Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Businesses use the performance appraisal process to manage employees toward achieving organizational goals.
The annual performance appraisal is one of the least favored times of the year because the process is often painful.
If done well, performance appraisals can be a positive experience for both the employee and the manager.
If done poorly, it can be a very stressful time and one of the most difficult conversations of the year.
This training provides the supervisor with the tools to write and deliver effective performance appraisals that are helpful and not painful.
Why do performance appraisals?
Let’s start by discussing the why behind doing performance appraisals.
The performance appraisal process is intended to reflect on the last year, celebrate successes, and course-correct if needed.
Reinforcing the positive and celebrating the successes can influence future positive behaviors.
Statistics show that an estimated 40% of workers never receive performance evaluations.
And, for 60% of the workers who do, most are done poorly. Wow, what a scary thing.
The fact is that employees want and need to know if they’re doing a good job.
A formal performance appraisal process forces managers to communicate both good and bad performance results to the employees.
A manager’s responsibility is to monitor performance to ensure desired behaviors and the achievement of goals.
Goals Don’t Happen By Chance
Goals don’t just happen; they need structured systems and processes.
The performance appraisal process is a critical component to achieving these critical end results.
Goals are important because they provide direction, clarify job roles, give something to strive for, show how far you’ve come, and help make the vision attainable.
Writing Goals Down Makes Them More Real
Don’t underestimate the importance of writing goals down. This simple step will allow you to see where you are going and the steps to get there.
The structured process should include a cycle that begins with writing goals, communicating expectations in achieving those goals, monitoring performance toward goals, assessing performance, and ending with the performance appraisal.
This cycle is repeated on an annual basis.
Preparation for the performance appraisal is ongoing.
When a manager notices a problem with an employee’s performance, mention it to them, make a note, and drop it in their file.
At the same time, whenever an employee demonstrates a desired behavior or result, mention it to them, make a note, and drop it in their file.
The goal is to correct when needed but acknowledge when employees do a good job.
The PA Should be Fair, Relevant and Comprehensive
The appraisal needs to be fair and unbiased.
This is challenging because sometimes we honestly don’t like some of the employees who work for us.
Not all managers will admit this, but it is so true! However, that bias must not influence the appraisal.
Fair means to document behavior in the same way in terms of frequency, type of language used, the harshness of judgment, and interim feedback.
- Would I have made the same note on a different employee?
- Are my observations the same, or am I over-emphasizing a single event?
- Am I giving immediate feedback after a problem is observed so the employee has a chance to change their behaviors and improve?
It is also important to give feedback as soon as you see a problem so you’re giving the employee a chance to improve.
It’s not fair to give a negative rating to an employee if they were not given the opportunity to improve.
The appraisal needs to be relevant to the entire evaluation period and to the performance of the job and the specific standards and/or expectations that you and the employee have established.
Ask the question, did the employee finish their goals; did they contribute to the mission of the organization?
The appraisal should be comprehensive in monitoring and observing behaviors that tell a story about the employee through the entire performance period.
All unusual events that affect performance should be documented and filed.
For example, if the organization experienced some significant event that impacted the employee’s ability to achieve a goal, document it.
It is also important to make note of positive performance and major accomplishments. The positive notes are important for the celebration of successes at the performance appraisal.
Be very specific in your documentation so you don’t forget the details of the observation.
Use a third party occasionally to review your observations to help keep you focused and objective.
Performance Appraisal Preparation
Determine what information should and should not be included in the final appraisal from the entire rating period. Look for information that shows patterns in behavior.
For example, does the employee have a chronic problem with being late to work, or does the employee go above and beyond job expectations consistently?
There should never be a surprise when feedback is shared during the PA process.
A no-surprise policy is to ensure that the employee is aware each time you make a note for the file.
Schedule Time To Prepare Appraisals
Make sure you block out ample time on your calendar to write the performance appraisal.
A good rule of thumb is to allow at least one hour per employee to review the file, organize content, and write the performance appraisals.
Take time to write and do an initial draft of the appraisal ahead of the deadline.
Sleep on it and look at the draft and test it to ensure it is fair, pertinent, and comprehensive.
Discuss the employee’s performance with the second-level supervisor.
This will help to ensure that you have no biases in your evaluation.
Schedule the performance appraisal at an appropriate time and a neutral location.
Try to use a conference room because a manager’s office can be intimidating to an employee.
When delivering the performance appraisal, be sure that you will be free of interruptions.
Be prepared with specific incidents of effective and ineffective performance, and be ready to answer questions if asked.
Performance Appraisal Discussion
When you begin the conversation, be sure to state the purpose of the appraisal and the process you will be using for the discussion.
Review the appraisal with the employee while probing for additional information, misunderstanding, or views that differ from yours. Summarize the performance discussion and ask the employee to sign the form.
- Managers must be willing to commit significant amounts of time to performance management to be successful.
- A lack of clear performance expectations and detailed performance feedback is a major source of stress for employees.
- Make sure the employee’s job description is reflective of their goals.
Lastly, try to remember that most employees want to do a good job and it is your responsibility as a manager to help them identify their boundaries and goals and to provide them with the necessary resources to accomplish them.