performance appraisal

Effective Performance Appraisals, Part 1

When used, the performance appraisal process is a valuable teaching method. communication between superiors and employees is always tricky. There are many skills necessary in the workplace and some supervisors aren’t sure how to fully gauge each employee’s abilities. It’s important for supervisors to find out if potential employees have these skills before hiring them.

In Part 1, we are going to provide you with the best ideas on how to have a positive performance appraisal with your employees.

First, have a meeting with your employees to go over the necessary qualifications and see how their work ties into the company’s future success.  Also, the process facilitates career development and training assessment through performance management.

Effective performance appraisals establish the following:

  • An understanding between employees and supervisors about current performance and future expectations.
  • A sense of belonging by linking employee’s role to the company’s success.

Open conversations with employees help determine what motivates them for improvement. This also provides an ongoing record of discussions about employee performance – both positive and negative. Pay close attention to task performance and provide coaching along the way.

Prepare your employees for success by setting them up with a well-planned roadmap for growth and improvement. This includes regular training and clearly established expectations. It’s important to set objectives and performance expectations between yourself and your employee.

Performance Appraisals Focus Areas

The appraisal process takes strong leaders who are willing to learn how best to use this tool to:

  • Plan work objectives.
  • Communicate expectations to employees.
  • Check ongoing performance in a timely manner.
  • Provide timely feedback.
  • Maintain written documentation long before the one-on-one appraisal meeting.
  • Have ongoing conversations and regular “touch-base” employee meetings between appraisal meetings.

With an increase in remote work and daily workloads, it can be hard to do a good job appraising someone’s performance. This can lead a leader to default to a condensed appraisal process which is less effective for both leaders and their employees. 

The leader of a company should stay in touch with their employees, even throughout the year. They need to communicate their vision and grow a sense of trust with their employees so that they will continue to benefit them.  Effective performance requires clear expectations and consistent feedback.

When providing feedback, it’s important to avoid practices hindering progress and making development impossible. To provide real direction, here are some of the deadly appraisal habits to stay away from.

Yearly Performance Appraisals

Dealing with performance issues once a year reduces the effectiveness of any feedback provided. Positive feedback comes too late to motivate further improvements. Any constructive feedback is disconnected and vague, leading to defensiveness instead of action. Employees are surprised, leaving them upset with the feedback and less willing to make needed changes.

Too often, this leads to conflict and low employee morale. Unfortunately, supervisors often blame the system rather than the disjointed feedback.

Setting Unclear Expectations

Setting unclear expectations for the appraisal process if it’s not specific and obtainable. It would be helpful to use the job description or performance metrics as a guide when outlining performance expectations.

Communication can be tricky between employees and supervisors. For example, supervisors may not understand what skills are needed for success. But, on the flip side, it’s important for employees to understand manager expectations as well. This gap makes it difficult for the boss to communicate expectations and measure success. 

Direct and clear communication with employees helps them meet your expectations. Ambiguous or inconsistent expectations can lead to confusion and disconnects in relationships between supervisors and employees. To encourage a culture of openness within your team, you should reach out and give your employees the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Forgetting to Set Actionable Steps

Appraisals should provide supervisors and employees actionable steps to improve performance and morale. Strong appraisals provide guidelines for:

It’s important that employees know that their quality of work and effort is being judged. These are a few examples of how consistency in judgment can boost morale and improve the workplace environment. 

  • Keep notes of employee performance all year for consideration in the appraisal.
  • Avoid completing an appraisal during times of extreme stress and emotions.
  • After writing the appraisal, revisit after taking a break to ensure accuracy.

Types of Appraisals to Avoid

Compliance Only Appraisal

The compliance only is the appraisal is done because it is required. These appraisals have minimal meaningful feedback, “across the board” scores and goals are the same for all employees. These appraisals convey that the appraisal process is a pain and take time away from work that matters. ” The attitude is, “Let’s hurry and get these appraisals done so I can get human resources off my back.”

Employees feel like they don’t matter after completing the appraisal process. This can lead to disengagement, lower productivity, and increased attrition. To make the performance appraisal effective, personalize it for each employee. Provide valuable and appropriate feedback, honest performance scores, and relevant goals.

Focal Type Appraisals

Ensure performance reviews get completed yearly, otherwise known as focal point appraisals. It will reduce bias in the review process due to fluctuations in business volumes and supervisor temperament. Now, the company can budget its expenses accordingly, and employees are paid a salary that corresponds to their work level. This can help attract new talent as well as incentivize them.

