value of 1.


If they are excellent, an “x” is marked in the right column, which has a value of four.

When complete, the number of x’s in each column is tallied and a total score, from 17 to 68, is calculated.

According to Kraft, her long-term employees are scoring well into column four because they know the expectations and level of intensity required on the farm.

Most of her other employees tend to score in the middle two columns.

She noted that these evaluations also aid in setting a starting point for each employee. Don’t worry if the scores are low the first couple of times you score an employee.

“What you’re looking for is the evolution of the employee,” Kraft said. “You’re looking for them to eventually get better and better.”

In addition, she told the audience that every farm’s evaluation form does not need to be a replication of hers.

Each performance category can be adjusted to meet the needs of an individual dairy and so can the scoring system.

“What you’re looking for are the things that are important to you and then you rate it,” she said.

No matter what the performance categories end up to be, she did state it is important that whomever is scoring an employee understands the categories and the scoring system.

Therefore, a set of criteria needs to be developed for each category.

For instance, the criteria Kraft uses to define “leads others” include:

Shows willingness to get others to join and get work done.
Can see what needs to be done and is able to communicate it to others.
Shows initiative, makes decisions and acts on them with others following his lead.

“What we’re trying to do is train the trainer,” Kraft says, noting evaluations are a teaching tool in two ways.

1. Middle managers are taught how to evaluate employees because it usually is a skill set or a job that they have not yet had.
2. Each evaluation reminds managers of the expectations of their team and how each job needs to be carried out.

All of the concepts behind an evaluation help to define exactly what it is the dairy is looking to accomplish, she said.

Once each evaluator scores the evaluation, Kraft said she reviews all scores for any bias. For instance, if an employee receives all fours from one individual and twos and threes from another, she will follow up with the evaluators to find out why there is a discrepancy and might have the individual re-evaluated.

If the scores are fairly close, she will average the two scores together. As she spoke, Kraft showed a sampling of average scores from nine employees, ranging from 35 to 52.

Those employees in the 35 range will most likely require disciplinary action or retraining. Those that score around a 45 or higher will be rewarded with a raise and told why they are receiving an increase in pay.

“Do not just give money to the guys and not tell them why you gave them money,” Kraft said. “You have to tell them where they did the fabulous job.”

Not only do the scores help to determine who will get a raise but also how much they will get for that raise. Kraft said she has an allotted amount of money for additional payroll in the next six-month period.

As she looks at the list of scores like the one mentioned above, the person who scored 52 might get a $1-per-hour increase. Those in the middle (45 to 46) might get 50 cents and those at the bottom (35 to 36) might get 20 cents and a talk, she said.

“If they score twice like that, they probably aren’t going to be at our facility any more. Because they weren’t getting the idea and I’m going to replace them with somebody instead of continuing to throw money at something that’s not moving forward,” she said.

If someone is let go in Kraft’s farm operation, she has the employee’s direct manager perform that task. “I think it’s one of the best training things for the middle manager to do,” Kraft said, noting they are usually accompanied by an owner or general manager.

“You need to know how bad that feels and you need to be comfortable with that decision.”

She added that it is also a good training opportunity to reinforce what you, as an owner, are looking for in each employee, as well as for a manager to learn what he or she can and cannot say in that situation.

For employees that scored well, names are removed from the evaluations and the scores are discussed with each employee using the Oreo cookie approach. Kraft shares what the employee is doing well, what they can do to improve and how they can do that, followed by a few more items they are doing well.

All evaluations are then kept in the employees’ files for future reference and to see if there is continuous improvement.

By getting the right people on the ship, the wrong people off the ship and everyone in the right seat and rowing, you can work yourself out of a job.

“That’s the whole point of having middle managers,” Kraft said.  PD