Reviewing performance through good communications
As the snow recedes our thoughts turn to the spring and the unpopular annual appraisal season. Why are appraisals or performance reviews dreaded by some and feared by others?
Many managers despair at the thought of stopping work as they see it to have to prepare and then interview their team members. This stoppage, of course, is accompanied by a complicated, sometimes arcane system which does not look as if it has anything to do with the tasks in hand. There are the usual mutterings about it being a waste of time, the lack the skills to carry out the process, or they have no time to prepare. So what then is the response from the top? ‘Let’s patch it up with a one day practical workshop’. Of course later most companies realise they need two days training simply because their paperwork is so onerous and complicated. The paperwork has completely taken over the process and everyone has to learn again how to fill in all the forms again.
Why are performance reviews so onerous?
One of the reasons is that many company schemes have been developed over time and with lots of different inputs. New managers bring in favourite bits from their old company’s scheme and add those to the original. Someone reads a book on competencies or hears on the grapevine of other ways to record information and these are added to the mix. Eventually any scheme will just buckle under the weight of documentation. And how do they try to sort it? Often by putting it all online or on the company intranet and the system then separates from reality and the people doomed to run it. It recreates itself as it blossoms and grows.
A major shock to this organic method of getting an appraisal system was the recent introduction of competencies. Wow! More to measure and more to score. It’s not difficult to see why people find appraisals so unpopular. And when people question why they don’t deliver improved performance it time to bring in someone from outside.
I had two interesting dilemmas with two different clients last year. One had evolved their appraisal paperwork to invite the managers to score their staff on a five score grid and the first item was ‘honesty’. I mean do you really want to review annually how honest someone is? Do you want to employ someone who only gets a ‘3 or worse a 2’ for honesty?!! My other client did not really understand what a competency was and had been left with an appraisal system asking managers to score their staff for a competency of’ Health and Safety’. The scoring categories (which should have given them some hefty clues) were ‘being a role model’ through to ‘must do better’.
An annual performance review or appraisal can be so much easier, less time consuming and much more beneficial to both the organisation and the participants. But to be more useful you must go back to the beginning, tear up the existing documentation and remind yourself why you are doing it. Answer the question – ‘what is the objective of doing a performance review?’ For me the appraisal is quite simply to encourage and improve performance to the benefit of the individual and for the organisation. It includes setting objectives against the company’s overall goals and identifying any learning needed to help the individual to achieve those objectives
The appraisal is all about communication
It is an interview or conversation. It needs to be a formal discussion between two adults in three clear parts:
- First you review together what happened over the previous year. You discuss and give and receive feedback on successes. If required the manager can offer feedback on how tasks might be improved.
In essence – What worked? What didn’t? What might have helped? Hindered?
- The second stage is for the manager to share the company overview and business plan. What are the objectives at the top of the organisation, what will be the impact on your team? Finally the two adults agree the way forward for the next year. This is normally by agreeing objectives based on the company’s key objectives. It will also include identifying training to help the appraisee achieve those objectives.
- After that it is easy to add the recording documentation for your appraisal. It can be just an A4 sheet because all you need is a summary of what was agreed from the discussion and a record of the agreed objectives and training for the following year.
Charlotte Mannion CF CIPD runs workshops in communication skills for appraisals and giving constructive feedback
Making communications work in your business – www.quicklearn.co.uk provides practical support, guidance and training workshops for smaller organisations