Habitat For E-Commerce: Let All Incomes Join In

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 3, 2000. All rights reserved.

E-mail: MelindaSherwood@princetoninfo.com

Dreaded Appraisals

E-mail: MelindaSherwood@princetoninfo.com

The dreaded performance appraisal serves many purposes,

not the least of which is avoiding wrongful termination suits, says

John Sarno, a former corporate lawyer and president of the Employers

Association of New Jersey. "Employment litigation is proliferating

and there are a lot of lawsuits being filed that lack merit, what

could be generally described as wrongful termination suits," he

says. "One of the best ways to justify or explain an employment

decision is by having performance documented. Big companies could

grind down the plaintiff over time, but small companies can ill-afford

litigation, and the best way to prevent it is to have an honest performance

appraisal situation."

Sarno speaks on "The Art and Science of Performance Appraisal"

at the association meeting on Tuesday, May 9, at 9 a.m. the Labor

Building in Trenton. Call 609-984-3518. Cost: $10. www.eanj.org

There should be no surprises when you sit down to conduct a employee

performance evaluation, says Sarno, who has a BA in psychology from

Ramapo (Class of 1977) and a law degree from Seton Hall. "It’s

a dreaded tasks for managers and supervisors, because it’s sort of

like sitting in judgment of other people," he says, "and often

times it’s artificial — it’s one time out of the year. It should

be a natural extension of the communication that’s going on throughout

the year."

The delicate art of performance appraisal begins here:

Outline the job description in concrete terms, with measurable

criteria, so you can see if someone is succeeding or not. "The

manager or supervisor has to have a very good understanding of what

the person’s job is and whether they’ve been meeting the expectations,"

says Sarno. "The goal is to have the manager and the person who’s

being supervised to come up with a goal that they both agree to."

Train managers on a standard style and approach to performance

evaluations. The nuances might include where and how you talk to people,

says Sarno, "whether or not you sit across from a desk, or sit

side-by-side — that’s my own preference, by the way. The desk

causes a physical barrier, but everybody has to pick their own style.

A lot of people need the symbolic trappings of authority. That’s fine

as long as you’re aware that will influence what’s going on. There’s

some people that don’t even meet with employees — they simply

ask that they fill out a form."

Give immediate and ongoing feedback to employees all year.

Again, there should be no surprises.

Document it, if there’s a chance an employee will be dismissed.

"If you’re counseling a poor performer, and you know there might

be a discharge decision in the future, then you want to document every

important conversation," he says. "Other than that, though,

you don’t need to be documenting it."

In small business environments, take a different approach.

"For some small professional teams where people are more or less

professional peers, you need a means of feedback and continual evaluation

of the team, but you don’t necessarily need a performance evaluation,"

he says. "What’s being evaluated is team and individual responsibility

— in that environment there is a totally different approach."

Never link performance evaluations to pay issues. "The

consensus is that the performance evaluation should be about the person’s

performance and a separate meeting should be held over pay," says


The evaluation is as much an employer appraisal as an employee

appraisal, adds Sarno. "A good evaluator will ask the employee’s

view first," he says. "Most employees will be honest, and

often times, employee has a real good idea has a comment or helpful

to the employer. Either it’s a job reassignment or a way to restructure

the work. It might become apparent that the work is just over their

head. That’s not their fault; it’s the employer not having the type

of work aligned with that employee."

— Melinda Sherwood

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Habitat For E-Commerce: Let All Incomes Join In

Securing a place for the under-privileged to live has

been the primary aim of Habitat for Humanity. Now Habitat would like

to help the underprivileged secure a place in the new economy. Habitat

is sponsoring a meeting entitled "E-Commerce: The Impact on Your

Company and Your Community" on Thursday, May 4, at 7:45 a.m. at

the Merrill Lynch Executive Training Center in Plainsboro. Call 609-393-8009.

Habitat’s Trenton area executive director, David Gibbons, describes

the program as an effort to bring together corporate sponsors of Habitat

to discuss ways in which E-commerce can be used to build healthy,

dynamic communities. "We are wondering what things that interest

the corporate community would also be of concern to Habitat partner

families," says Gibbons. "We want to insure that low income

families can participate in this new economy."

Speakers include Donn Rappaport of American List Counsel, Rick

Butare, chief architect of technology at Dow Jones, Diane Parks,

vice president of contributions and community affairs at Janssen Pharmaceutica,

and Randal Langdon, first vice president of Merrill Lynch/Digital

Business Development. The panel will be moderated by Richard Bilotti,

publisher of the Times of Trenton.

Habitat for Humanity has built 40 houses in Trenton, and has just

committed to an initiative to eliminate all sub-standard housing in

the East Trenton area within 10 years. There are six new houses under

construction in East Trenton. Volunteers are still need, particularly

people with skills in sheetrock installation, trimwork, roofing, or

siding. Corporate sponsors do everything from underwriting the full

cost of a house at $60,000, to providing in-kind services, donating

materials, providing teams of volunteers, and making financial contributions

of a more modest nature. E-mail: habitren@aosi.com

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