Used properly, performance appraisals can help to build an open, positive, collaborative relationship between individuals and their managers.
They provide a useful environment to give feedback about what has gone well or what could be improved. They are also moments in time where you can look back together at progress towards existing goals, discuss and solve any related problems and celebrate particular achievements.
If the appraisal is to be successful, the person being appraised needs to feel they have had a fair chance to contribute to the outcome. Appraisals should be two-sided discussions, with the person being assessed participating actively and, as a result, feeling properly valued. Just telling someone what they are doing well and what they are doing badly is not likely to motivate them enough to do better. It is critical you work together to develop a shared understanding of what is expected, and establish an ongoing means of monitoring and evaluating performance against agreed goals.
Here are some areas to consider when conducting performance appraisals.
Before the appraisal
Review appropriate documentation
Revisit the job description as well as their goals from previous appraisals. It is vital you are both clear about what is expected of them in their role.
Ask for self-assessment
Consider asking the person you are appraising to evaluate their own performance before the appraisal meeting and ask them to include any outstanding issues that you may need to prepare for. That way, you can address these issues fully and comprehensively at the appraisal interview.
Complete an assessment of the individual yourself
Be prepared with examples to support your assessment, particularly in areas where you feel that the person is underperforming.
Where necessary, draft a performance improvement plan
Consider suggesting ways to improve areas of concern.
Do your best to avoid having to postpone it
Moving it is like saying to the person concerned “there’s something more important than you.” This is a particularly bad message to be sending when you are discussing something as personal as performance.
During the appraisal
Create a supportive environment
Make sure that you won’t be interrupted. Be enthusiastic. Explain the agenda for the meeting and then cover everything you said you would. Stick to specific results and issues; don’t make generalisations.
Cover the positives first
Address any areas for improvement
If necessary, repeat information to make sure that you understand exactly what is being said.
What is stopping them doing what you need them to do?
Set new goals
Summarise the appraisal
End with a clear summary of what was discussed and what was agreed.
After the appraisal
- Plan for regular appraisal meetings
- Schedule promised actions
- Follow through on what you have discussed during the appraisal.
These meetings are not optional. Ongoing performance appraisals are vital if you are going to get the best from your people.
Adopt the principle that no team member should be surprised by something they learn in an appraisal meeting. Immediate and continued positive and negative feedback is essential for ongoing development. Do not save it all up to be discussed in their annual appraisal!
Some people recommend giving feedback as a ‘feedback sandwich’ with negative feedback sandwiched between pieces of positive feedback. In many cases, this is a great suggestion, and it can leave people buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. However, consider not doing this if people really need to change. By providing final positive feedback, you risk people forgetting your negative feedback, or thinking that it is somehow OK to ignore it.
Performance appraisals should be a great opportunity to start important, meaningful, ongoing conversations with members of your team. By conducting regular performance appraisals, you will find that you can do a lot to improve your people’s performance and job satisfaction. Your team are the most important part of your organisation, their performance is vital to your success, so ensure you take time to monitor, develop and support their progress.