6 steps to delivering better performance appraisals

If your reviews fall into the 'needs improvement' column, go back to basics. It's about helping employees perform better, says CEB's Brian Kropp.

by Brian Kropp
Last Updated: 18 Oct 2016

It’s a rare soul who looks forward to performance appraisals, whether giving or receiving the feedback. Increasingly, though, organisations are also dissatisfied with their performance management processes, from formal goal-setting to year-end reviews.

Some companies are now hotly disputing the value of performance ratings – the ‘grades’ workers get, which can be either numerical scores or school-report-style descriptive terms like ‘excellent’ or ‘meets expectations’. As many as 20% of businesses are eliminating or planning to eliminate ratings, according to CEB research.

The decision to remove ratings altogether is grounded in the expectation that it will enhance employee performance and engagement. However, the same research proves that the opposite actually occurs, causing engagement and performance to drop by 10%.

The reality is that performance reviews are a necessary tool, but the processes are faulty and costing companies as much as £2.7m in lost productivity each year per 1,000 employees.

They currently do very little to improve employee performance and drive company growth.

Despite vast investment, 95% of employees are left feeling disheartened and dissatisfied following their reviews. More importantly, they don’t foster the behaviours that actually improve performance.

Line-managers shouldn’t wait for their organisations to evaluate and re-engineer their performance management systems. By improving the quality of performance conversation with their team members, managers can boost individual employee performance by up to 20%.

Here are six key steps to delivering a better performance review:

1. A performance appraisal isn’t just for Christmas

Provide ongoing, not episodic, performance feedback. Increasing the frequency of informal performance conversations will allow you to provide more timely feedback to employees, reinforcing goals and expectations.

2. Look to the future

Performance conversations should be forward looking, rather than just a round-up of past records. Discussing future performance by framing past experiences – successes, progress and failures – will help your employees to learn and better prepare for future projects.

3. Ask around

It’s a good idea to seek out peer feedback. Collecting feedback from peers who are closer to and have a better understand of employees’ work will help you get a more holistic view of their contributions.

4. Widen your horizons

This is a good time to identify opportunities for collaboration. Connecting your team members to people and initiatives in the wider business will make it easier for them to do their jobs. It will also expose new opportunities to collaborate with and learn from others.

5. Find out their hopes and dreams

Exploring employees’ personal career aspirations and plans will give you greater insight into what motivates them. Discuss the strengths and the skills they need to develop to expand their capabilities within the organisation.

6. Remember it goes both ways

Feedback should be a two-way street. Engaging in these conversations will benefit you, just as much as it will your direct reports. By identifying and guiding your employees on development and growth, you will discover the same opportunities for yourself.

Brian Kropp is HR practice leader at best practice insight and technology company, CEB.

Image credit: Amboo Who?/Flickr

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