Appraising Jane Doe – Part 3
This final installment about the appraisal process is meant to explore best practices that should be applied if the desire is to truly gain positive results. Feedback is important to the process and should be seen as an opportunity to provide the right mix of solutions to improve businesses. For many, it is understandably a difficult thing to do. Telling someone they are not meeting the required standards may leave you with jaded after the encounter. Still for others, the abruptness and cold way of sharing information, may leave the recipient with bruised feelings.
As mentioned in Part 2, the appraiser and appraisee should be prepared for the formal process. However, throughout the year, conversations between the two should be encouraged. A manager/supervisor who is engaged with the process sends the right signal to his employee. The benefits to be derived cannot be undervalued even for someone who is considered “the devil”. I have heard employees speak disparagingly about their managers. When questioned about their expectations I found that they needed a leader who “walked the talk”. In their view, they did not mind someone who was a stickler for perfection or a hard task master, however, a manager should provide feedback, provide the resources to complete the work, be honest, assist when deadlines were fast looming, and the big ticket item, provide opportunities for growth through learning and development programs. Employees recognize that the hierarchical structure may be dysfunctional, but they hold their immediate leaders to a higher level of scrutiny.
I would like to consider the formal process in three layers: the Setting Expectations layer, the Continuous Feedback layer and the Closer layer. I have looked at the setting of expectations in my earlier post on the topic but I neglected to look at a critical piece of the pie. In preparing for this meeting, it is important to invest the required time. You may ask the question, “what is the length of time I should undertake?” The response will be dependent on the individuals who make up your team, the scope of the individual’s responsibility, the objectives that must be pursued as well as the need to accommodate feedback from the employee. In my experience a good starting point was usually 45 minutes. As best you can ensure that the environment is distraction free.
Continuous Feedback Layer
Checking in on the progress of your team is an excellent manifestation of interest. Mark against overkill though as you do not want to be viewed as a micro-manager. Informal checks provide the opportunity for a quick chat. Your questions should be light as you observe the behaviors of your team. As a Human Resources Professional, I scheduled time for informal walks. These walks allowed me assess the team in their “natural habitat”. As I take my walk, I talk to the team. My focus may not necessarily be on the task at hand but as I engage the individual I build rapport. A word that is in stark decline when describing leaders is approachable. I make myself accessible and put a human face to the ugly social construct called management.
The checking in assessment is complemented by quarterly individual meetings. Of course these meetings are formal in structure and are used to examine the targets and how the individual is progressing. In this data mining activity, we both share a common interest. We need to succeed. Doing so is highly dependent on how much we are willing to share about the constraints to meeting the required departmental objectives. Being a manager is more than a title. Serious emphasis is placed on how well you are able to support employee morale even in the face of adversity and a drought in required resources. A wonderful by-product to these meetings is that the employee sits on ideas that may further enhance the sought after results. When you use your employees ideas, recognize their contributions.
The Closer (Annual Appraisal Review)
The review period is finally here. Notice has been sent from the Human Resources Department. In the last quarter of the review year, seasoned as well as new managers, have been exposed to how to perform appraisals. If you have been checking in on your team’s progress, periodically, you should not be feeling the pressures. The attention you have paid over the period will help you to remain objective.
In your planning process you have already informed your team through a general meeting that the review process will begin. They know the format as well as the period that will be reserved for the assessment. At least a week prior to the review, your team must be given the opportunity to review their progress. This means, as the manager, you will need to provide your team members with a copy of the appraisal form. They are equally entitled to record their information in preparation for the discussion.
On the day of the review, ensure that you devote your undivided attention to the process. Your other managerial partners should be alerted to the fact that you are conducting your reviews and the time that has been allotted to accomplish same. It is crucial that you begin your meeting as a conversation. Allow the discussion to flow. Firmly state how the employee’s actions stack up against the objectives that were set before. Identify examples of the challenges met and the resourcefulness of the employee. The employee will equally be given an opportunity to speak to the objectives, his thoughts on performance and what support the enterprise provided to meet the standards. Remember, the appraisal process is a conversation, not an attempt to attack the behavior of the manager or the team member.
As the manager, acknowledge the contributions made and where there are gaps in performance, prepare a learning and development plan to assist the team member in meeting future goals. The employee should also be critical of his/her performance and explore options outside of the company aimed at improving his/her own performance.
At the end of what I can only hope is a productive meeting, both should thank the other for the feedback. The manager will amend the information if convinced that the employee provided examples that would require a value being changed towards a positive. Once changes have been applied, the revised document must be sent to the employee. The employee if satisfied, will return the document with his/her signature attached. In this instance a copy will be provided to the team member.
One must recognize also that disputes on how things are measured will be encountered and employees who perceive the review is biased may not wish to accept the outcome. In instances like this, the matter should be progressed to the Human Resources Department for immediate attention.
Here is to success in your next performance review!
Copyright 2013 Suzette Henry Campbell