One of the functions of a Manager is to provide feedback to his team members on their performance. Without feedback, one cannot expect people to know where improvements are needed. Feedback can take various forms, ranging from the quick informal chat to a full appraisal at the end of the year.
The benefits of conducting reviews are:
1.Identifying areas for improvement
2.Removing blocks to performance
3.Identifying training needs
4.Reviewing performance standards
7.Encouraging open communication
9.Making career plans
The outcomes of the appraisal process help an organisation to assess the competence of the workforce, to plan training and development activities and to pay people according to the value of their contribution. Note that while there is a clear link between appraisal and pay, this is not the primary purpose of the appraisal.
You should not underestimate the importance of regular mini-reviews. These help to ensure that when it comes to the formal appraisal, there are no surprises.
Remember that your abilities as a manager are expressed in the performance of your staff and you will ultimately be judged on this. If you have complaining , discontented, under-performing staff, it is likely that you are not managing your staff properly.
Preparing to appraise
1. Gathering the data
In order to ensure fairness and objectivity toward the person that you are appraising, thorough preparation in terms of information gathering is essential. This includes familiarising yourself with the current job-description, standards, objectives and competencies required.
Looking back at last year's appraisal (assuming that this is an annual process) is a good place to start. What performance shortfalls were identified? What action was planned? Has this taken place?
To clarify your view of the current level of performance, separate the person's job into key result areas - where major outcomes or achievements are required for the job. Do not include details of how the job is done, simply the results that arise form it.
Gather the data that relates to each key result area - output statistics, sales, budget spending, complaints or any other relevant output and compare this with the standard or results expected in each area.
Speak to the recipients of the service provided by the appraisee both internal and external, if appropriate. What is their view for each key result area? Do they have any examples of occasions where service was better than expected, where your staff member went that extra mile or where the service was below expectations? Check that their input is reasonable and realistic in the circumstances.
What is your boss's view of the appraisee's performance? It is important that you and your boss present a consistent view, so try to resolve any areas of disagreement. Also check with fellow workers to get a 360 degree view - this helps to dispel any possible claims of unfairness in rating performance.
Remember that this process is not about whether or not you like someone , it is about their (and your) performance.
2. Situational Factors
A key point to be aware of when preparing to appraise is the number of factors surrounding the job that can affect performance. For example, if new technology, new procedures, new management or new initiatives have been introduced during the year, these are likely to have affected the jobholder's performance. Were new standards or targets set at the time to take account of the changes? Was training provided and was it effective in supporting the new skills needed?
How could organisational changes or moves to new locations have affected the job? Has staff turnover been higher in the period? Have there been external changes in the environment or marketplace that could have created additional demands on the job?
Does the staff member have personal or relationship problems which are impacting on performance?
The purpose of considering these factors is not to build up a list of excuses for underachievement but to take into account changes outside the appraisee's control.
By comparing performance with the existing job standards, targets and objectives in each key result area and by taking account of the effects of known changes you will be able to reach an informed view of achievement.
3. Assessing Potential
Assessing a person's potential is not an easy task and history is littered with examples of people who were considered at the time to have limited potential and subsequently blossomed. (Normally under a more-skilled manager or better-organised company.)
Gauge whether you believe peak performance has been reached yet. Does this person demonstrate that they can achieve more than is required? Are they seen as a role model by other staff? Do you ask them to help out on training of new people?
Do they relish the challenge of tackling something new and difficult? Do you ever ask them to stand-in for you when you are away? Are they receptive to change and to learning new skills?
Consider also any knowledge and skills that the person has but not get the opportunity to practise. What qualities do they posses that can be used elsewhere? Get advice on your organisation's future human resource plans. Will there be a demand for someone with these or similar competencies in the future?
Above all. remember that the responsibility the appraisee's career rests with the appraisee. Your role is to facilitate the appraisee's plans by providing resources and information to help them.
Only now are you in a position to hold the appraisal meeting. You can therefore understand the unprofessional image that you will convey to your staff and the individual who is responsible for the organisation's appraisal system when he or she keeps having to badger you to appraise your staff and you grudgingly carrry-out a rushed pseudo-appraisal which has absolutely no practical value either to you, the appraisee or the organisation.
