Managers: Look at Annual Performance Reviews Differently

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Performance Management

Managers: Look at Annual Performance Reviews Differently

It's almost mid-December, which means the pressure is on for many of us to get our annual performance appraisals completed before the New Year. Amidst the end-of-year rush to finalize projects, and the distractions (dreams?) of much anticipated winter vacations, it's easy for appraisals to slip off the agenda.

However, the one thing successful annual performance appraisals have in common is that they are carefully planned for - by both the employee AND the manager. So instead of avoiding the annual performance appraisal discussion with your employees, embrace them.

Here are some overlooked practices you should consider to improve the quality of your appraisal discussions and ensure employees have a complete picture of how their performance is being evaluated.

1. Conduct Self-Assessments To Get Your Employees' Perspective

A fairly simple practice to implement at an individual or organizational level is the employee self-assessment. You can either use the same form you do for your regular performance appraisal, or create a slightly modified version. The purpose of the self-assessment is to get your employees' perspective on their own performance. This is a powerful way to give them a voice in the process and help them feel more engaged. Managers unfamiliar with the practice often worry that employees will give themselves glowing reviews and ratings, making the performance appraisal discussion a difficult one; however, the opposite tends to be true. When we evaluate ourselves, we tend to be much harsher than others.

Bottom Line: Gaining insight on your employees' perception of their performance in advance of the annual review ensures you can have a more effective discussion about performance, priorities and challenges. It allows you to be ready to address differences in opinion or perspective, while engaging employees in the process and giving them a voice.

2. Seek the Opinion and Experience of Others with 360 Degree Reviews

One way to make your employees' performance appraisal broader and more objective is to solicit feedback from others. Multirater feedback can help you avoid bias, get a different perspective on you employees' performance and better identify areas that need coaching or development. It can be especially vital if a conflict or tension exists between you and an employee, when different personality types make the feedback process difficult, or when you don't always work directly with your employees (shift work, project work, etc.).

Bottom Line: Substantiating feedback by gathering it from multiple, credible sources can make it more objective and increase its impact. Consider collecting feedback from other managers, peers, subordinates, even customers - anyone who works with the employee on a regular basis.

3. Give Goals a Larger Context by Aligning Them with the Organization's Goals

While it's important to assign goals to employees goals as part of the performance management process, it's even more powerful to give these goals a larger context. Linking individual goals to organizational goals helps your employees understand why their work is important and how it contributes to the organization's overall success.

Bottom Line: Research on employee engagement has shown that this context setting is vital to high employee performance. It helps employees feel that their work matters, and keeps them focused on the right activities.

4. Help Your Employees Improve and Succeed with Development Plans

Companies often do development planning separately from their performance management process, if they do it at all. But development planning is much more powerful when it's an integral part of the performance management process. The performance appraisal meeting is typically the prime time when managers and employees discuss performance deficiencies.

Bottom Line: Identifying training activities to address these deficiencies during the appraisal meeting, and documenting it in the performance appraisal form, helps to communicate both the manager's and the organization's commitment to the employee, and their expectations for improvement. It also gives the employee a clear context for their learning.

The performance appraisal meeting is also a wonderful opportunity to discuss the employee's career aspirations, both short and long term, and explore opportunities to prepare the employee for advancement within the organization. Feeling that they have a career path or future with an organization is another key contributor to employee engagement.

Taking Performance Management to the Next Level

If you look at the annual appraisal meeting as an opportunity to share in the successes of your employees and to address performance challenges, the impact to your team and the organization as a whole is compelling.

Performance management is more than a process for documenting and delivering feedback and coaching. When expanded beyond the basics, it becomes a powerful tool for helping your employees develop further and achieve their full potential. In so doing, they increase their value to you and the organization and help drive the organization's success.

Have you started your annual reviews yet? Do you implement any of the above as part of your performance review discussions?

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