Six Golden Tips for Effective Performance Appraisals
Work performance cannot be improved unless it is measured
The performance appraisal is an important opportunity for the employee and employer to sit down and evaluate the prior year’s performance. The actual appraisal meeting should be scheduled in advance so that both parties can sit down and have an uninterrupted discussion.
It can be hard to remember the items that need to be addressed during the appraisal process and even harder to find the time to put those thoughts in writing. One way to make the process easier is to meet with employees more frequently. Once the annual goals have been determined, employers should consider meeting with employees at least quarterly to assess goals. Have an open discussion to determine the current performance and evaluate how to move forward. Meeting quarterly also allows for changes that may be needed due to workplace happenings.
It is critical to the performance appraisal process to keep the lines of communication open. Employers should always take the opportunity to acknowledge a job well done. If however an employee is not performing up to standards, it is better to go ahead and address the problem immediately rather than wait.
Having a written performance appraisal policy, taking the time to meet with employees, and keeping the lines of communication open are relatively simple ways to increase the effectiveness of the appraisal process. Hopefully, following the above suggestions will also make the performance appraisal process less stressful for everyone.
Six golden tips to make performance appraisals effective
- Make sure goals are explicit, descriptive, and shared.
This step is often the point where appraisals start to derail. Unfortunately, most organisations do a pretty poor job setting expectations – a task that is not really all that difficult. You can only set expectations about three things – actions, work product, or impact on organisation goals. The least useful and easiest to measure is actions; the most useful and difficult to identify is impact on results.
- Make sure measures are explicit, specific, and shared.
Once expectations are clear, the next step is to agree on measures. If you identify a link to organisation results, then that measure is clear. If not, then you must identify relevant performance measures. Basically, there are four categories of performance measures (for either actions or work products) – Quality, Quantity, Time, and Cost. The key here is to remember that these are categories, not actual measures, and each category has multiple measures.
- Collect relevant, valid performance information.
Once goals and measures have been established, the next step is to collect relevant, valid information. Unfortunately, this step can be difficult, especially with jobs where work product is intangible (information, influence, conflict resolution, etc.) When there is a tangible work product, ensure you collect samples. When there isn’t a product, direct observation is the best standard. Finally, if nothing else is available, use self and other behavioural reports – but link those reports to expected goals and make sure to look for actions, and not just unsupported judgments (“he was great!?”).
- Compare performance with goals.
Once you have the information, the next step is to analyse it. I think of analysis as comparing actual with expected performance, for the purpose of understanding variance and its causes. Sometimes the variance exceeds goals and sometimes it means that the person fell short of goals – but your analysis is intended to identify what happened and to try and understand why.
- Make your judgment.
Once the analysis is complete, the next step is to judge the performance – meet, miss, or exceed the goals. Simply, your judgment should be evident from your analysis.
- Describe both analysis and judgment so any reader can understand.
If you’ve done the previous steps effectively, the actual written appraisal is fairly easy to produce. If you develop your performance appraisals using these steps, then people will always understand the appraisal and see it as valid – even if they don’t agree with it.
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