Political Appraisals

Unlike an appraisal, a political appraisal is often managed by the supervisor which skews the results to achieve their own agenda. You can’t depend on these types of appraisals and should use something more neutral instead.

In a political appraisal, the supervisor uses the appraisal tool to grant salary raises, promotions or other benefits to the team.  As a result, the appraisals are not accurate but skewed to make it seem like the team has more effective performance.

An excellent example is scoring team members higher to get their desired pay without regard to the scores they deserve. This undermines the appraisal process, prevents organizational changes, and discredits the leader.  It can also come back to haunt you because if the time comes to terminate an employee, the termination will likely be denied because of bias.

General Appraisals

The general appraisal avoids details when providing employee feedback. Instead, they tend to speak in generalities without giving specific examples or substance to their comments. This type of appraisal is unhelpful to the employee.

General appraisals can’t provide examples or advice on how to improve your performance. If you understood what you did wrong, then you would also be able to see where improvements could be made. As a result, general appraisals tend to cause defensiveness and are a poor way to communicate.

Instead, provide specific examples of strengths and opportunities for improvement. Provide reasonable steps for improvement and offer SMART goals to help personalize the appraisal. Where appropriate, use the employee’s name.

Defensive or Aggressive Appraisals

The ability to provide feedback requires the Supervisor to present feedback in a way the employee will be receptive to. Presenting opportunities for improvement and performance deficits is a daunting but necessary task. If the employee is not a strong performer, their annual appraisal should point this out in a way that motivates the employee to find solutions. The appraisal should not attack or scold the employee. Instead, concerns should be discussed from wanting to help the employee improve.

Employees should not be surprised by concerns listed on the appraisal. But, as situations arise, these concerns should be discussed in coaching or counseling sessions. Engage the employee in finding what could be the cause of some of the issues. Encourage them to help find solutions. Listen to their feedback as well. Show receptiveness and note their feedback but stand by the appraisal unless the situation warrants a change.

Remember, it is an appraisal and not a negotiation. They will need to feel heard to be receptive, but that does not mean they will be right or that the appraisal should change.

Providing Feedback

The ability to provide feedback requires the supervisor to present feedback in a way the employee will be receptive to. Presenting opportunities for improvement and performance deficits is a daunting but necessary task.

Below are some suggestions to make the process easier:

  • If the employee is not a strong performer, their annual appraisal should point this out in a way that motivates the employee to find solutions.
  • Do not scold your employee. Instead, concerns should be discussed from a standpoint of improvement.
  • Make sure you aren’t surprising your employee with concerns listed on the appraisal. However, as situations arise, these concerns should be discussed in coaching or counseling sessions.
  • Engage the employee in finding what could be the cause of some of the issues.
  • Encourage them to help find solutions while listening to their feedback.
  • Show receptiveness and note their feedback. But stand by the appraisal unless the situation warrants a change.

Remember, it is an appraisal and not a negotiation. They will need to feel heard to be receptive, but that does not mean they will be right or that the appraisal should change.

Rater Errors in Recall, Rating Process, and Observation 

Maintaining notes throughout the year is essential to effective appraisals. Some supervisors might not take as many notes as they should, and this could lead to errors. They should regularly check conversations they have to fill in any gaps that occur throughout the year.

Providing Constructive and Honest Feedback

Many leaders will shy away from offering constructive feedback during the appraisal process. It’s important to provide honest feedback about strengths and weaknesses to help the employee and the company. Omitting this step can lead to falsified scores and an unrealistic understanding of performance gaps. 

Additionally, the employee’s performance and development are stunted without honest feedback. Give your employees constructive feedback to help them grow and succeed. This provides them with a clear path to follow that showcases their potential.

Drive Effective Performance

It is everyone’s responsibility at your company to ensure that appraisal meetings suit the company’s needs. Appraisals should drive effective performance by providing accurate feedback to employees and leadership. To help this process, you need to ensure supervisors get proper training on how to do appraisals and clear instructions on how to score and communicate results.

In addition, create policies to regulate these reviews. If there are concerns about getting value from appraisals, you can start by evaluating a single department’s needs.

Now that you have mastered Part 1, it’s time to move forward to our second article in the series, Part 2 – of the Effective Appraisal Process.

Written by: Penny Clarke, Content Specialist and Michelle Smith Schmidt, Marketing Manager

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