Performance Appraisals

Getting Real Results From Performance Reviews

Appraisals play an important point in performance management.

© iStockphoto/MarioRagmaJnr

When you think of performance appraisals, what comes to mind?

Perhaps it's a dreaded meeting where you have to tell your people what you really think of them. Maybe you see it as a thankless task that the HR department requires, before they'll sign-off on yearly raises. Or could it be an exercise in cutting and pasting comments from a bunch of old reviews to make some "new" ones?

For too many people, it's all of the above and worse! As a result, this potentially powerful tool for managing and improving people's performance is underused and under-appreciated.

How people perform is critical to an organization's success, yet we often fail to monitor their progress on a regular basis. Imagine what would happen if you only occasionally looked at your bank balance, and just assumed that funds would be there when you needed them; or if you trusted that your machines would keep working, without any routine maintenance.

For most organizations, people genuinely are "their most important assets." As such, you need to look after your people if you want to get the best from them. One essential way that you can do this is with a well-run appraisal process. Not only does this give you a regular opportunity to feed back on how people can perform better individually, but it keeps you in touch with them, so that you can formally recognize their successes, eliminate problems that are holding them back, and help them achieve their own career goals.

Conducting regular performance appraisals helps you:

  • Detect and eliminate barriers to effective performance.
  • Pick up dissatisfactions that would otherwise lead people to leave.
  • Focus people's efforts in the right direction.
  • Motivate people to work towards important goals.
  • Help them develop skills and competencies necessary to achieve future objectives.
  • Celebrate their successes.

Purpose of Performance Appraisals

Traditionally, performance appraisals have tended to be infrequent, top-down, subjective judgments of an employee's performance. These types of appraisals usually involve a manager conducting an annual critique of past performance, often with little active input from the employee.

Since people's perceptions of their own performance often differ from those of their managers, this kind of assessment often results in conflict, misunderstanding, and hostility. Both sides can become defensive, and the whole process is viewed negatively. As a result, performance appraisals have a poor reputation, and often fail to deliver the positive results they should.

And yet, used properly, performance appraisals can help to build an open, positive, collaborative relationship between individuals and their managers.

They provide a useful forum for giving feedback about what has gone well, or not so well. They're also "punctuation points," where you can look back together at progress towards existing goals, discuss and solve any related problems, and celebrate particular achievements.

Of course, you, as a manager, need make sure you follow up where you can by providing promised resources and by removing obstacles in people's way. However, if you do all of this, you should find that your people perform better, are more motivated, and are less likely to leave because you will have found out about anything that's making them unhappy.

Conducting Effective Performance Appraisals

If the appraisal is to be successful, the person being assessed needs to...

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