Writing and delivering performance appraisals should be done through a multi-step process.
Employee goals should be written to support departmental goals which ultimately support organizational goals and strategy. Employee goals should be written to include specific and measurable objectives. These measures are what supply most of the data used in the performance appraisal process.
The performance appraisal should reflect the employee’s job description and goals. Job descriptions should be reviewed annually to ensure that they align with employee goals. This exercise also keeps employees focused on tasks that support corporate objectives and eliminates unnecessary job duties.
Questions asked on the appraisal should be tied to stated measurable goals. This makes this part of the assessment easy in that the employee either accomplished their goals or they didn’t. If they did, it should be reflected in the PA and if they didn’t, it should be noted also.
Now having said all that, there are some questions on performance appraisals that are written to determine the “how” employees perform their tasks and can be very subjective. Questions like, “employee demonstrations passion and enthusiasm for the job and company”. This is a very subjective observation and managers should be noting observed employee behaviors throughout the performance period. They should keep a journal or file on each employee and every time a problem is noticed with the employee’s performance, the manager should mention the problem to the employee, make a note of the problem and drop it in their file. On the other hand, when an employee demonstrates desired behaviors, the employee should be told, it should be noted and dropped in the employee’s file. Collecting this kind of data helps supply the needed information to have an objective performance appraisal.
When the time comes to write the actual performance appraisal, all of this data should be gathered, studied and assessments made. Managers should also be taught and understand common rater errors and use another objective leader (ie: the manager’s boss) to help them ensure their observations are objective, data driven and not biased.
This kind of data gathering is the best defense against perceived appraisal biases. Organizations get in trouble when:
- Managers do not set specific measurable goals for employees.
- Performance appraisals are not tied to stated expectations.
- Managers don’t make noted observations throughout the performance period.
- There is no data to support observations.
- Managers do not confront employee problems when they happen but only bring it up at performance appraisal time.
- There are biases in how managers track employee performance. For example, a manager keeps a file on a “problem” employee but not all employees.
- Managers do not talk to their employees except at performance appraisal time.
Finally, performance appraisals can be fair and effective if the process is structured, managed on a day-to-day basis and part of a larger performance management system.
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photo by buglug