It’s common knowledge that the two most popular times for completing annual performance appraisals are October through December, and January through March.
If you’re one of those HR pros who’s preparing to launch your performance appraisal process in the next few weeks, you might think that all you need to do is dust off your old performance appraisal forms, set some new dates and go.
You’re busy with lots of other important stuff right! And many of us assume that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
There are actually a number of things you should do ahead of time to make sure your annual performance appraisal process is a success, and that it delivers value to everyone in the organization: employees, managers, HR and leaders.
These steps won’t take you a lot of time.
And they’ll make a big difference.
Here’s a list of some “to do” items to you get ready for your next performance appraisal process:
Prepare your process and forms
- Review best practices in performance management The thinking on this is evolving all the time. Take some time to read what leading HR experts and analysts are saying. You’ll likely find some innovative new thinking, helpful suggestions and even confirmation that you’re doing the right things.
- Review the results from your last performance appraisal process. It has likely been a long time since you thought about it. And there are undoubtedly “lessons learned” that you can apply now to make this year’s process better. You may identify things like: bottlenecks in the process, steps with low completion rates, ratings calibration issues, etc.
- Address any challenges identified with last year's process. Are there best practices you should adopt, unnecessary steps you could eliminate, additional steps - like self-appraisals or multisource feedback - you should add? Do you need to adjust the time allowed for each step to maximize participation and efficiency? What things could you improve upon, and what things do you want to continue doing?
- Review the forms from your last performance appraisal process. Can you make them easier to fill out? Are they complete? Are there any sections you would add, remove or change? Can you eliminate some forms? Or do you need to create more forms to address the specific needs of divisions, departments or roles?
Based on this review, take any and all appropriate actions to improve your process and forms. Even small changes can have a big impact on results.
Prepare your employees, managers and leaders
This is one step we often forget about. After all, you trained everyone last year! And things haven’t changed that much, right?
But you’ve undoubtedly hired new employees, and likely promoted a few. And people forget from year to year how to do tasks they complete infrequently. So…
- Create a training plan for this year's annual appraisal process as well as for the skills required to complete tasks (e.g., writing SMART goals, giving effective feedback, supporting employee development, coaching, rating performance using your rating scale, how to prepare for performance appraisals.)
- Develop or update training materials as required.
- Create a communication plan for this year's annual appraisal process that leverages all your internal communications vehicles. Your goal is to communicate with managers and employees about the process, their roles and any training, resources or supports available.
- Execute your communications plan!
- Deliver training to all executives, managers and employees as needed.
- Make your forms accessible to managers and employees (unless of course you have an automated system in place to do that for you).
- Launch your process!
I’ve added links throughout this post to a whole variety of resources we have available on our website to help you design and conduct a really great performance appraisal process. Feel free to pass some of the links on to your executives, managers and employees, or include them as part of your training programs. They too might find them helpful.
One of the key messages you need to get across is that performance management really isn’t a once-a-year activity. Managers and employees need to be working collaboratively all year long to discuss performance expectations and development needs. Your annual appraisals should really be designed and viewed as just a way to summarize the conversation that’s been going on all year.
Your turn: Have I missed anything? What critical actions or steps would you add to this “to do” list?