Professionals Discuss: How to Improve Performance Appraisals
Performance appraisals are part of every company’s operations (at least, we hope they are). Since the dawn of time, people have been reviewing each other, evaluating various actions, criticizing, offering advice, etc. In the workplace we call these actions “performance reviews,” or “performance appraisals.”
A good manager will have innovative ways to conduct performance reviews, but there’s no black and white answer to “What is the right way to conduct a performance review?” So, how can you master the delicate push and pull of appraisals?
Recently, a few experts took to Quora to share their thoughts on how to run a great performance review process. Here, I’m sharing some of my favorite answers. (Note that the answers have been minimally edited for style and clarity.)
Q: How Do I Improve the Process of Performance Appraisals at My Company?
“Performance appraisal is a process that people typically dread. You can make it a very smooth process and have it either in an annual or half yearly mode.
“Initially, ensure that you set SMART goals for all employees, which should be time-bound and achievable. Ensure that managers review the same [goals] in between [performance reviews] to check whether things are on track or not. Have formal appraisal cycles, and educate staff and managers in terms of how to have good review sessions, how to give proper ratings, and how to ensure minimum biases within the [performance management system] PMS. This is a long process, but once done, it is really worth the effort.”
My commentary: Monica makes a great case here. It’s pretty tough to tell the OP what to change about his or her process when that process isn’t outlined. However, outlining clear goals and parameters for how quickly those need to be achieved is a great first step. Monica also hits the nail on the head when she says setting up a performance appraisal process is worth the time and effort.
“Focus on action steps and debriefs. Most appraisals lack impact because they don’t set people up for success. Business gets it wrong by not approaching the process as a central opportunity to help everyone succeed. I’m not sure why everyone shouldn’t want everyone to succeed first and then worry about the level of success later.
“Establish some consistency in how performance is shared individually and across teams. I believe too many [performance assessment] PA systems are driven by confidentiality and therefore success can only be silo’d to individuals. Figure out how to increase the open discussion so that performance is a team culture presence at all times and open to everyone’s knowledge and participation.
“Have the performance appraisal process reviewed by an external party. Consultants notice things that insiders can’t and don’t.”
My commentary: While we’re not sold on Darryl’s consultant comment, we agree that it is useful to have an extra pair of eyes on the performance appraisal. Twenty percent of employees say they have had an unfair appraisal before, and if you’re not documenting and tracking your processes, you could face compliance or unfair termination issues down the line.
“We should try to use performance management and feedback as a value driver, and we shouldn’t see it as a threat. This is why it is necessary to work on performance management, as it can increase business performance up to 39 percent. To begin, one needs to have a good performance management system to guide and help employees [and] supervisors throughout the appraisal.”
My commentary: Nora’s comment is very astute. Seeing your appraisal system as a value-driver is really important for creating buy-in among your entire organization. If executives see appraisals as a path to better productivity and more revenue, they’re more likely to underwrite an efficient and valuable process. If your employees understand performance appraisals bring real opportunities to grow, actionable feedback, and perhaps even incremental raises, they, too, will enjoy the process more, even when it isn’t easy.
In a recent article, I touched on this very topic myself:
“All too often, performance evaluations are focused on the wrong aspect of the review. Yes, for performance appraisals to be successful and effective, there needs to be a similar process each time for the sake of measurement. This should not, however, be the crux of the conversation itself – progress is the fundamental focus of every effective and worthwhile performance review. More than a raise, employees want to know where their current career path will take them.”
We believe that employees want all the things listed above, but above all, they want to be let in on the plan! They want to know that what they are doing for the organization matters!