Making Appraisal Discussion Productive….

Performance Appraisal “Feed-Forward”

The Context

As the performance appraisal season arrives, most managers take it as a drill – Drag your direct reports into a conference room for a one to one, hand them an official looking document, and then start in with the same, tired conversation, Say some positive things about the employee and then some unpleasant things, and end with – wearing your most solicitous smile – some more ego strokes. The result: a mixed message that leaves even your best employees feeling disappointed or confused.

Performance Appraisal is one of the most important activity with significant impact on organizational success as well as individual’s career. Its basic purpose is to create performance driven culture resulting into increased employees’ performance and efficiency. But sometimes it turns out to be merely an annual ritual. While the Performance Appraisal is intended to increase employees’ motivation, more often than not, it turns out to be a grief generator. 

Following some basic guidelines can help make this process achieve its desired objectives.

Tips for Appraisers

Show Commitment – While we eagerly look for this activity, we fail to show the desired commitment towards it. The following simple steps can enhance its effectiveness manifolds.

Allot sufficient time for the discussion.

Mutually decide the time for the discussion.

Dedicate that time only for the performance discussion.

Kill any distraction – no side discussion, no meeting etc.

Eliminate electronic interference – no mail, no call during the discussion.

Preparation is The Key – Prepare well for the discussion. Look at the Goal Sheet and compile all relevant data. Make notes of activities or behaviors relating to the goals. Ensure both the appraiser and employee use the same data source.

Take Responsibility – As a manager, it is YOUR responsibility to make this process succeed. The following basic tips, often ignored, can create an excellent environment for a productive appraisal.

Arrange chairs to interview side by side rather than across a desk, making the situation one of sharing ideas rather than confrontational.

Welcome the employee and show genuine interest in the discussion process.

Block your diary for around one hour for the discussion and don’t appear to be hurried.

Show respect by keeping your mobile in silent mode – nothing else is more important than this discussion.

Start the discussion on positive note and make the employee comfortable.

Encourage the employee for open and frank discussion.

Use open handed body language and good eye contact.

Be Objective – It is the heart of the activity. Look at the following guidelines.

Establish the purpose of the discussion. Advise the employee what you would like to accomplish during the meeting.

Don’t talk in generalities. Be specific about the situations.

Keep to the facts. What is the evidence that will be the background to your discussion? Focus on the actual results that have been achieved not on emotional issues.

Discuss the job behavior and outcome. Avoid personality.

Review the performance for the entire period under review.

Don’t get carried by recent events – favorable or adverse.

Avoid comparing with other’s performance.

Avoid using subjective, vague, or overly broad descriptions, such as “poor attitude” or “no initiative.” Give specific, objective comments and/or examples like –

Instead of this subjective comment. Use this objective comment.
Lacks customer orientation Does not greet customers quickly.
Not quality conscious Has an error of 15%.
Lacks commitment Did not meet the project timeline.
Lacks fire in belly Did not take initiative to meet the shortfall
Your personality is too abrasive toward your co-workers and to me. Please speak more respectfully to your coworkers and supervisors
It’s too bad you’ll never succeed because of your attitude You have the ability to perform well on the job and to be successful. In order for this to occur, you need to change the behaviors that are standing in the way of your success on the job.

Unshackle yourself – Since the appraisal discussion is followed by Bell Curve – The real

Grief Generator – which leads to decision on incentive, increment and career progression, it is very important to look at the following disastrous tendencies.

Sometimes, managers mentally set the bell curve even before the discussion and the entire discussion is steered towards validating the bell curve. Refrain from doing so, it kills the essence of the process.

Don’t link promotion discussion with the appraisal. Promotion depends upon many factors – past performance is just one of these.

Don ‘t operate with guilt about employee’s previous rating and promotion. Focus on the current performance discussion.

It is Feed-Forward, dear – While you are reviewing the past performance, instead of only providing feedback, use the following feed-forward tools.

Provide recognition for desirable behavior, especially since the last review. Let employee know how much you value and appreciate their work.

Be aware that you are in an ongoing relationship with your employee and you need to conduct and finish the appraisal in such a way that this relationship is developed, not irrevocably damaged.

Ask for the employee’s views on problems, suggestions for changes, improvements, etc. Do not interrupt the employee’s commentary. If the employee is upset, let him/her blow off steam. Be a good listener.

Thank the employee for his/her input. If the meeting has included discussion of major concerns about the quality of the employee’s performance, express confidence that the two of you can successfully work through the difficulties together.

Outline and discuss action plans for improvement with the employee. Let the employee know what behavior you expect, whether you desire to reinforce positive behavior or make a change. Encourage the employee to make as many suggestions for self improvement as possible. Include training or development plans when appropriate. Set a realistic timeline for improvement.

Provide input on how their performance can be improved, what new skills they will need for the future, what they will need to do to adapt to a new situation that is on the horizon.

The appraisal should result in action points and ideas for developing the skills and performance of your staff.