As the end of the year draws near, many organizations require that all employee evaluations are up to date. This includes produce clerks’ evaluations that are usually done by none other than you, the produce manager.

Employee evaluations need to be done, and done right

Armand Lobato
The Produce Aisle

I’ll wait for the collective groan to pass. This reaction is understandable. It’s not like you don’t have enough to do, especially as we brace for the winter holidays, right?

However, fear not, my fellow postharvest specialists. Evaluations should not be the bane that many dread. I’ve listed just a few points that might help you get through this less-than-desirable task.


First, an employee should know your expectations. A first-year employee has less to account for than a 10-year veteran. Gear your evaluations to reflect this. Most chains provide training charts to document an employee’s progression. These are a handy tool to use in evaluations.

No surprises

Second, you should constantly evaluate your employees, so that when the formal review comes along there are no surprises. If you ask a clerk to do a better job putting the load away in the cooler and it doesn’t improve — but you never mentioned it again until the evaluation — that’s not productive for anyone.

Remember that management is about guidance, and teaching requires a fair amount of repetition.

Set goals

Third, always set goals for the employee to reach by the next evaluation. No matter how good someone is, there is always room for improvement. As a clerk matures and becomes accomplished, it’s fair to say that the list of goals will change.

Everyone should be challenged to improve and grow.

Always be honest and brief in the evaluation. Cover the points, and try to be as equal as possible in balancing your praise of the employee and listing areas for improvement.

Don’t bring anything up you haven’t already covered face to face. If you don’t like the fact the clerk is habitually five minutes late, or how they overtrim the cabbage — and this is all new information to them, then the annual review is not the time to bring it up. Remember: no surprises.

Finally, use the yearly evaluation as an opportunity to build the relationship with your employee.

This is the point of the year to inspire your employee to new levels. Don’t gloss over anything you are worried about, but do dwell as much as possible on the positives. Everyone needs to be recognized as a part of the team and feel that what they do is valued.

Finish by thanking them for what they contribute to the crew and always offer your assistance to help them to reach their goals.

This is important. After all, how well your crew performs will be a part of your evaluation, too.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail

Have any tips for how to make end-of-year produce department tasks more efficient? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.