Most managers recognise the importance of employee feedback, but getting this right can be a difficult nut to crack. The following tips may help a company to get the best out of appraisals.
- Appraisals should be structured. Agree a set of objectives with each employee at the outset and review them not only annually but at the end of three or six months.
- Timeliness of reviews is vital. The manager must meet the employee to review performance at the time set for the review and agree follow-up and objectives for the next period.
- Ask employees to rate their own performance against their objectives prior to the appraisal. Employees are often more critical of themselves than their managers would be, making it easier to discuss aspects of underperformance in a constructive way.
- Progress must be recognised, even if the employee still has a long way to go. If an employee was asked to improve an area of performance at the last review, any improvement should be acknowledged.
- Managers must achieve a balance between positive and negative feedback. Positive feedback can often be communicated in a few words, while criticism, however minor, often takes longer to explain. Accentuate the positive to avoid distorting the desired overall message. Criticism should have a positive outcome, giving employees ways to improve, perhaps through individual coaching or specific training.
- Encourage employees to talk about their own motivation and issues affecting this. In return, you must be willing to respond constructively to their concerns. Employees frustrated by the repetitive nature of their work, for example, may benefit from training to help them assume a wider range of tasks.
- Finally, outside the appraisal, employee recognition is a powerful driver of staff motivation. A simple 'thank you' for a job well done pays dividends but should be timely - a couple of months down the line may be worse than not at all. If the recognition is written, hand-write the note. Don't send standard letters. For more formal awards, such as 'employee of the month', steer clear of award quotas and only give recognition where it is warranted, or the process becomes devalued. Gifts should be something that a recipient values.
Brian Hamill is joint managing director at management consultancy MSB, 01344 876300.