Performance Appraisals – the truth behind the headlines

Performance AppraisalYou don't need to do Performance Appraisals anymore as they are antiquated and no one else is doing them.  Right?  Not quite. Performance Appraisals as they used to be may be a thing of the past but that doesn't mean you can stop appraising performance.

The headlines that you've read came as a big relief to so many of our clients.  They really hadn’t ever seen what the business was getting in return for all of the time performance appraisals took up.  Their employees seemed to dread the entire process as much as the managers and everyone did it because they knew that it was something they were supposed to do.  They took the time to set 12 month objectives and a development plan that resulted in nothing really happening for 10 months and then a mad scramble in the last 2 months of the year whilst everyone tried to do everything they said they would.  Then, you drag them through the process and everyone just gets back to normal until you repeat the whole thing in 12 months time.

That may sound very cynical but it really has been the reality for so many people I’ve spoken to.

What's really going on with performance appraisals?

The stories about the large companies who did away with performance appraisals weren’t wrong.  That annual painful process described above is, and absolutely should be, a thing of the past.  However, there’s been some misinterpretation.   Businesses may have done away with the traditional performance appraisals but this is really only where there was already a strong culture of good people management and feedback.  In cases where you already have to bribe your managers to speak to their team about how they are doing, getting rid of the performance appraisal process could be a disaster.  At least with a performance appraisal process in place there has to be a conversation at least once a year!

What’s gone from performance appraisals

The things that a lot of companies have stopped doing are:

  • Scoring people – it’s clear that giving someone a score on a scale of say 1 – 5 doesn’t really achieve a great deal. You end up in a debate about whether someone is a 3.5 or a 4 and the messages that you really need the individual to hear get lost.
  • Annual process – it’s always been the case that best practice has been to do more than just an annual review but when people don’t really see any value in the process then they really aren’t going to find time to do it twice a year.
  • Backward looking – historically performance appraisals have always been about what has happened and dissecting events that have occurred in the review period.

What should you do instead?

The best thing to do is to reframe this subject and call the process Performance Development.  That’s really what you’re looking for.  You want a process that helps your employees to develop the skills and behaviours they need in order to add more value to your business.  You're more interested in what they can and will do than what they've done in the past.

Here’s what you should be considering:

  • Continuous improvement – we recommend moving away from something that happens annually to something that happens quarterly. Given the frequency it needs to be light and focus people on what they are looking to achieve in the coming 3 months.
  • Conversation – do you have the right skills in your management team to have meaningful conversations with your employees? This may seem obvious but the employee wants to talk about themselves and how they can develop the skills they need.  Yes, they are responsible for their careers but you need to be able to help them work through how they can get better at what they do.  This isn’t something that comes naturally to all.  Equally, lots of managers don’t really know how to deal with problems and underperformance so can shy away from those topics.
  • Development plans – the focus now is very much on continuous learning and employees want to feel that they are gaining new skills. You need to be prepared to talk through a wide range of options as to how they can gain those skills.
  • The ‘how’ not just the ‘what’ – you need to make sure that your process allows you to easily address any issues that relate more to interpersonal skills and behaviours rather than to technical competence. Some form of behavioural framework can be really useful here as it de-personalises the conversation.

How we can help

At Lighter HR Solutions we have a range of services that you might like to use to get your performance development process to where you want it to be:

  • HR Insight Workshop – we’re running a workshop on Giving Feedback on 24th November 2017.  You can find out more and register here.
  • Performance Appraisal services – we can help you create a new process that works for you and your business. You can find out more about this service here.
  • Management training – if you think your managers could do with some extra help on giving feedback and having difficult conversation then we provide in-house training and you can find out more here.

We also like to talk about these things so you can always give us a call on 0203 319 1649.

HR Workshops for Business Leaders and Managers

Increase your knowledge and skills in key HR areas!

  • Keep up-to-date on changes in employment law and HR best practice.
  • Increase your skill in key areas such as managing absence or giving feedback.

These are open sessions where you'll have the opportunity to meet other people who face the same challenges as you.

HR Workshop: They Can’t Read Your Mind – Giving Feedback to Employees

Giving employees feedback is not something that comes naturally to all managers.  Some are great at telling the bad news but forget that there’s a need to offer praise.  Others are happy to be good cop but less happy to be bad cop!

Employees simply can’t develop, learn new skills and meet your expectations if you don’t tell them what they are doing well and what they are doing less well.

In this interactive session you’ll find out more about:

  • How to start the more challenging conversations
  • How to get the balance right between praise and constructive criticism
  • How to deal with common employee reactions to receiving less than glowing praise!

As is always the case with our workshops, this isn’t a typical talk at you session.  You’ll have the opportunity to discuss real-life scenarios that you’re facing as well as participating in some activities that help you to really understand the issues and put the techniques into practice.

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Contact Us

We find the quickest way to move things forward is to call us on 0203 319 1649.

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