In my role I am often asked whether I feel appraisals are a waste of time and what we can do as either the appraiser or appraisee to make them more effective. In this blog post I have tried to answer some of these questions and help provide some tips to getting the most out of appraisals.
In my opinion, most people’s dislike of appraisals comes down to the experience they have had with them. For appraisees their dislike can be a result of feeling like appraisals are used as a stick for management to beat them with – rather than a forum to focus on their development and growth. For appraisers (managers) their dislike can result from knowing they are expected to get people to change but not knowing how. However, done in the right they can be a fantastic tool to help inspire and grow your employees.
In my view the key to a good appraisal system hinges on these key elements:
- Communication – many appraisal systems are introduced without spelling out the benefits which means people participate half-heartedly because they are forced to. Like anything communication is key
- Training – Most managers are not trained in conducting appraisal interviews. As a result, almost everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The appraisees don’t get the motivating feedback necessary to improve their commitment and productivity; the appraiser doesn’t learn how he or she could manage better; and the company doesn’t get the data it needs for planning and improving what it does. Poor interviewing by appraisers reinforces people’s worst fears and sometimes creates more problems. Likewise setting unclear or unrealistic objectives and measurement following reviews can also be detrimental
- Job descriptions – Without adequate job descriptions there is no sound starting point for the appraisal and there is no way of measuring improved performance. It is the performance of the various tasks in the job description that must be appraised and improved
- 360 degree feedback – without gathering feedback both from above and below it is impossible to get a rounded picture of a person’s performance. Annual reviews should be 360 degree reviews with feedback taken form a cross section of people and teams the individual works with.
- Time – the biggest reason appraisals fail is often due to time. People don’t prioritise the development of their staff and push appraisal meetings back. It’s easily done especially in a busy communications agency where client commitments often take precedent. But making sure appraisals happen is so important. Making sure the right preparation is done too is key. All too often, prep is often left to the last minute meaning the right investment is not made
- Ongoing improvement – the final area which is often missed is to leave meetings about a person’s development until appraisal times. For an appraisal system to be effective a person’s performance should be appraised more regularly than every year. In my view appraisals should be done every 6 months with more regular catch ups scheduled in between (as is deemed appropriate for the individual). Obviously for very junior members of staff their development should be driven by their line manager and helped and supported through the process of line management. However, for managers and above (especially those with experience of line management) it’s important for the individual themselves to drive their own development. Everyone is different so being able to tailor an approach accordingly is key to making sure everyone gets the most out of the process
Without doubt, properly conducted appraisals are one of the most powerful tools for enhancing your people’s performance and your business’s profits. Find ways to avoid these mistakes and your people will learn to enjoy appraisals with all the benefits of improved performance.