Show me someone that loves completing performance appraisals and I will show you someone that is not normal.
Performance management is probably one of the most disliked responsibilities by team leaders in just about every organization. It’s hard to do, it takes away time from “productive” management activities, it often creates frustration and disappointment with the employees. So why are organizations still investing time and effort in such a painful process?
When executed well, performance management is the strongest process in the HR tool-kit that can drive individual performance. Once managers understand how to leverage this process to their team’s advantage, the payoff in terms of increased discretionary effort, organizational commitment and job satisfaction will far outweigh the burden of completing administrative forms and having to provide feedback. In fact, performance management is a critical driver in creating a high-performance workforce – an aspiration that all managers strive for in today’s times when everyone is expected to do more with fewer resources.
Here are the main ingredients of a well-executed performance review?
- Set clear expectations: if a manager wants to focus on one single thing that will have the greatest impact on building a high-performing team, s/he needs to define objectives and performance standards that are understood by the employee. Too often performance objectives are expressed in “fuzzy” terms, are not measurable, nor meaningful to the employee. Managers should consult with their HR business partner for help in creating performance standards that are perceived as fair and linked to organizational strategic initiatives. Employees want to feel responsible / accountable for things that matter to their business unit’s success. The setting of meaningful performance objectives can become a source of motivation and connection to the bigger picture – a sure driver of increased employee engagement. The upfront time investment by the manager in setting the stage for the performance system to do what it’s originally designed to do is too often handled haphazardly. Unclear or inconsistent expectations can be performance killers.
- Emphasize the positive: emphasizing employee strengths in formal performance reviews leads to increases in four key attitudes: organizational commitment, discretionary effort, feelings of being in the right job, and employees’ belief that they have the necessary resources to do their work. In addition, it has a positive direct impact on employee performance. What about performance weaknesses? How should they be addressed? Extensive research conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council clearly demonstrates that managers who use the performance management system to emphasize weaknesses during the formal review can in fact decrease an individual’s performance by 26%. Discussion of performance weaknesses must be clearly focused on specific suggestions for improvement or development; if not, emphasizing weaknesses can dramatically decrease performance.
- The manager as solutions enabler: the manager’s behaviour that drives the biggest performance improvement in the team, is helping employees find solutions to problems at work. This speaks to the power of timely informal feedback versus trying to batch everything into the formal review process.
Sitting down with an individual to discuss performance can at times seem daunting. What to emphasize? What of their feelings; what if they become disengaged after the review? These are concerns that could make this process unpleasant, especially if there are some weaknesses. The longer the needed discussion is ignored, the more difficult it will seem. Should the performance go unchecked, the result is usually a disengaged employee which can have a disturbing affect on other employees.
For the most part, employees prefer structure. They need to know what their purpose for working in the organization is. Most employees would like to work towards something. It should be measurable and achievable in a relatively short time frame. It can’t be emphasized enough that the appraisal is the perfect opportunity to sit down and discuss how the employee’s performance is progressing. This process can be very pleasant, even if there is bad news to deliver. It may be useful to ask the employee for a recovery plan and if there are any special tools or knowledge needed in order to reach their objectives.
The performance appraisal can always be supplemented with a series of informal feedback sessions through the course of the year. That has the effect of informing the employee that what they do is meaningful and important; they are being counted on.
“Tweaking” the goals and expectations with informal feedback sessions throughout the year are so important. These sessions are an opportunity to take corrective action if needed or act as a reinforcement that they are going in the right direction. Focus on suggestions for improvement or development. If this is not done and the focus is on the employees’ weaknesses, it could have the opposite desired effect and dramatically decrease performance. When an employee understands the performance standards on which they will be evaluated, it will have the greatest impact on the effectiveness of the appraisal system – it drives commitment, effort and job fit. Find out how career1.us can help your HR needs!
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