The annual appraisal, in many firms, has become a huge ritual, lacking in belief or enjoyment by either party. Can “the appraisal” really improve performance in your firm? If so, how can you change them so they help you, in time for your next round of appraisals?
One thing to consider is removing some of the ritual and heavy handed aspect of them. By keeping a light touch with simple notes you start to remove the ritual and make it more meaningful. Some thoughts:
- You should be giving constant feedback, throughout the year, nothing in “the appraisal” should be new.
- Record keeping is essential – in case you ever need to know a full history / justify a decision in the future.
- Look at what is working and what is not for both you and them.
- Listen to them, ask them how they are doing. You’ll learn far more about yourself; the company; how to improve things AND they’ll be more critical of their own performance than you will.
The actual appraisal
Any appraisal you do should be a conversation! Having conversations can be daunting, but remember the reason for the conversation and keep it at a business level.
- Set a time, in advance, for the conversation and keep the appointment; you may need to explain the procedure that you’ll be using at your appraisal (or other) conversation.
- The aim is to listen more than talk, so set that expectation at the start of the conversation. You may find our active listening help sheet useful.
- If you need to discuss problems, set an agenda. Describe the problem, indicate that you want to hear the other person’s perspective and that you’d like problem-solving to follow that.
- Listen first. Until people feel heard and safe, they won’t have the mind-space to hear you.
- Acknowledge what they’ve said.
- Be curious and discover. Typically spend only about 10% of a difficult conversation on inquiry and 90% on advocating a position. A better balance leads to a better outcome.
- Once you’ve listened to their points you can decide how to respond, it may be that you are setting some further objectives. It maybe that there some training is requested.
- Give praise where it is due, but make sure it is sincere and positively received.
Setting objectives in the appraisal
Start with a vision of what you want the end result to look like. Not just what you want done, but the results you want to achieve when the project is completed. Your employees need to see this clear picture.
Keep your focus on the desired outcomes, not on describing each and every step. Your goal is to guide, not control. Letting individuals find their own route toward productive outcomes generates motivation and productivity. Your interest is in the end result and employee productivity, not the detail of how they get there.
Discuss how you define “excellent performance.” Paint a complete picture. Don’t assume.
Two ideas to make “the appraisal” even better
- Read this article about improving your staff appraisals
- Watch this two minute video will help you improve any appraisal (and staff discussion) you do.
Do you think that the time you spend doing an appraisal is worthwhile?