The basis for a quality staff evaluation system rests on the evaluation criteria used to structure the process. Evaluation criteria make up the attributes on which performance is assessed. There are numerous factors on which to base evaluation criteria. Do administrators focus evaluations to assess customer service skills, administrative skills, employee attitudes, technical skills, or leadership skills? This question must not be taken lightly. Effective evaluations that fulfill program purpose and promote staff development are based on well-defined criteria. In the outdoor profession, criteria are assessed on multiple levels. For example, employees in the outdoor field may be assessed on human, educational, and outdoor skills. Outdoor proficiency could mean displaying the skill set needed to be a competent lead climber. Human skills might include the ability to manage a group on a two-day outing. Educational skills might include an employee’s ability to teach and disseminate information. Later in this chapter you can view examples of specific criteria when learning about various methods or tools for assessment. At this point it is more important to understand the origin or sources for sound evaluation criteria. The following sections outline potential sources for assessment criteria.
Program Goals and Objectives
As discussed earlier, evaluation systems should be based on the larger organizational program goals and objectives. Evaluation tools should reflect these goals in the context of employee performance. If an organization’s goal is to provide quality customer service, the evaluation tool should include criteria that reflect this. For example, an employee could be assessed on ability to communicate effectively with customers, professional demeanor when serving customers, and overall respect and patience when working with customers. Quality customer service might also include administrative functions such as managing program paperwork in a timely manner. An organization with well-articulated goals and corresponding objectives provide a rich source for assessment criteria.
An employee’s job description is another potential source for assessment criteria. Most well-written job descriptions clearly define duties and behavioral standards. These duties and standards translate easily into assessment criteria. Most of the time, job descriptions are in line with overall program goals and objectives. However, job descriptions provide more detail for specific positions within the organization. If the job description states that this position is responsible for implementing an equipment inventory system, then evaluation criteria can be pulled from this section to assess the individual’s ability to implement the system. Job descriptions may also be written to describe ideal behavior and attitudes. If an employee is expected to be a motivated worker that consistently takes initiative, these expectations can be transposed to an evaluation tool that reflects level of performance in these areas. With a little time and effort, outdoor program administrators can create or improve evaluation tools based on a well-written job description.
In some cases, assessment criteria are based on employee-generated goals. It is not uncommon for a supervisor and employee to collaborate in the creation of an employee performance plan. The employee and supervisor generate a specific list of goals or accomplishments to be completed in a specified amount of time, such as an annual performance plan. These intended goals or accomplishments are then evaluated at the end of the specified time period. This is an excellent way to empower employees by introducing a mechanism for self-direction and motivation. Staff-evaluation criteria are designed around these self-generated goals.
Especially in the outdoor profession, staff-assessment criteria can be found within a multitude of professional standards. For example, rock-climbing staff might be expected to adhere to the standards set forth by the American Mountain Guides Association. Paddling staff might be expected to teach according to the curriculum of the American Canoeing Association. Challenge course staff members are held to the facilitation standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology. Some outdoor programs are required to follow state licensing guidelines for their trip leaders and guides. Some professional associations, such as the National Recreation and Parks Association, have created a professional code of ethics for their members. Outdoor program administrators may have the option to integrate these ethics into expected performance criteria. Finally, another important source must be considered when integrating standards into an assessment system. All outdoor programs establish standard operating procedures through program manuals and staff policies. Assessment criteria can be generated from this important body of information for desired staff performance.