I don’t about your experience, but for most of my career, I wondered if annual employee appraisals had any value at all. It seemed like I gave, and got, vague feedback that didn’t help improve job performance. Below are nine ways we miss the mark when giving appraisals.

1. Unclear expectations. It is hard for employees to perform if they are unclear what good performance looks like. Make sure that your employee knows what you expect. Be clear when on-boarding new employees and in day to day coaching what processes, attitudes, and personal habits make up a good performance.
2. Generalized feedback. Your employees need to be recognized and appreciated as individuals. When generalized feedback such as “meets expectations” is given, employees may feel that their work is not even noticed, let alone appreciated. When giving feedback, be sure to acknowledge individual and specific contributions that they have made. This tells them that they are important to you and opens them up to both positive and negative feedback.
3. Compare them to others. If your feedback compares their performance to other employee’s performance, they will not perceive it as fair feedback. Avoid this pitfall by comparing their performance now to their past performance. This allows you to highlight progress (or lack of progress) and is seen as fair by employees.
4. Surprises. No employee wants to hear of a performance issue for the first time in their appraisal meeting. Make sure you are giving consistent and timely feedback throughout the year. In the appraisal, you can then discuss improvements or a failure to respond to coaching.
5. Halo Effect. The time between appraisals can be long. It is easy (and human) to emphasize performance that is closest to the appraisal time. It is also easy to let one positive or negative event overshadow all other aspects of performance. Take time to consider the entire period’s performance and all aspects of performance expectations to ensure a fair and helpful conversation.
6. Being Late. There is nothing that communicates you don’t care about an employee’s performance than being late on an appraisal, or worse, not doing it at all. Make being on time with appraisals a priority. After all, your primary job is to improve an employee’s performance. Why would this not be a priority? Show the employee that you care about them.
7. Focusing on the negative. As someone who is working to improve team performance, it is often easy to focus on what needs “fixed” and downplay what is being done well. A good strategy for ensuring your input is heard is to start the conversation by highlighting things the employee is doing well before adding your constructive criticism. It’s also good to end on a positive note.
8. You do all the talking. If the communication is one way during the appraisal, you may miss an opportunity to hear barriers the employee is facing that are affecting their performance. Employees need to feel that they are heard before they will hear your input. That doesn’t mean that the appraisal should turn into a debate. Your evaluation of their performance is the one that counts in this setting.
9. No actions are set. It doesn’t make sense to go to all the effort of doing the appraisal if nothing changes in the employee’s performance. Pick a few things that the employee should focus on changing and agree on an action plan. Be sure to follow up with them periodically and notice when you see improvement.

Watch for my next post on how to formulate an appraisal that helps an employee improve and excel.

Need help in getting better at appraisals? Contact me at linda@lindaallisonresults and I will be happy to discuss it with you.

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