February 5

The dreaded appraisal!!

In many organisations, appraisals are widely reported to be dreaded by all parties. Managers see them as an embarrassing formality which take up too much precious time. Staff often say they find appraisals daunting, often threatening and, sometimes, even demotivating. Done badly, the appraisal process can indeed frustrate and damage staff relations, especially if seen as a one-off ‘end of term report’ – or even worse, a ‘character assassination’!

As a result, many high-profile organisations are publicly ditching their appraisal systems for a serious of regular ‘catch-ups’ and it can seem overwhelmingly tempting to follow suit, but it is worth looking at the issue more deeply before you do…..

• The clear operational focus of frequent, short-term reviews tends to be dominated by managers setting short-term KPIs, leaving competencies and values overlooked;

• The short-term focus can also ignore employees’ career development, which naturally needs a longer-term focus;

• Changing the frequency of appraisal does not magically make managers more skilled at, or more enthusiastic about, developing staff performance. Nor does it mean that they are
going to be any better at tackling that difficult conversation! Training is all important.

Instead of abandoning the traditional annual appraisal, a better way forward may be as follows:

1. The employee completes a self-appraisal form and the comments of those who work closely with them are fed into that appraisal form

2. The manager adds their comments to the appraisal form

3. The manager (who has been trained to hold appraisals), holds an appraisal meeting and feeds back all the comments – care and sensitivity are required because the system is
transparent with full disclosure which should make those tough conversations easier to conduct

4. The objectives and development goals that are identified in the appraisal meeting can then be reviewed on a regular basis – the appraisal report is not filed away for another 12
months but, rather, is used to monitor progress through the year.

The way ahead may therefore be an annual appraisal followed by regular catch ups through the year. Your employees are also more likely to benefit from an ongoing approach that creates a structure for your staff and better monitors employee progress.

Common pitfalls to be avoided:

• Appraisals conducted by a boss and subordinate alone often lack objectivity. Consider a more senior employee conducting the appraisal, or even an external third party;
• To be effective, all the senior management must be fully committed to the process, should provide training for those who conduct appraisals, and should also make the process
and procedures transparent and consistent throughout their organisation.;
• Appraisal linked to discussions on pay or bonus only diminish the possibility of an honest and objective interchange and may well increase the chances of employee demotivation
and loss of mutual good-will;
• Appraisals conducted in the absence of any clear and agreed statements of what is expected of the individual being appraised (usually the job description) mean that it is
highly unlikely that a review of performance can be either fair or objective.

• Many appraisals are conducted badly: for example:

– without impartiality;
– without proper preparation or due reference to appropriate records;
– without reserving adequate time for the process;
– without careful listening skills and two-way participation;
– without due confidentiality;
– without appropriate follow-up action which is properly recorded and monitored.

• Some methods of appraisal are far too time-consuming, requiring more effort than the parties involved feel is worth-while and/or they are much too bureaucratic, based on a ‘tick-
box mentality’ that allows for no proper discussion;

• Some appraisals concentrate on past performance at the expense of looking forward. The outcome of an appraisal should never come as a complete surprise. It is the saving up of
‘bad news’ until appraisal-time that probably gives appraisals such a bad name.

A reason to appraise….

Despite all the innate mistrust of the appraisal system (by those in particular who have seen the process fail before or conducted badly), the benefits of a well-conducted appraisal process are substantial.

These include opportunities to:

• review performance and development needs formally and objectively;
• seek collaborative solutions to possible problems, before they become a running sore;
• praise and acknowledge good performance;
• improve relationships and internal communications;
• improve the effectiveness of the organisation and its employees.

If your appraisal form needs a refresh or your appraisal process is a little ad hoc or your senior management team could benefit from an external appraiser do get in touch with me at nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk

February 1

Gender pay…workplace harassment and bullying…mental health… are you up to speed?

The spotlight focused on these issues, by both the traditional and social media, has never burned so bright. That they are now openly discussed is a good thing.

So there has never been a better time to scrutinise existing policies on these areas and make sure they are as good as they can be; make any amendments that are needed and ensure that company policies on each are effectively communicated. It’s a time to be proactive and transparent. This not only reassures existing employees but acts as a signal to everyone – including future talent – that your business cares: that these are issues that matter and that you are prepared to act on them.

So what steps should you be taking to make certain your policies on these critical areas are as up to speed as they can be?

1. Scrutinise your company approach to pay and remuneration

Gender pay gap reporting legislation, as anticipated, has moved pay and gender issues to the top of the agenda. Though not the same as equal pay, the reporting has nevertheless highlighted that significant gender-based pay differences exist in far too many businesses.

So you need to scrutinise your company’s approach to remuneration. Check for any unjustifiable differences between male and female employees. If there are differences the onus is on you to prove that these differences are not gender related.

2. Be open with your staff on reward packages and pay rises

The trend among employers is already towards greater openness on reward packages and pay rises. Clearly this is driven to some extent by the gender pay gap reporting, but other legislation has contributed too, such as the Equality Act of 2010 that makes it illegal to prevent or restrict employees discussing pay.

Any employee can make a claim for equal pay at a tribunal – and retain that right for up to six months after they leave your employ. A tribunal can order contractual terms to be equalised in future, and order arrears to be paid for up to six years.

So you need to check for discrepancies in job types and pay structures, set up evaluation schemes to assess what constitutes equal work, check you are not discriminating against part-time workers, and build awareness in the business of barriers to women’s progress.

3. Harassment and bullying – take a stand

From unwanted physical contact and unwelcome remarks to shouting and persistent unwarranted criticism – harassment and bullying can take many forms.

You need to make clear what constitutes harassment and bullying and communicate your policies, including your grievance and disciplinary procedures. Be aware of cyber bullying too. Even if content is posted externally on someone else’s website, you could find yourself liable if it originates in your workplace.

Make sure people know how to get help and how to complain formally and informally. Treat all allegations quickly and confidentially and show that victimisation will not be tolerated. Keep records – names, dates, nature and frequency, action taken and follow up. Treat these with the utmost confidence.

Offer counselling by trained internal or external consultants. This should also be extended to those whose behaviour is unacceptable. They may, for whatever reason, not recognise what the problem is and should be given an opportunity to change.

4. Encourage good mental health

According to NHS figures at any given time one sixth of the adult population will have some form of mental health issue. Despite this prevalence mental health can still be seen as more difficult to deal with than physical health issues. Firstly you need to ensure your company fosters a supportive culture. Remember that legally a mental illness is classified as a disability, so you must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the individual’s needs.

There are a range of actions you can take to improve employee mental health, ranging from training to improve people management skills, to offering third-party assistance or counselling. You need to give your line managers the confidence to spot the warning signs and know how to react.

Ask yourself if it’s a workload issue. You need to get the balance right for all employees. Also would an interviewee coming to your business feel comfortable disclosing a mental health issue? Do your interviewers make your company policy on this area clear? It’s a good test of how confident you are (and how clear your policies are in this area).

Conclusion….

There is a legal agenda behind all these workplace ‘issues’, but above all they are about the overall good of your present and future workforce. If you want to attract and retain the very best talent having clear and well-communicated policies on gender pay, bullying and harassment and employee mental health will not only ensure you do not fall foul of the law – a law your employees have the power to enact through a tribunal – but also make for a better, happier, more empowered, and more productive workforce

If you need advice on any of these issues, please email me at nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk