Performance Appraisal – Is It Just A Tick Box Exercise?

The debate has raged for years about whether the annual performance appraisal is just a tick box exercise or a useful management tool.

Many employees feel that this is just a painful exercise to satisfy HR and senior management. They think it doesn’t really mean anything. Especially if their voice is not heard.  Some HR practitioners and managers feel much the same way.

So what is the point of the performance appraisal?

Regular discussions between managers and their employees are really important.  These can be formal or informal, depending on the business and the style of working.  I would suggest that once a year is not nearly often enough.

Your people are an important asset (arguably the most important).  You need to ensure they are engaged with your business and aligned with your objectives.  Whatever you call these discussions – appraisals, reviews, 1-2-1 chats – they are an opportunity for you to listen to your employee.  They provide a chance for you to guide their successful employment journey with you.

The discussion should be a two-way conversation.  It needs to cover the employee’s job, their key responsibilities and their overall contribution to the company’s objectives.  It should help you jointly decide on development needs. Importantly, it should include recognition of the achievements and effort of the employee. Ideally, you should agree an action plan.  This doesn’t need to be long or complicated but it should reflect an agreed way forward.

Key points for discussion in a performance appraisal

  1. You need to highlight the things that the individual is doing well and any where some improvement is needed;
  2. Make sure they know how their performance contributes to the success of your business;
  3. Your aim should be to reach a joint decision about any training needs there are;
  4. Have an open discussion about any concerns they or you may have;
  5. Agree an action plan for moving forward.

 Critical factors for successful discussions:

  1. It is essential that there can be trust and openness between you . You should be building this from the first day of their employment with you.
  2. You need to be able to ask the right questions and make sure you really listen to the answers.
  3. The employee must be prepared to take responsibility for their actions, to hear and to learn.
  4. This is personal to that individual and should not be discussed with anyone else.  Keep it confidential.
  5. It is important to be consistent. The employee must come away with the knowledge that they have been treated fairly and in the same way as other people.

Things to avoid

  1. Once a year for performance discussions with the employee is definitely not often enough. Once a month is better – and makes the task easier.
  2. If you have having discussions often, then nothing should come as a surprise at the performance appraisal.
  3. Try to avoid too much discussion about past performance. It is important to recognise success and it is important to discuss any areas where development is needed.  But the main thrust of the discussion should be about future needs and how you can jointly meet them.
  4. Review processes often involve too much paperwork. Keep it simple.
  5. Be aware of any management bias. You may not personally like the individual, but that should not influence the discussion.  This is about their performance and the results achieved, not about how they achieved them.  So if they do things differently from you, don’t automatically think they are wrong.

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