Taking the sting out of evaluationsIt happened...


Taking the sting out of evaluations

It happened to Robert McReadie plenty of times: the feeling of dread in anticipation of an annual work evaluation, the anger at an evaluator's criticism of some months-old problem.

"They were typical experiences," Mr. McReadie said. "I wish they would have told me of their concerns earlier. Then the problem wouldn't have been ongoing."

As human resources development manager for Waverly Inc., Mr. McReadie is developing a program to rid the Baltimore printing and publishing company of "evaluation fear."

In a speech to a group of human resources managers at the University of Baltimore this week, Mr. McReadie said he is training Waverly's 130 managers to talk to workers often about their performance -- and to document their conversations -- so that there are no surprises in the annual performance reviews.

Praise often, he said, but don't hesitate to criticize.

Managers often fail to criticize a subordinate's performance because of a natural desire to avoid conflict, he said. But those delays allow problems to linger and create unpleasant surprises during an annual review.

Not everybody at Waverly likes the 2-year-old system. "You will always have those who will resist to the last day," he said.

And there isn't any hard evidence that the system has improved productivity.

But Mr. McReadie says the company has been changing so rapidly -- sales have doubled in the last five years -- that "just to be able to maintain, that is an accomplishment."

Someday, he adds, Waverly may be able to follow the advice of management gurus, including W. Edwards Deming, who say that annual performance evaluations ought to be eliminated.

Most Marylanders can expect a raise

Two new surveys indicate that working Marylanders can expect an average raise of between 4 percent and 4.7 percent a year in 1993 and 1994.

But the raises may be more than gobbled up by increases in health insurance premiums, one survey warns.

And one out of five workers probably won't get any raise at all next year.

Hewitt Associates, the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based consulting firm, found that Maryland firms planned to give executives a 4.7 percent salary increase this year, and 4.4 percent raise next year.

Hourly workers would get an average raise of 4.2 percent in 1993, and 4 percent in 1994.

However, a similar survey by competing consultant William M. Mercer Inc. found that 21 percent of the nation's largest employers won't give some workers any raise at all in 1994.

Only 14 percent reported freezing wages last year.

Mercer's estimated average salary increases match those reported by Hewitt, but that doesn't mean workers will be better off next year.

"The picture we see is a potential for gain from a wage standpoint, but with benefits there is an erosion," said Mercer compensation consultant Charles King.

Mercer noted that projected raises were higher in emerging industries such as biotechnology (an estimated 5.9 percent) than in older industries such as paper mills (3.7 percent).

Graduates' advantage in decline since 1987

A college education -- once considered the ticket to a good, high-paying job -- has lost some of its career magic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

Although college graduates still make more than people with less education, they are losing ground to inflation and seeing fewer good job opportunities.

Wages for college graduates started falling in 1987, after inflation is subtracted, the bureau says in August's Monthly Labor Review.

For example, by 1991, the average annual salary for college-educated men in their late 20s had fallen more than $4,000 from its peak to $27,782 -- about the same level first reached in 1983.

One reason for the decline in wages is that people in their 20s were taking lower-paying jobs because of the recession.

The share of people in their 20s who took comparatively low-paying service jobs rose nearly eight percentage points to 36.1 percent from 1989 to 1991, the bureau noted.

But the bureau said the statistics didn't show whether the troubles for recent college graduates were part of a fundamental and lasting change in the economy or would end with a recovery.

More layoffs occur now than in 1991

Layoffs this year continue to outpace the worst of the recession.

A survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a New York-based outplacement firm, found that there have been more mass layoffs in the first eight months of 1993 than there were in the first nine months of 1991.

And the company warns that the layoffs probably will continue.

"Many people working today should consider themselve employed on a short-term basis," said James E. Challenger, company president.

Last month saw one of the highest tallies of the year, as 46,964 U.S. workers lost their jobs due to plant closures or mass firings.

The August job cuts brought 1993's total to 400,578 -- more than 65,000 ahead of the first three quarters of 1991.

Most of the layoffs came from large corporations, such as AT&T;'s announcement that it would cut its staff by 4,000, including about 150 at an operator center in Hagerstown.

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