Purpose of Evaluations

A wise professor once told me that the purpose of evaluation is simply to bring attention to something. That evaluation data itself is less valuable that the simple act of evaluating.

By that he was addressing this reality; businesses pay attention to what they spend their money on and what they track. They pay attention to the data. Where there is no data, there is no priority.

Businesses are typically really great at data collection. They collect information about clients, donors, investors, and all sorts of information regarding the overall customer experience. They know the average incomes, favorite hobbies, and median age of ideal clients. They know how much money they spend on staples, coffee, and electricity. They have entire systems dedicated to collecting this information and analyzing it.

But these systems have a few major flaws.

First, they often miss evaluating the staff or allowing staff to provide insight. The data systems generally do a poor job of asking staff to help their companies improve. They don't ask the right questions, so the systems don't have the data telling them what really could be changed.

Second, they are not usually qualitative. Quantitative data is valuable, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Qualitative data is needed to really get a complete picture of the situations being addressed.  Asking someone a yes or no question offers very different information than an open-ended question. 

Third, they fail to recognize the value of evaluation in itself. When our customer service is evaluated based on how quickly a customer is greeted, guess what happens? That customer is greeted quickly in the future. But if that evaluation doesn't also address the quality of the interaction, guess what happens? The quality of the interaction is not prioritized. When our evaluations fail to investigate employee satisfaction and experience, those key areas will not be prioritized in the company.

When businesses are able to go beyond data collection and intentionally consider the purpose of their evaluation practices, these three pitfalls can be avoided. When staff are included in the evaluation process in qualitative ways that recognizes the power of focusing on particular areas in the company, the entire process can be more successful.