Employee Performance Appraisals are always presented in management material as a very important activity. But my experience in doing them is that they can feel like a waste of time. I put in the effort to write them and meet with employees to review them but nothing changes after they are done.
One of the managers on my team taught me some great tactics (a lesson in hiring great people and listening to them) that changed my perspective on appraisals and my results. I want to share them with you.
Before the Appraisal Meeting
1. Take the writing the appraisal seriously. Don’t skimp on this. Review what you have said in your last appraisal and the goals you have set. Think over performance over the entire appraisal period. Ask others that work with them what they think of the employee’s performance. Think carefully about your expectations for performance and attitude. Note what is going well and what needs improvement.
2. Write feedback in an actionable way. Vague feedback leaves the employee unsettled and unsure. Focus on what behaviors you want to see changed. Be specific. A good way to give useful feedback is to complete the following input on each item to be evaluated;
• Do more of;
• Do less of;
• Stop doing;
• Start doing;
3. Choose your words carefully. Avoid using the word “But” in any of your feedback. i.e. this was good but… Use the word “And” instead i.e. this was good and… The impact of the changing that three-letter word is amazing.
During the Appraisal meeting
4. Ask the employee what they think. Start your conversation by asking the employee how they see their performance and any improvement they are working on right now. While they are talking, note where your evaluation agrees with theirs and where it doesn’t. Getting on the same page is important.
5. Encourage them. Follow by noting improvements you have seen since their last appraisal. Express gratitude for their efforts and contributions. Also, take the time to note positive behaviors that impress you and inspire the team.
6. Review the appraisal input. Remember that the point of an appraisal is to move behavior to what is desired. Listen to barriers the employee might feel they have experienced but don’t get into a debate about them. Focus on their behavior that they can control.
7. Agree on specific actions. What does the employee needs to do and by when. Get clarity on exactly what the behavior looks like. Also agree on how and when you will follow up on whether they are meeting expectations.
8. Express gratitude. Be specific when thanking them for their employee contributions and efforts. In the rare case when you are struggling to find something to note, thank them for their time and attention during the appraisal. End on a good note.
After the appraisal
1. Follow up. Catch them doing things the way you expect and give them feedback when they aren’t. This is especially important if the employee seems unclear about the behavior you want to change.
2. Use feedback for the next appraisal. Keep your discussion notes on file so you can use it to note success or short-comings in the next appraisal cycle.
Always remember that improving employee performance is not a one-time event. Caring about people and wanting them to reach their potential is the full-time job of any leader. The Performance Appraisal is just the most formal way to do that. Most of its value lies in driving the leader to be more intentional about giving feedback. Doing that effectively makes it time well spent.
Want more advice about making your employee appraisals more effective? Feel free to contact me at linda@lindaallisonresults to discuss.