Performance Appraisals and Reviews

What is the purpose of performance appraisals and why have them?

Many people dread the thought of a) conducting staff appraisals and b) going in for their review with their manager or supervisor.

This should not be the case.  Performance appraisals or performance review, should be a tool that, when used effectively, will help to motivate, empower and develop or enhance the skills of staff members.  When used effectively the appraisal will lead to enhanced employee satisfaction, performance and productivity.  However, very often this fails to be the case.

What is the purpose of the performance appraisal

The purpose of the appraisal is to:

  • Provide an opportunity to discuss and constructively review past performance, curent skill and competency levels, strengths and areas for development
  • Praise, acknowledge and show recognition for achievements and efforts during the year
  • Identify areas for development and further enhancement of skills
  • Agree on goals and objectives for the coming year
  • Create a personal development plan
  • Build on strengths

What does a well run performance appraisal look and feel like

You can identify a well run appraisal meeting by being able to answer "yes" to the following questions:

  • Did you prepare fully for the meeting?
  • Did you enter into the meeting with an open mind?
  • Did you work to create open two-way communication?
  • Did you listen to the staff member's point of view, asking them questions to seek further understanding?
  • Did you have strong examples to support your feedback, both positve feedback and constructive criticism?
  • Were you open and non-judgemental regarding the staff member's skills and abilities?
  • Did you seek to understand, openly and non-judgementally, your staff member's areas of frustrations, challenges, concerns, dislikes?
  • Did you work to identify challenging projects to use their skills and strengths and continue developing their performance?
  • Did you seek feedback from them?
  • You felt good during and after the meeting?
  • Your staff member was at ease duirng and happy after the meeting

What are the benefits of the performance appraisal or review

There are many benefits:

  • When an individual feels that their achievements are recognised they feel good about themselves, increasing their confidence, self-esteem and satisfaction.  
  • Open, honest and constructive discussions leads to enhanced working relationships
  • Agreement on skills, strengths, interests and areas of development leading to enhanced performance
  • Agreement on expectations and understanding of the importance of objectives thus empowering staff
  • Skills and strengths are matched to work objectives thus motivating and developing staff.

Common challenges and staff concerns

However, there are many challenges to running an effective appraisal. 

  • How to prepare effectively
  • How to manage different personalities and staff requirements
  • How to listen actively and practice good two-way communication
  • How to motivate staff members
  • How to manage staff apathy
  • How to manage differences of opinion
  • Giving construtive feedback
  • Creating constructive open dialogue

These challenges can be overcome or managed by effective preparation and strong communication and interpersonal skills.  Employees also have many concerns when going in for their staff appraisal:

  • Will my manager be overly negative or critical
  • Will they understand the challenges
  • Will my manager want to understand my concerns and work with me
  • Will my manager work with me to help me work to my natural strengths and skills
  • Will my manager help me develop and ensure that I have interesting and challenging work objectives
  • Will my manager acknowledge and recognise my achievements, skills and strengths
  • Will my manager take this as an opportunity to further demonstrate his/her authority and try to keep me down
  • Will I have the opportunity to tell them about my concerns and will they really listen to me
  • Will they be open, objective and non-judgemental
  • And more.....

Tips to manage challenges and concenrs

Perpare for each meeting by

a) Scheduling your preparation time in your diary.

b) Review the staff members performance identifying behaviours and skills that helped them deliver results.    Have relevant examples.  Identify behaviours and skills that will help them develop, with relevant examples.  Prepare questions that you can ask to get the individual share their thougths on their performance

c) Think about the person:  What works for them; what does not work for them; what are their trigger points; what can you do so that you don't hit their trigger point.

d) Think about what type of work motivates the person and determine how you can build this into their work objectives.  Think about what does not motivate and determine how you can minimise these activities where possible in their work objectives.

d)Think about why apathy exists (if it does), how you can explore and learn more about it, ways to work with the person constructively while demonstrating empathy and a willingness and to help the individual.

During the meeting:

  • Remember that the appraisal is a two-way discussion and sharing of experiences.  Look for and encourage their input e.g. what they enjoyed or disliked; what they found difficult and how they managed it; what would have helped them; what they learnt; what they feel they can work on and further develop.
  • Appraise/review performance together.
  • Ask questions and really listen to understand.
  • Use strong examples when giving feedback (for both praise and criticism).  Always focus on behaviours and not personalities.
  • Stay in control of your emotions and remain non-judgemental.
  • Document accurately and check what you have documented is correct, not just your interpretation or beliefs.
  • There should be no surprises during the meeting.  The meeting is not the time to give new criticism.  Doing so leaves them feeling frustrated, victimised and set up for failure.
  • Keep the review balanced by discussing both achievements, positive aspects of their performance and areas for improvement and development.  Do not gloss over the positive aspects.  

Tips on how to manage your own performance appraisal or review

Prepare for the appraisal:

  • What you acheived and how.  What skills your used. What you learnt.
  • What you found difficult.  Reasons objectives weren't met.  What you did to manage the situation.  What you learnt.  Skills you could develop.
  • Prepare examples to back up your input.
  • Your strengths and skills and how you'd like them to be used and developed.
  • Your areas for development and suggestions on how to develop them.
  • Goals and objectives for the next year.

During the meeting:

  • Show interest and be open to hearing and exploring feedback
  • Stay in control of your emotions
  • Practice good communication skills
  • Go into the performance appraisal positively.  If you go into the meeting believing that it will be a negative experience then more than likely it will - because the role that you have played will be negative.

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