Begin alignment now

Columns - Industry Voices

February 10, 2014

Steve Cesare

February is a uniquely strategic month for landscapers. It has long been my belief that February provides fundamental alignment between last year’s performance results for the company and its employees, as well as this year’s performance goals for the company and its employees.

Year-end results. Astute companies conduct a “soft” year-end close-out in early December, leaving only minor modifications to be completed in January.

This early review enables executives to evaluate annual business results against the previous year’s data and track variances to current year projections, before much of the competition has even started their Christmas shopping. Additionally, knowledge of year-to-year results and itemized variances contribute significantly to the strategic planning process for the next calendar year.

With that pace in mind, by the time January 1 arrives, these companies have already judged the relative performance of their organization across multiple indicators (e.g., revenue, safety, customer retention, gross margin) and established the key goals, objectives and metrics for the upcoming year.

This efficient time planning accelerates the pace for bringing the organization together in the form of an annual company kickoff meeting conducted in mid-January. During this meeting, with timely data in hand, executives can document historical strengths and weaknesses, share forecasted annual goals, and commemorate employee recognition in front of the entire company.

Performance evaluations. With the annual business review essentially finalized, strategic planning done and the annual kickoff meeting completed, it is now time to align those historical results and anticipated expectations, down to the individual employee level.

Due extensively to complacency, tradition or naiveté, most landscape companies conduct performance evaluations on the annual anniversary of each employee’s start date. That common practice is bureaucratic, inefficient and counterproductive, all of which reinforce a vertical disconnect throughout the whole company.

For example, in this scenario, the company has its goals on January 1, though one employee may not get his individual performance review and goals until his anniversary date on May 4, while another employee may not receive her performance evaluation and goals until her anniversary date of September 9.

That fragmented, disjointed and asynchronous process severely undermines organizational synergy because the entire company is never on the same page at the same time.

The previous year’s results represent the context for evaluating each employee’s performance during that same timeframe. With rare exception, if the company’s performance objectives (e.g., revenue, customer, safety, gross margin) for the previous year did not meet expectations, it lends credible documentation that many employees, especially management, should not receive a performance evaluation of “average” let alone “above average.” This same premise of alignment extends to pay raises as well.

The rationale is simple – organizational results are due in large part to employees’ actions. Accordingly, individual performance reviews should generally reflect organizational results. By reviewing employees’ performance in February with the previous year’s overall metrics available, accountability can be definitively aligned.

Keep in mind that every employee should be evaluated on two key criteria: job performance and job potential. Their job performance rating is based on how well they did their job during the past year.

Their job potential rating is based on the likelihood that they will be promoted during the next 18-24 months with job potential based significantly on their ability to help the company reach its future goals.

Goal setting. Beyond reviewing employees’ performance for the past year within the scope of the company’s overall performance, the same rationale applies for the current year’s goals, at the individual and organizational levels.

During February, with the current company goals already established and recently shared at a macro level during the January kickoff meeting, supervisors can now specify the individual goals of each employee and pinpoint how those goals are inextricably aligned with the company’s performance goals.

By understanding the overlap between the company’s annual goals and their individual goals, each employee feels more functionally connected, emotionally engaged and personally involved. This unmistakable alignment shifts the employee’s self-perspective from simply being a “worker” to becoming a “stakeholder.”


Steve Cesare is an industrial psychologist with the Harvest Group, a landscape consulting group.;