Appraisal – an utter waste of time or an important conversation?

No one ever said, “I can’t wait for my appraisal!”

Well maybe us in our formative years, but as a general rule you tended to hear – from a manager – “best I tick that one off my list for another year” or, from an employee – “I’m quite interested in knowing how I’m doing, but the process is pretty torturous!”

Has the traditional annual appraisal had its swan song?

Yes, is the simple answer. There is now a general consensus that an annual appraisal has died its death. 

Generally, they took too long, tended to look back rather than forward, were often thought of as a paper pushing exercise and one to get off your list for another year, rather than being more agile and forward looking, better serving a more fluid way of working where regular feedback is sought and given.

What do employees expect in 2021?

Succinctly, we think what most employees want is regular conversation and candid feedback about their performance, that allows them to develop in their role. To allow this to happen, there are a few things we’d advocate in any business, whatever the size

  1. Let people know what is expected of them
    The simplest way is via a Job Description and Person Specification which simply describes the role and the successful behaviours of someone doing that job well.

    Using the JD might form the basis of your regular conversation when having a conversation about your expectations and what success in the role looks like.
  1. Communicate when and how often you will talk about performance and what is expected of both parties during the conversation
    Share a simple timetable so your team knows what will be included and when the conversations will take place. Biannually is popular and quarterly is even better if it’s operationally practicable. If it isn’t, don’t feel the need to be overly ambitious – stick to the rule of quality rather than quantity.

    Explain the parameters of the conversation and what will be expected of both parties, how long it will last and what the likely outcomes will be.
  1. Keep the paperwork light
    The paperwork should underpin, rather than be the purpose of the conversation – so keep it light.

    Concentrate on the aspects that are important – what is going well in the role, what isn’t, the relationships between the manager, the member of staff and the team, areas for development or whatever is important to you, your team and your business. 

    Only record the key points and any actions, it doesn’t need to be a verbatim account.
  1. Invest in those conducting the feedback
    Giving quality feedback is an art. When it’s done well it is incredibly valuable to the recipient, people feel engaged, empowered, ready to change and motivated to do so.

    When feedback is delivered poorly it’s destructive, unhelpful and demoralising.

    Assess the skills of those giving the feedback – if they need support, support their development as well.
  1. Appoint someone to have oversight and regularly review the process
    Appointing someone to have oversight is helpful to ensure the overall standard of feedback. Some people find conducting these conversations enjoyable, easy and can see the value, others find it harder. Having some level of oversight ensures parity and allows you to offer support where it is needed.

    Challenge yourself to regularly assess what the process is delivering. Ask yourself – what is the value to the employee and to the business?

    If the conversations aren’t delivering what is required, flex your approach until it does.  The traditional annual Appraisal may be dead, but a new, lighter version has arrived and its placed firmly at the heart of any business interested in successful performance and individual development. The fact that you are reading this article shows you are too.

Helping Companies allow people to be people, while still letting businesses get on with business. Simple.