Appraisal

Is Your Appraisal Process Fit For Purpose?

Many new clients I talk to tell me they have an appraisal process but it doesn’t work. When I ask them why it isn’t working their responses are generally that:

  • Managers avoid it because it’s time consuming
  • Employees hate it and don’t see the point

At that point I usually ask them what the point of their appraisal process is. Many look blank and say something on the lines of ‘it’s been with us that long we don’t really know’.

And that’s the point with appraisal processes, if the purpose isn’t clear then the outcome will be muddy.

Possible Outcomes Of An Appraisal Process

  • To encourage open and honest dialogue between employees and management
  • To highlight gaps in skills and experience amongst your workforce
  • To encourage effective team working
  • To decide on pay increases and bonus levels
  • To identify your high performers and future managers
  • Something else???

Once you know what you want to achieve it will be easier to identify which approaches are likely to give you the required results and which you should avoid.

For instance, if your overall purpose is to encourage open and honest dialogue between your employees and their line managers but also wanted the process decide on annual pay increases or bonus payments then you will probably be hitting a brick wall. Employees will over sell their achievements and line managers find it hard to say no to an increase or bonus.

Does your appraisal process sit comfortably with what’s really important to your organisation? For example, does it focus on individual contributions when your ethos is all about working together?

Put aside your current appraisal approach for a moment and ask yourself what your organisation wants its appraisals to achieve.

If you are trying to achieve open and honest dialogue with your employees, then do you actively encourage managers to hold appraisal discussions in a way that is conducive to a relaxed and open conversation?

If your employees aren’t office workers, should you be holding an office-based discussion? If your employee is a driver, a chef in a restaurant or a farm worker, have you thought of stepping into their normal working environment instead? Ask where they’d feel most comfortable.

Ask Your Employees How They Feel About Your Appraisal Process?

Whatever your current approach to appraisals, do you know how your staff actually feel about it? It is better to know if your staff dread appraisal discussions or see them as a waste of time (then it’s clear something needs to change).

If you decide to redesign your approach, then why not involve your staff and get their input. If you have an employee forum, could you use that to brain storm some fresh ideas?

This brings us back to the purpose again. You can’t get meaningful input from your staff unless you’re clear on what you’re trying to achieve and you’ve communicated this to them.

Do You Need A Formal Appraisal Process?

Many large corporates are ditching their formal appraisal systems (along with rating systems and forced timelines) and opting for a more fluid and real-time feedback approach.

The traditional approach of yearly or six-monthly appraisal discussions may be completely irrelevant within your organisation and not reflect the rhythms or cycles of your business.

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, ask ‘what would really work?’

The answer may not be the same for every part of your organisation. Does it really matter if you don’t have a uniform approach across the whole workforce? It might be more effective to have different approaches across different business units or even across categories of job roles.

To try to open up a meaningful dialogue with the employee, a few key questions you could ask are:

  • Are you happy in your role with us?
  • How can we support you to grow?
  • Would you recommend our business as a place to work?

If you’re speaking to the employee in an open way and in an environment, they’re comfortable with, you should get some really meaningful input with these sorts of questions.

Keeping Records

Whichever approach you take to appraisals, do keep some sort of record of what is discussed. This doesn’t have to be a formal document, it can be an informal follow up email from the manager to the employee. You can then demonstrate what’s been discussed if there is ever a reason to refer back to it.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to appraisals. What works for one organisation may not work for yours. However, it is worth just taking a step back from your current approach and asking the above questions, starting with the key question of ‘What’s the overall purpose?’ Once that’s clear, you’re already halfway there.

Is Your Appraisal Process Fit For Purpose?

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If you found this helpful and you would like to learn more about how I work with owners of small business who want to improve their HR management, please go here.

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