It’s that time of year again. The second annual performance appraisals are due and time is running out. Just a mention of the words “performance appraisal” can start stress levels rising. Staff become apprehensive, managers become far too busy to complete them, and the champion campaigning to have them done begin their thankless task in earnest. If this paints a picture of what happens in your business, then it is easy to see why many people find it difficult to see their benefits.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way and, in fact, a well implemented process and robust conversation will bring numerous benefits to your business. Staff will be more engaged, more motivated, more productive, have a stronger focus on the right outcomes, and relationships between managers and their teams will improve.
So how do you change the mind-set and implementation of your appraisal system to make sure you reap the rewards these discussions can bring? Here is a starter-pack to set you on the right track:
- Firstly, call them something else. The term performance appraisal is traditionally not something which makes people jump for joy. What about “Performance and development plan” or ‘Achievement discussion” or simply ”Performance Catch-Up”? Think about a term that you believe your staff will find positive and real.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Make notes throughout the year of key conversations held and of occasions when your team have excelled. Spend time reviewing these, as well as any meeting notes, KPI records and anything else which is applicable. Have specific examples to refer to during the discussion and have a clear picture of how think the team member is going, and why.
- Make the conversations two-way. Your team should have a copy of the appraisal document, and should do the same preparation you do. Encourage them to spend time considering their own performance and during the discussion ask many questions so you can understand their own perceptions of their performance. Always try and let them give their assessments first before you do, and give them plenty of time to think and answer. Having their participation will increase their buy in and commitment to the discussion, as well as to any future goals you set.
- Have the discussions more than once a year. Appraisal discussions can be pretty heavy when you are trying to review a whole years performance. Try doing them 6 monthly . You will find the discussions are shorter, easier, and both managers and staff become better at them as they have more practice. It also makes goals and actions more relevant.
- Open up the discussion to include what is important to the employee. Try asking your employee to come prepared to discuss what they want to get out of their role, what extra support and help they would like, and what they would change in their role to improve their performance. Putting the focus on the team member can improve the conversation and help you really get to the heart of any performance issues or barriers they may be facing.
- Listen. Don’t need to say more than this.
- Be constructive and honest. If you are unhappy with a team member’s performance they will probably have sensed it. Your demeanour and the way you deal with them most probably will have given you away. This is a great opportunity to talk your concerns through with them. Managers are often scared to bring up the tough stuff. Yet if you don’t it undermines the trust they have in you. By acting one way and saying something else your team doesn’t know where they stand, don’t know the expectations you have of them and don’t know what to improve, so you don’t do them or your company any favours by choosing not to cover the tough stuff in the conversation.
- Give your team the respect they deserve. These discussions are very personal. Your team tries hard and often their work outcomes are tied closely to how they feel about their own personal worth, so remember this when you rush it through in half an hour, or re-schedule the appointments. You are actually saying all the effort you have put in is only worth 30 minutes of my time, or isn’t as important as me getting a report completed. Is that the message you want to send?
- Be positive about the process. If you drag your heels and complain about having to get the appraisals done, how do you think your team will feel about the discussion? If you are excited, positive, and lead by example with the attitude you want your team to exhibit, your team’s approach to the discussion will change and you will see a far better outcome because of it.
- Follow up. If issues have been identified, stay with them until they are resolved.
Performance appraisals are worthwhile, they do have benefits, and they can be an enjoyable and motivating discussion. But it won’t happen purely by you and your team turning up and ticking the boxes. Like anything worthwhile, it takes effort, it takes preparation and it takes thought.
We challenge you to start by reviewing this list and assessing your current practices against it. What can you change? What can you do better and what attitude will you approach appraisals with in the future? Write these down, make a plan, commit to it and get started.
Remember appraisals are only part of the systems needed to communicate effectively with your team and get outstanding performance – but they are a great place to start. Good luck with your improvements. We know it will make a positive difference for you, your busin