Appraisals – Not Just a Tick in a Box


Appraisals – Not Just a Tick in a Box

The appraisal. A meeting that needs to happen every so often between a manager and an employee with a view to evaluating the performance of the latter against the expectation of the former.  These meetings are so important, yet the more people I talk to about their appraisal, the less it would appear that they are valued as a tool in their development. This is mostly down to seven reasons-

1-    The employee believes that an appraisal is an appropriate meeting to discuss and then receive a pay rise, because they have never been told that it is not.

2-    The manager believes that the appraisal is a meeting where an employee will want to discuss a pay rise and then be put into an awkward position where they cannot offer one, because they have never told them it is not.

3-    The employee and quite often the manager too, does not understand what an appraisal is supposed to do, because they have never asked, or been shown, or have been poorly managed themselves.

4-    Managers and employees have not got a Scooby Doo what an objective is; let alone how to set them. As an aside “Attend an Excel training course” is not an objective. Whilst “Develop your skills using formula to create worksheets in Excel to help you manage your budget moving forward before the end of the current financial year, in order to start the next year in a stronger position.” is an objective and the former statement would be a way of achieving the latter.  Hmm using former and latter a lot here…

5-    The manager is not really a manager, but a person wearing a ‘manager’ badge, therefore they focus on their area of expertise first and the management side second, therefore the process of appraisal is not valued.

6-    The manager is a manager, but works in a culture whereby the appraisal is not really valued or appreciated and so little time or effort is given over to the appraisal process, indeed some of their appraisals are carried out in about 30minutes over a pint at lunchtime, purely to tick a box. Then back to work…

7-    The business puts too much emphasis on the completion of the appraisal as an annual or semi annual process, and apart from the odd announcement about the process starting, does not refer in any way to carrying out the appraisal itself.  The result being that employees view it as a reactionary rather than planned event, that simply gets in the way of day to day proceedings and is generally thought of as a bit annoying.

Back to Your Future.

If we think about interviewing candidates for a position in a company, they ask the same questions.  What training is on offer? Is their much scope for development and growth in my career? Can I expect pay progression? So they start a trail of breadcrumbs (read: hope) for managers, clearly asking the right, albeit cliché questions.  You see employees want to be developed, managers promise this at interview, at Induction we continue the message (see my blog on Induction-More than just a Welcome), but things drop off once probation periods are cleared and they get on with the day to day.

Don’t take it all on Yourself.

The Managers can really take on too much when it comes to the appraisal and not give enough of the process to the employee.  Remember employees own their own career and therefore should take responsibility for its development. The perception of the appraisal meeting is very one sided when actually the majority of the talking should be done by the appraisee not the appraiser.

During a working year or six months depending on the measurement time frame that the appraisal refers to, set up a mechanism where an employee can record their successes, work in progress reports and challenges, a performance diary if you will. Make this transparent so that as the manager you can access this at any time, keeping abreast of what is going on. Using tools set out in The One Minute Manager, use the 1-minute goal set, 1-minute reprimand and 1-minute appraisal as a day to day mechanisms so that nothing comes as shock in the main appraisal meeting. This record keeping ensures an employee stays focussed on current objectives in their development, does not forget anything they have achieved and gives them a platform to refer to in areas of development.  This visibility creates an evidence trail which can be used most effectively a record of development. It never ceases to amaze me how many employees email me for a list of training courses they have attended in the past. I always reply “Seriously, you don’t keep a record of this for yourself? Why not?”

 SMARTER is Great but Really, Can Anyone be Bothered?

Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound, effect and review. How many times have I heard management trainers wheel that out. We all have at one time or another. Well if it is so bloody good, why do many people roll their eyes at hearing it, and do not practice it? Let me tell you why.  It is a complete ball-ache to do!

Lets get real, when you set an objective, ask real questions without the SMARTER management speak.

1-what needs to be done to be effective?

2-who is the best person to do it? they want to do it?

4.can they do it with the skills they have?

5. How long have they got to complete it?

6. When will I check in on progress?

7. How will this affect everything else?

It is the same with getting people to do additional tasks or ‘delegation’. You could call this SMARTO!

1-what support can you offer?

2. How will you measure progress?

3-Are they able to do it?

4.Is it realistic to expect them to do it

5. When tools are needed to get it done?

6. Does this fit with team objectives?

Application of real world language without the management speak can make a huge difference to the way you manage people, and I have found that the more management guff you spout, the more distanced you become from your team ultimately making you unapproachable. No manager wants that.

A Room with A View.

When you are presented with an employee’s appraisal remember that the meeting represents a year or six months worth of work. So not something you can whizz through over a pint in the pub.  The best appraisals I ever had were in retail years ago, they had an agenda sent to me beforehand and the meeting lasted pretty much a half day, very thorough and my goodness did I feel like I had been listened to, interrogated on decisions and challenged on results, it was painful at the time but looking back nothing short of brilliant.

Something else that made a difference was the layout of the room; it was all laid out well, with water, a notepad, fresh air and no table between my manager and me. This created an open environment with no barriers, when I have carried out appraisals I have adopted this myself as it can add an extra dimension, making the employee feel more at ease. The meeting can be structured and formal but the environment needs to be welcoming and comfortable.

Remember Evidence and Value.

Whatever is discussed in the meeting needs to be evidenced. Anecdotal chats can be useful, however nothing beats a piece of evidence to really hammer how well someone is doing, such as a testimonial perhaps, or where a person needs a little more help.

Points of view on other people need to avoided as the appraisal is not about them it is about the person in front of you, and really this ends being nothing more than idle gossip if not properly managed.  So if there needs to be a discussion that includes stuff about teammates, specific customers or internal colleagues keep it factual.

As a last point, please take the opportunity to reinforce to the employee how valuable they are.  Don’t just pay it lip service either; really mean it.   Even though all staff a remunerated to do a job, they still need a thank you now and than to make them feel appreciated and supported therefore nurturing the need to continue and deliver more. An employee who is valued has high levels of engagement with their job, their manager, their team and the business, therefore is far less likely to leave and far more likely to advocate. So pay attention to this last point, it has far reaching ramifications, beyond the appraisal meeting itself, and without coming over all L’Oreal about it, they are worth it, and so are you.

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