Remember in grammar school when you were put into reading groups called Robins, Bluebirds, or Cardinals? It didn’t fool anyone! All the students knew who were the better readers. The same is true with performance appraisals.
Performance appraisals are difficult, causing angst and issues between supervisor and subordinate no matter at what level and which function: CEO’s or a new employee in the mailroom. So what’s the problem, what’s going on in the marketplace, and what can be done to improve the process?
The problem? Many companies are getting rid of traditional performance reviews. Some jobs are difficult to measure, appraisals can be highly subjective, may be biased, and employees generally don’t feel they get enough feedback to help them perform at the highest level. Supervisors may not be trained to give meaningful performance reviews, plus appraisals are usually tied to pay. Annual appraisals are too long a time-line to be effective.
The marketplace? Major corporations around the country are changing their performance review away from a much-used point or numerical systems to something more objective. Younger employees are not comfortable with the way performance appraisals are done versus older employees who are used to the old methods. And when you’re searching for the brightest talent, companies should apply their best tools rather than their old tools.
What can be done? Here are some suggestions:
- With your supervisor, mutually define objectives tied to the annual operating goals of the company, division, department or work group. Make it compatible and relevant.
- Define the expectations for results between the supervisor and the employee before the start of the appraisal period
- Change the numeric system to a descriptive system using adjectives: Outstanding, Good and Needs Improvement; or High Performance, Standard, and Below Standard Performance.
- Identify the performance levels for each descriptive adjective before the start of the appraisal period. Describe what High Performance looks like; the same with Standard Performance and Below Standard Performance: Use metrics if possible, but objective statements if not.
- Supervisors should provide direct and immediate feedback at the performance benchmark times, but at least every 3 months. Document the feedback. Waiting a year before receiving feedback on performance is unacceptable In this day of instant communications,
- Supervisors must provide instructions to improve performance at the time of the performance rather than months after. The supervisor should receive specific feedback as to what the employee needs or requires for support. Document it all.
- All workers are looking for a coach more than a critic, but especially younger ones,
Less than half of employees see the old systems as helpful to improve their performance; others view appraisal meetings as contentious and not helping to elevate the relationship with their boss. Employees look for support and helpful alternatives, but often will only hear negative criticism of their work.
In summary, performance appraisal systems should improve performance, not hinder it.
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