Performance management and appraisals


34Performance management facilitates high levels of performance, and creates a culture encouraging continuous improvement. But it is not always a positive experience for staff, and carried out badly it is a demotivater .Learn how to make this a positive experience, opening up a dialogue that enables problems to be aired and dealt with sensitively, positive feedback to be given and development plans agreed and implemented. Learn how to manage team performance and consider how to motivate staff.

FordPerformance management is a process which organizations use to align their resources, systems and employees to strategic objectives and priorities. It contributes to the effective management of individuals and teams, enabling them to achieve high levels of organizational performance, and creates a culture that encourages the continuous improvement of business processes and peoples’ skills and performance.

It brings together many of the elements of people management, including learning and development. It is complex and needs to be understood by staff and management. Performance management is commonly achieved through annual performance appraisals.

Line managers need to appreciate their role in managing performance and how the performance appraisal contributes to performance management. New managers should be trained in how to carry out appraisals sensitively and constructively.

It is useful to run a regular seminar on the process, which all new staff attend during their first year. This ensures they understand the process and the reasons for, and benefits of, performance management and appraisals.

Performance management establishes a shared understanding of targets that are to be achieved, and the management and development needed to ensure that they are achieved. Used across an organization it relates to everything the organization does, and will filter through its human resource policies, culture, and communications.

Performance appraisal or review is one of the range of tools that can be used to manage performance. It is an opportunity for individual employees and their line managers to have a dialogue about the employee’s performance and development, and any support required from the manager.

During the process the parties examine and evaluate an employee’s performance against an agreed standard, document the results, and provide feedback to the employee to show where, how and why improvements can be made. This should be a free-flowing conversation during which views are exchanged.

Feedback should be handled sensitively, while providing information on performance and progress, and what is required to continue to perform well in the future. This is also an opportunity to discuss any change programme and evolution of job roles.

Positive reinforcement should emphasize what has been done well, and constructive criticism should be used to discuss what might be improved.

Performance appraisals review past actions and behaviour so they offer an opportunity to reflect on past performance. But to be successful they should also be used as a basis for making development and improvement plans and reaching agreement about what should be done in the future.

The employee’s aspirations will be discussed. An action plan should be developed with targets for next years performance, particularly with regard to improvements in identified areas. A learning and development plan will be produced if appropriate.

Outside the meeting the manager may, confidentially and for the benefit of HR, record the suitability of the employee for promotion or retention. Often the employee’s bonus or salary is based on the outcome of the appraisal.

Performance reviews, carried out well, can enhance relationships between staff and managers, and are an excellent tool for developing staff and providing an effective vehicle for target setting and review.

Used badly they are a dreaded annual event for many staff, because poor or lazy managers use them as an opportunity to highlight problems that have occurred during the year.

I have known a manager to keep a written list of the years “problems” and produce them as a basis for the appraisal. It would have been more effective to tackle each problem as it arose, discuss it with the staff member at the time and show them how each situation would have been better dealt with!!

There is no right or wrong way to conduct an appraisal, the format will depend on the people involved and the nature of the business. The meeting may take the form of a free dialogue between appraisers and appraisee, or follow a more formal structure. It is helpful to have a standard document (paper or online) to collect consistent information for each appraisal.

The best way to deal with an appraisal is for both parties to prepare in advance, by considering the following;-

The appraiser should consider:

  • How well or badly the person has performed since the last meeting.
  • Any problems which have arisen, and potential solutions if they have not been dealt with.
  • Progress against agreed development plans from the last appraisal.
  • Feedback to be given at the meeting, with supporting evidence.
  • Factors that have affected performance, within and outside the appraisee’s control.
  • Points for discussion on the actions that could be taken by both to develop or improve performance.
  • Potential directions the appraisee’s career might take.
  • Possible objectives for the next review period.

Appraisees need to consider:

  • What they have achieved since the last review, with examples and evidence.
  • Objectives not achieved, with explanations.
  • What they most enjoy about the job and how they might want to develop the role.
  • Problems or barriers to performance encountered, and proposed solutions.
  • Aspect of the work in which improvement is required and how this might be achieved.
  • Learning and development needs identified.
  • Support and guidance needed.
  • Aspirations for the future, in the current role and in possible future roles.
  • Objectives for the next review period.

This preparation encourages a discussion of performance, and a development plan should arise from the discussion. An action plan should be developed, and targets agreed for the next period