National Post (Latest Edition)

Re­think­ing the an­nual per­for­mance ap­praisal

For­mal­ize feed­back on a con­sis­tent ba­sis

- AL­LI­SON GRA­HAM Al­li­son Gra­ham is a busi­ness net­work­ing ex­pert, key­note speaker and the au­thor of Busi­ness Cards to Busi­ness Re­la­tion­ships: How to Build the Ul­ti­mate Net­work. Based out of Lon­don, Ont., she can be con­tacted through el­e­vate­biz.ca

Is it pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate the dreaded per­for­mance ap­praisal? One man­age­ment con­sul­tant, Chuck Bolton, au­thor of Lead­er­ship Wipe­out: The Story of an Ex­ec­u­tive’s Crash and Res­cue, thinks it’s pos­si­ble. And he is not alone.

Many in­dus­try ex­perts claim elim­i­nat­ing the per­for­mance ap­praisal can in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity, har­mo­nize work­place com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and al­le­vi­ate stress and fo­cus out­puts to achieve the com­pany’s strate­gic di­rec­tion more quickly.

Mr. Bolton’s re­search shows 87% of em­ploy­ees think th­ese tra­di­tional per­for­mance re­views are in­ef­fec­tive, and a whop­ping 94% of CEOs in Mr. Bolton’s study feel the same way.

“De­spite this dis­sat­is­fac­tion, most CEOs and HR man­agers are not sure how to ad­dress the prob­lems in the work­place,” he says, “so they con­tinue to im­ple­ment sub­stan­dard tech­niques.”

He poses the ques­tion, “Why do com­pa­nies waste time en­gag­ing in a tra­di­tional model that causes un­due stress and is seen as fu­tile?”

Greg Schinkel, au­thor of Em­ploy­ees Not Do­ing What You Ex­pect and the pres­i­dent of Unique Train­ing and De­vel­op­ment Inc., a firm spe­cial­iz­ing in train­ing man­agers and su­per­vi­sors how to man­age per­for­mance, sees the an­nual sit-down as an un­nec­es­sary stress trig­ger in the work­place.

“When a man­ager waits un­til the for­mal re­view process to give feed­back rather than in­clude it in the daily reper­toire, an em­ployee can feel am­bushed and lose re­spect for the man­ager.”

Mr. Schinkel refers to this as the per­for­mance “sur­prise” rather than the per­for­mance “re­view.” The prob­lems of the an­nual ap­praisal process are re­duced when the man­ager pro­vides daily feed­back to em­ploy­ees.

“This does not have to be flow­ery or puni­tive. It sim­ply needs to let the em­ployee know whether he is meet­ing ex­pec­ta­tions and/or how he can change in or­der to meet ex­pec­ta­tions in the fu­ture.”

For ex­am­ple, “Next time you com­plete the re­port I would like to see more de­tail in sec­tion one be­cause that sec­tion is read closely by se­nior man­age­ment.” Or, “I ap­pre­ci­ate the work you did on the client file. It made it easy for me to cre­ate my sum­mary.”

This process is fur­ther en­hanced if the man­ager makes a list of de­sir­able and un­de­sir­able be­hav­iours or work out­puts. Then, as those be­hav­iours show up, the man­ager can im­me­di­ately let em­ploy- ees know how they are do­ing re­lated to the ex­pec­ta­tions.

Mr. Bolton rec­om­mends for­mal­iz­ing the feed­back process on a more con­sis­tent ba­sis with what he calls Work­ing in Five Di­rec­tions meet­ings. Th­ese are not full Pow­erPoint meet­ings that take hours of prepa­ra­tion. Rather, th­ese are reg­u­larly sched­uled check-in di­a­logues that en­sure align­ment, coach­ing and feed­back.

The con­cept grew from an em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence: Mr. Bolton’s em­ployee ap­proached him and said, “When I think of your role, this is what I imag­ine is most wor­ri­some for you and this is what I am do­ing about it.” It was easy for him to see if her pri­or­i­ties were aligned and if not, gen­tly tweak her course of action to reach the greater ob­jec­tives for the busi­ness.

This ini­tial coach­ing ses­sion mor­phed to in­clude and pro­vide a gen­eral ac­count­ing of progress cov­er­ing each di­rec­tion of work flow — cus­tomers, di­rect re­ports, peers, man­ager and self-de­vel­op­ment. With all five ar­eas cov­ered each month, the need to wait till the year-end ap­praisal is nul­li­fied — or at the very least, less­ened.

Some leaders claim there isn’t enough time to im­ple­ment such half-hour meet-

87% of em­ploy­ees think they are in­ef­fec­tive

ings with each of their di­rect re­ports, let alone ask each of those peo­ple to do the same. But can any man­ager re­ally af­ford not to check and en­sure all re­ports are aligned with their or­ga­ni­za­tion’s strate­gic ob­jec­tives?

Con­sid­er­ing how lit­tle re­gard so many have for the for­mal yearly ap­praisal process, wouldn’t a man­ager’s time be bet­ter spent im­prov­ing on­go­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions, keep­ing ahead of chal­lenges and strength­en­ing re­la­tion­ships within the work­place?

Mr. Bolton and Mr. Schinkel be­lieve it will ul­ti­mately give man­agers the com­fort level to do away with the an­nual down­load of feed­back for good.

 ?? GETTY IM­AGES FILES ?? Reg­u­lar feed­back is more use­ful than an an­nual “sur­prise.”
GETTY IM­AGES FILES Reg­u­lar feed­back is more use­ful than an an­nual “sur­prise.”

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