4. Preparing for the meeting
You are ready to hold the meeting but what preparation should you ask the appraisee to undertake? An excellent technique to instil in your staff is self-appraisal. Have the person think about their own performance in advance of the meeting. This will not only ensure that they are well-prepared but will often provide new insights into their performance.
Tell the person the purpose of the appraisal and the benefits to them and the organisation. If you have new or junior staff to appraise , perhaps for the first time, tell them clearly what the appraisal is NOT - like a school report, a disciplinary review, a discussion about pay, a one-way process etc.
Ask them to review the key result areas for the job over the appraisal period and to focus on where they believe achievements of shortfalls occurred - you will be surprised as to how hard people can be on themselves! Suggest they give some thought to any questions they may have about the job, their career aspirations and training needs.
Arrange a mutually convenient time and place to meet. You should both allow adequate time to finish the meeting ( normally between one and three hours) and find a place where you will not be disturbed . Switch-off or redirect your phone. If you know that there are problem areas to discuss, allow extra time.
Prepare a basic meeting plan incorporating a detailed review of past performance (with examples) against objectives or standards. Also include factors that you have identified as affecting performance, major strengths and areas for development (with some ideas about how to address them). Include time for a discussion on future performance and career needs. If you do not show your staff a future career of some sort, they will leave a. You and b. The Organisation (Unless they are totally without ambition, have peaked and their career is in free-fall or are just there for the money).
Do NOT complete the appraisal form in advance - this will negate the purpose of the meeting! (You might as well PRETEND to have an open mind!)
The Appraisal Meeting
Firstly, make sure that you are familiar with your own organisation's policies and procedures - if you are not sure, talk to your HR Manager - he should know!
As in counselling, the method that normally brings-out the most effective results is the joint problem-solving or "exploration" approach. Your role with this approach is one of a helper who facilitates the discussion by asking questions, listening and summarising conclusions. You do not impose your own suggestions but hold them back, unless asked for ideas.
Too often the appraiser seems to imagine that the appraisal interview is designed as some sort of "ego-trip" vehicle where they can "lord-it" overt their staff in order to re-stress and reaffirm their own self-importance.
Holding back your own suggestions is not a passive role. Of course there WILL be times when it is necessary to confront a person with an issue. Primarily, you are trying to guide the appraisee by helping them to gain self-insight and understanding about their performance.
The other approach is one where you TELL the appraisee what you think about their performance (normally the ego-driven manager's technique) and try to SELL your views to them. Whilst this method can bring the results, the degree of commitment you will gain from the appraisee is questionable. If you use this approach exclusively, the appraisee will tend to agree with you just in order to get away from you and terminate the meeting as soon as possible.
Starting the meeting
DO NOT BEGIN THE PROCESS BY TELLING THE APPRAISEE "UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS" "ANOTHER FORM FROM PERSONNEL!"
The Appraisal is part of the Manager's job. It is NOT an unfortunate corporate ritual which is imposed on you by Personnel.
For different reasons, both you and the person you are appraising are likely to be slightly anxious at the start of the meeting. Everybody is nervous about having their performance judged and you have the added responsibility that the meeting goes well. Therefore, take ample time at the beginning for both of you to settle down. Focus on creating the right atmosphere for the discussion.
Ideally you should be of equal status, with no intervening barrier such as a desk.
Remind the person about the purpose of the meeting and state what you wish to achieve as an outcome. Ask them for any specific topics that they would like included to form an agenda. Whether you need a formal written agenda is up to you, but in the spirit of informality, it is suggested that you do not produce a typed, n-point agenda.
Now is a good time to indicate the style of approach that you will be taking. If you have decided on the exploration approach, let the person know how you will conduct the meeting and what you will be looking for from them.
Start by asking the appraisee to provide an overall review of their performance. This will give you a feel for how they see their contribution and will indicate the extent to which their perception varies from your own. Work you way through the key result areas of the job, asking for their comments and giving feedback from your prepared notes. Be specific in any criticism or praise by providing examples and hard facts.
If appropriate, confirm your performance ratings for each key area as you go along. This is where a "no surprises" style of management really pays off, as the appraisee will be prepared for you opinion in each case.
