When is the last time you gave your RA or student staff evaluation process a through review? Given the myriad of responsibilities of residence life professionals, staff evaluations can be easy to overlook until the time comes for a formal review. Good residence life departmental practice, however, should involve a continuous annual review of position descriptions and staff evaluation processes.
Additionally, providing timely and effective evaluation and feedback to staff members is a key competency to master as a supervisor in residence life. As a profession that promotes lifelong learning and improvement, designing an effective evaluation process for your Resident Assistants and other student staff members should be a high priority for your department.
The following are some principles that can help guide you in these efforts:
Be transparent about the process.
No one likes surprises. Staff evaluations should never be a surprise. Make sure that you communicate the evaluation process from the moment of hire, with regular reminders built into supervisory meetings and other communications from your department. Also allow space for staff member voice in the process.
Evaluations do not need to be a monolithic one-time activity.
You don’t have to think about staff evaluation as occurring only at one moment in time. Instead, consider infusing your evaluation process throughout the year–through both formal and informal measures. One of the reasons evaluations exist is to help staff members improve. Timing feedback so staff can react to it and improve their work can lead to better outcomes for your department, staff members, and the residents you serve.
Ensure your evaluation measures what’s in your position descriptions.
Position descriptions can change over time. As a position evolves, the reality of the position can sometimes differ from the written description for which your staff member applied. The first step in making sure your evaluation process is well designed is ensuring that the expectations and position descriptions are clear and up-to-date.
Many schools utilize Roompact to help with their staff evaluation processes. We make this process even easier with our example templates and a special feature known as “shareable forms.” Shareable forms allows you to send electronic carbon copies of evaluations to individual staff members and upper-level supervisors. Best of all? You’ll have an automatically archived history of each student staff member’s performance.
Be developmental and specific when providing constructive criticism.
For many of your student staff members, this may be their first experience with a staff evaluation. This can be a stressful and nerve-wracking experience. Make sure that your evaluation process is designed to be developmental. Also make sure that you are specific in your feedback and provide examples of tangible steps a staff member can take to improve their performance.
Allow for student staff voice and self-evaluation.
Feedback and evaluation isn’t a one-way street. Instead, the evaluation process should be designed as an opportunity to have a conversation. Encourage your staff members to reflect on their own performance and how successful they think they have been. Some institutions will have student staff do a self-evaluation using the same format or tool as their final supervisor evaluation. Self-evaluations, if executed correctly, can be a reflective and learning process for all staff involved.
Have student staff members set goals for improvement.
All staff members, even those who are excelling in their positions, can benefit from the opportunity to set goals for themselves. By modeling goal setting behavior, you can engage the staff member in plans for improvement. Goals do not need to be solely focused on performance improvement, either. Encourage staff to think about what they may want to learn about or achieve in order to help them in their future careers.
It’s a trap to think that staff member performance evaluations only occur one time a year and only through a formal evaluation process. Good supervisors provide continuous feedback to their staff members and discuss staff performance regularly. A formal evaluation process, however, has its place too. It ensures that staff members have a dedicated time and place to receive summary feedback. Good departments will invest their time in developing and reviewing these processes at least annually. Don’t let this critical part of your department fall through the cracks!
- When is the last time you reviewed your position descriptions and how do they align with your evaluation process?
- How, where, and when do you communicate your evaluation process to your staff members?
- Is your feedback constructive? Is it clear to your staff members on how they could improve?
- In what ways do you provide spaces for student staff member voice in your process?