Feb 5

The dreaded appraisal!!

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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