When you reach a performance problem area be sure to focus on the work problem, not attack the person or their characteristics. If you cannot reach agreement through questioning, then confront the issue constructively and assertively. Describe what happened and the effect it had in terms of performance. Let the person know how you feel about this but show that you value them and see the situation as an opportunity for both of you to learn so that it will not be repeated. Try to get a commitment that will lead to an improvement in the future and confirm that you do not hold a grudge. You are there to help them to improve and say " Please let me know if there is anything that you need from me in order to help you to
Remember to bring-in some factors that may have affected performance over the period of the review, positively or negatively. Note these factors and mention them later in the appraisal document.
See if there are ways which you could have minimised or maximised the effects of these factors. For example, could training have been provided earlier? Could an office or career move have been made less disruptive?
Skills used in Appraising
There are a number of basic skills used in an appraisal situation, most of which are common to other management roles:
QUESTIONING: Use open questions to get the other person talking and gather information. Use probing questions to follow-up on information given. ( WHY WHAT WHERE WHEN WHICH HOW). Another form of open question is " Tell me about
LISTENING: Show that you are paying attention, hearing what is being said and understanding the way that it is being said. Paraphrase and Summarise. Ask for clarification where necessary. Maintain steady eye contact. Aim to speak yourself for less than 30% time - (ego-trippers beware!).
2nd PERSON: If you have a difficult issue to discuss, try the 2nd-person singular technique. "Tell me John, what would you be thinking if our roles were reversed - what do you think that you would be saying if you were me?". You will be surprised at most people's honesty.
SWITCH: If the appraisee offers you an opinion, ask for a fact. If the appraisee offers you a fact, ask for an opinion or feeling.
It is important that the appraisee does not have unrealistic or undeliverable aspirations. You must therefore be sure to place any wildly optimistic statements that they make in the context of their achievements to date.
Help the person to see that promotion/advancement chances depend largely on demonstrating effective performance in the present job. If there are current performance difficulties, these should be addressed first.
Help the appraisee to clarify what they are looking for from their career. What are their needs? How do these compare to the opportunities available within the organisation? Are there jobs available that will meet their needs? What skills and experience do they have? How do these match the requirements of available jobs within the organisation? Be realistic.
The purpose of the action plean is to bring together all aspects of the appraisal:
1.Addressing areas for improvement.
2.Building on strengths
3.Setting new objectives
4. Planning for future known changes
5.Helping the appraisee to meet their career aspirations
Confirm the areas of performance to be addressed and agree an end result for each. Look for ways of achieving these end-results that are practical and economical. Where possible, get the appraisee to find the most appropriate solution . That way they will be more committed to carrying the action out.
Timings must be established for all activities in the plan - Start, the likely duration, key follow-up dates and finish times.
If training courses are involved, you may not be able to guarantee their availability during the meeting, so agree when you will come back with the information. Above all, do not put ASAP on a plan - this is unclear and open to misinterpretation.
Be clear about who is responsible for actioning the various activities. Name individuals who have to complete the action.
Review changes within the workplace that you know or can predict will occur and discuss their implications on performance. For example, if some new technology is to be introduced, define what new skills or knowledge will be needed and how training will be arranged.
It will be beneficial if you arrange with the appraisee the measures that you will use to asses peogress.
It is good practice to write-up the appraisal straight after the meeting. Despite your notes, your recollection of events might fade if you leave this task longer than a few days. A quick turnaround of the appraisal document also shows the appraisee that their performance is a priority.
The evidence of an effective appraisal is a well-structured and written document which reflects the quality of the discussion. Give your team-member a draft of the document to review, so that they can make any corrections and to add their comments.
Share the outcome with your own manager and have them add their comments to the document. These comments should endorse your views and should not conflict with your own assessment.
Give your team-member a copy of the finished document and agree when you should meet again to review progress. Following through on actions agreed is essential, otherwise the benefits of the interview will not be realised and the appraisee will understandably be de-motivated.
However, the responsibility for the action plan should rest largely with the appraisee - your task should be to open doors and provide the guidance and resources to make their plans achievable.