Performance appraisals are a hot topic. Should they be held annually as a formal meeting? Or should they be done regularly, as a casual chat between employee and manager?
Despite the various schools of thought, one fact remains constant: it is easy to spend a lot of time on staff appraisals to absolutely no effect.
And this is how it happens:
Step 1: Be too busy to really listen
We all know that a manager’s job is never done. Not only do you have to manage your own workload, but there are all of those employees that you have to line manage too.
In fact, sometimes it can seem like you hardly have any time to do your own work, with every member of staff asking your opinion, needing you to sign things off, etc, etc, etc.
And now Sarah is pushing to set a time for her annual appraisal. Does she really need a formal meeting when you are already so busy? Surely a casual chat at lunchtime would be enough to check she is happy and is getting the most from her role.
Anyway, you get around to it and you really want to focus, but there are so many other pressing things on your mind. Sarah makes a comment about being really interested in a training course to help her upskill. You nod encouragingly and say you’ll look into what budget is available. She seems happy to wrap up there so, as they say, ‘the jobs a good’un’.
Step 2: Listen but don’t make a note
As soon as you are back to your desk you don’t know where to start. You still have to work through the report on your desk, there’s that presentation to the board at 3pm and in the 20 minutes you spent doing Sarah’s appraisal another five emails have come in.
You know it would be good to make a note of what you discussed in the appraisal, especially as you have a performance management module in your HR software.
It’s good to have a record of what was agreed and you could do with adding a task to remind you about looking into the training budget. But the phone rings and then Michael comes in with a query and before you can remember not to forget you’ve forgotten what to remember.
Step 3: Make a note but don’t do anything about it
You make a quick note on a post-it to remember to check the training budget for Sarah. It’s in bold writing on a bright yellow note, so there is no way it can be missed on top of your in-tray. That is until your PA comes and puts an important document on top. Then several other people do the same; hiding that important note under an ever-increasing pile of paperwork.
But maybe you are not the post-it type. Perhaps you have a great task management module in your HR software. A couple of clicks and it’s then logged in to await further action.
The problem is you are just so busy and there are twenty other things that seem much higher priority. It’s not that you delete the task but you just keep moving the deadline for completion, letting weeks then months drift without taking time to address it. You’ve started to notice that Sarah seems less motivated these days anyway, so is it really worth investing in somebody that might be getting itchy feet?
Step 4: Set things in motion but don’t review them
You’ve done it. You’ve had the performance review and it was a triumph. Sarah is really passionate about the job and eager to do a brilliant training course that will not only improve her skillset but also the capabilities of the team as a whole.
You’ve made a record of what was discussed at her appraisal and asked Sarah to put in her training request with full details of the nature and cost of the course.
With the budget checked and funds released, Sarah goes on to do her training and comes out with a top qualification.
You know now is a good time to talk to her about how her role can be adapted to make use of those new skills, but work is a bit hectic at the moment and she’ll be fine carrying on with her existing job description for a while. Perhaps you can chat about it nine months from now at her next annual review?
Why it’s important to get appraisals right
Okay, the above might be a slightly extreme case of poor appraisal management, but for many managers the reality of dealing with a large workload will always put pressure on their ability to find time for staff appraisals.
Of course, some employees will feel they have no need of appraisals and with the significant time and cost involved in these reviews it might make sense to do away with them for those employees.
That said, for high-performing employees that are eager to develop their skills and progress in their role, failing to give them appraisals can have a devastating effect on their motivation.
Not only can this result in a once highly-productive employee just turning up to work to go through the motions, it could also leave you out of pocket to the tune of over £30,000 to replace them.
So if a member of your staff is pushing for their appraisal, it is not only well worth making the time to sit down and talk, but also to act on any concerns or requests that they may have.
Ultimately, that will not just benefit your employee, but also improve the efficiency and productivity of the business as a whole.
For further information on performance appraisal management click here.