It’s Big. It’s Scary. It’s the Annual Performance Appraisal.

Performance Apprasials

For some, the annual performance appraisal is akin to the childhood fear of the scary “monster” under the bed. Maybe you would prefer a tooth pulled than to sit in a meeting that points out the weaknesses of an employee. Many go to great lengths to procrastinate and avoid the annual meeting, hoping that business continues as usual. Fear, worry, and anxiety are just some of the common feelings surrounding the annual performance appraisal process. Why is that?

The Preparation

Leading up to the Performance Appraisal itself, we assume that managers/supervisors will set aside sufficient time for thoughtful consideration of his/her employee(s) performance over the past year. The reality is that far too often, managers/supervisors fall short in this area. Frequently, this means that notes are not accumulated throughout the year, and memory is used to pull together content for a meaningful conversation. Some companies will ask employees to perform a self-assessment. In theory, self-assessments are valuable, but in practice, they often result in managers/supervisors using it as the baseline for his/her feedback, completely defeating the purpose. As Alexander Graham Bell said, “before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Lack of preparation is often why performance appraisals are unsuccessful and why so many organizations are ready to throw them away.

What if we tried a new approach focusing on thoughtful preparation for a performance discussion? Would you look at the annual appraisal differently?

The Conversation

The conversation goes something like this:

“Harry, I noticed that you seem to be making a lot of mistakes lately and I need you to improve the quality of your work.”

“I also need you to try harder to get along with other departments.”

So, what’s the problem? In these statements, the manager is providing difficult feedback in an ineffective way because weaknesses are the focal point of the discussion. There are no specific examples given to the employee, so he knows exactly what he needs to do more or less of in the upcoming year. The manager does not attempt to understand the decline in performance or interactions with others, and there is no verification to determine if the employee has the resources/tools to be successful.

There are endless examples of managers/supervisors promoted prematurely without proper training. Before assuming the additional responsibility of managing employees, specific skills need to be developed. At the top of the list are how to evaluate performance, have difficult conversations, set goals for development, and motivate employees. If your supervisors don’t receive training in these areas, their success rate is significantly decreased, which impacts the entire organization.

The Post Appraisal

Now that the awkward conversation is over, the manager checks it off his/her to-do list, and the employee goes back to work feeling deflated. This type of lackluster appraisal leads nowhere fast. As time passes, both the employee and manager fall back into their routine work habits. No major transformation has occurred, no improvement plan has been outlined, and no goals have been set.

This story is disheartening. What if managers received proper training on how to not only prepare and conduct a successful performance appraisal but also how to cultivate performance throughout the year?

Many will argue that performance appraisals are no longer relevant and should be tossed away. Yes, if managers don’t properly conduct their evaluations, then the investment of time and energy is not worth it. On the flip side, by pairing a performance assessment with weekly and monthly interactions throughout the year, including meaningful dialog, the unpopular suddenly becomes popular again. It’s also important to recognize that growing stagnant can kill even the best processes. Remember to align expectations regularly, so adjustments can be made to ensure the most successful performance by all.

Next Steps

The fallout from a flawed appraisal process can be staggering and ultimately impacts the profitability of an organization. Join our upcoming webinar as we talk about leveraging performance to drive firm growth and help employees play to their strengths.

Kristi Weierbach