Performance appraisals have value for both the employee and the employer. How employers embrace them and deliver feedback is crucial to the success of the process and the appraisal. The goal of a performance appraisal is to retain, retrain, and engage with our staff.
Here at 501(c) HR Services, we advocate for reviews conducted more than once per year. The reason for this is that, unfortunately, most managers base an annual assessment on what they have observed and noted in the month or weeks preceding the yearly review. That’s not a fair appraisal and not helpful to either the employer or the employee. Keep in mind that the goal is to look back at what was done well, correct what wasn’t done well, and move the employee forward.
Below are a few helpful tips for ensuring a better performance appraisal:
- Pay attention and provide regular positive, constructive feedback – throughout the year or appraisal period. Coach John Wooden, the very successful former UCLA basketball coach, had a practice of making notes on each player each day. Those notes helped the coach assist each teammate, after each practice, to keep moving forward. He explained what he saw that went well and what needed work. In the many years he was coach, UCLA won an unprecedented 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years. This practice of regular constructive feedback led each player to be their best which helped their team succeed. Meeting and talking with your employees frequently tells your staff that you notice them and are paying attention, and, most importantly, you are there to coach them to success. Nothing in your appraisal should come as a surprise.
- When writing your appraisals, pay close attention to the words you choose. For example, stay away from “Bob’s performance is satisfactory.” Instead, these five words can help you successfully highlight your employee’s contributions. When you use action-based words, they help the employee develop a clearer picture of what they may be doing well.
- Achievement: Work this into a sentence, for example, “Laura achieves optimal levels of performance which are seen in the progress of her clients…”
- Communication skills: Use phrases such as “effectively communicates with coworkers” or “Laura excels in facilitating discussions dealing with employee relations and within our department.”
- Improvement: Most of us want to know that our managers know we are working hard and thriving in our endeavors, especially if we have been working on improving a particular skill or resolving an issue. A comment such as, “Bob has shown he is continuously working on growth and skill-building in X area” or “Bob has demonstrated his willingness to be open in always learning and looking for ways to improve his duties…”
- Leadership skills: Supervising and managing staff and responsibilities is essential to successful leadership. Comments such as, “Laura has shown a remarkable skill in providing support to her program/department during rapid change and growth within the organization.”
- Creativity: Not all organizations and managers seem to value creativity. However, we have seen studies that show that encouraging creativity in the workplace, and not just with issues, can make for more motivated and engaged staff. Using phrases and actual examples is essential. For example, “Bob expresses his sense of humor and creativity for problem-solving by suggesting out-of-the-box thinking that results in better outcomes…like when we had to shuffle programs around for a month while…”
- Thinking back to the whole appraisal period is critical to a successful and helpful review. Always make a note of situations, responses, and actions observed. Make notes for all staff, think Coach Wooden, and keep them in a confidential (away from curious eyes) location. Using specific information, you have observed, heard, or been told about (always verify!) shows again that you are paying attention. Anytime you can use tangible, real-life examples gives your appraisal weight and credibility. Ensure that you can refer to an actual success or mistake to prevent misunderstandings. Then brainstorm with them on how they may address any similar issue or situation in the future.
- Always end the appraisal meeting on a positive note. Ensure both you and your employee are clear on what you talked about, areas that need improvement, and areas where your employee is excelling. Double-check that while your employees may not necessarily agree with your assessments, they know you are there to help them to be successful. Suppose you’ve built a working relationship built on trust and mutual respect when there are issues with an employee’s performance. In that case, they should feel safe and comfortable discussing any areas of disagreement. Having differing opinions isn’t a bad thing. Reinforce that you are there as a resource, and your constructive feedback is provided to coach them towards better performance and broaden their experiences moving forward.
- If you tie increases and bonuses to performance, don’t talk about money in the performance appraisal meeting. Make those two separate conversations and ensure that employees know your policy and process before the appraisal meeting.
No lie, doing performance appraisals can be a challenge for most. However, thinking about the steps outlined above and knowing that the whole point of going through the exercise is to help employees improve year after year. If we remember this throughout the year, perhaps this process might help you believe that performance appraisals can be a valuable tool for both the employee and your organization.
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The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.