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Performance Setting and Appraisals

This blog sets out the views of Tony McKone, Director McKone Consultancy and should not be taken as advice.

As we come up to the end of June, businesses may be about to enter their performance appraisal process. Depending on whether your business operates on a January to December year or a July to June year, this will mean either a mid-year or end of year appraisal.

In my experience, the performance appraisal can be a nightmare for all concerned. How successful the approach will be depends on how clearly performance objectives have been set in the first place, and whether or not your system is seen as some formulaic process of ticking boxes or has real meaning to both parties (employer and employee).

The trick to a good performance appraisal is in the feedback. If you wait until the six-month or year-end review and this is the first time you are having discussions about performance with your employees, then the experience is more than likely not going to be an enjoyable one.

There are pros and cons about performance setting and appraisals. The cynics say the process is about the employer managing who does and who does not get a pay increase. This certainly can be seen to be the case if there is a direct link between the outcome of the appraisal discussion and any pay increase and there is no apparent other input to determine pay increases.

The best, but also more challenging process, is to totally separate appraisals from pay. However, this can be difficult for employers to do, as the success of their business directly relates to profit and ability to pay more. This blog does not address this question. Rather, this blog will now focus on suggestions for setting up your performance setting and appraisal process to be a success.

The first step is to define what success in each role in your business looks like. Be specific about what you expect employees to do. This could be as basic as - Always be at work ready to greet the first customer by 8am. This is more specific and has less doubt that stating, always arrive at work on time. Volunteer for project work, is better than take the initiative at work. If you want people to be innovative, or creative, state exactly what that means for you. Don't leave them guessing and then having a sense of failure or frustration because they could not deliver on that expectation.

You will have all heard of SMART when it comes to setting objectives. Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound. If you cannot define what you want your employees to do using this model, how can you realistically expect them to deliver the good for you.

Once you have your objectives/goals sorted out - in consultation with the employee, the next important step is to ensure that there is regular, genuine, positive and constructive feedback. Performance appraisals become a chore and a de-motivator if the first time you give feedback is at the formal appraisal. If the employee has not achieved, it is too late for the year to turn their performance around.

Regular formal and informal feedback and discussion on how your employee is progressing against their objectives is the key. These discussion should NOT be punitive discussions. They should be supportive, and have an element of coaching and guidance to help ensure the employee succeeds. Why? Because if they don't succeed, your company won't succeed. In my view, it is almost as simple as that.

Help your employee identify barriers to success, and then work on helping them identify solutions to get around those barriers. Get your employees to talk about what they are going to do to succeed with their goals. You do not have to have all the solutions. In fact, if you have regular discussions, your employees will be able to tell you what the solutions are. Your role can then be to moderate, guide and suggest how they implement those solutions.

If you and your employees are having regular discussions along the lines set out above, when it comes to your formal performance appraisal meetings, both you and your employee will know what the outcome will be. There will be no surprises for anyone.

Of course, if an employee is consistently not doing anything to achieve their performance objectives, this will stand out in your regular conversations. Where this occurs, you will be in a better position to move into a formal performance management process and the implementation of performance improvement plans. But that's a topic for another blog.

If you need assistance in reviewing or updating your performance setting and appraisal process, get in touch with us today.

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