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The Foundation for a Successful Performance Review

17 April 2017, Posted by Varun Tandon

In a previous blog we talked about the Hullabaloo over performance ratings, and while the final path on that is still undecided, performance appraisals continue to dominate in organizations. The focus is more pronounced around this time of the year with annual appraisals deciding the fate of employees personal and professional growth via increments, promotions and future projects – all based on the past years performance.

It is critical managers prepare in advance for the annual review to be able to share an appraisal cocktail which is the right blend of feedback from observation for futuristic improvement, appreciation for expectations met and exceeded, and coaching on how to maintain and out-perform their own past performance.

For managers and leaders, new and experienced, to be able to deliver a review to encourage, motivate, and inspire reports, preparation is the key.

Pre-Appraisal Preparation

Evaluate the Purpose: Reflect on the role the appraisal process fulfils, and how it will help reports grow personally and professionally while also meeting the organizations growth trajectory. Basis this understanding, get clarity whether the process should focus more on critically analysing reports past performance, or should the learnings from past be presented as a forward thinking review to help reports understand their handicaps - where you work with the appraise to address key developmental areas, and deliver a superior performance in the future.

Go the Extra Mile: All mangers are expected to be objective and unbiased when evaluating past performance, but what more can you do to make the process motivational for the report… to make them believe that the feedback is purely developmental and will aid the individual more than it would the organization. As the wise coach Duffy Daugherty once said, ‘The difference between good and great is just a little extra effort’. An open door policy sounds great on paper, but practising it means making that extra effort. Not only is it your responsibility to keep communication channels open with reports, it also important to check-in frequently and have performance conversations during and immediately after tasks are accomplished. Gathering data all the year and having frequent conversations on performance  will eliminate biases that crop up at the review time like - Recency, Halo, Critical Incident , Like Me, First or Last ones etc. Digital tools, like 360 degree feedback app Karma Notes, come to the rescue where managers can not only track performance but also share continue feedback on project. The digital diary of the conversations is a great reference point during the final review, lending transparency to the process and leaving no scope for bias during the evaluation. 

Gather Peer Feedback: Many organizations today use the matrix structure of management where employees cross report to different mangers for specific projects. If such is the cases in your organization it becomes the managers role to accumulate feedback from all those who have worked closely with the report on different projects, and share a holistic review after considering all inputs.

Meeting Guidelines:  In the words of world renowned motivational speaker Les Brown, “Your ability to communicate is an important tool in the pursuit of your goals” - communicate with your reports frequently. Define organizational expectations from their role at the beginning of the year and incorporate short and long term targets, and review progress periodically so you are working towards the same goals and there are no surprises during the review.  And, of course, follow the basic meeting etiquettes - block calendar for a private one-on-one session, share a meeting agenda well in advance so the report has ample time to prepare, and be sure to budget adequate time for the review - 60 minute usually covers all aspects of the conversation. Structure the meeting such that all aspects of the discussion are covered including setting the expectations for the coming year.

During the Appraisal 

Listen Before You Talk: It is ideal to invite the report to share a descriptive self-review before the manager begins to critically evaluate performance. This is a recommended start to the conversation as the manager can evaluate the reports understanding of the goals and the tasks they performed to achieve those targets. In the case of unaligned expectations the entire review exercise would be futile and performance assessment exercise would hold no weight.

Engage with the Report: The review discussion should be a dialogue not a monologue: Listen more than you talk, and encourage the report to share. Hear what the report is saying; understand their growth and career aspirations and how they can be fulfilled within the framework of the role and the organization. Doing so will help you build the reports trust and reinforce their confidence in your leadership. And remember to communicate long and short term goals during the meeting.

Self-assessment & A Back Pat: Before you wrap-up the discussion ask the report to complete a self-assessment. Get their feedback on how they felt they did on the outcomes. Lastly, do not just look for areas of development - we all have areas where we can improve performance, acknowledge achievements and be generous with praise! A little praise goes a long way in boosting morale and building employee engagement.  

Key Points to Cover: To maintain transparency during the evaluation explain aspects of the review that are usually left unanswered, like factors that sway the final rating, what is the direct outcome of the rating process – merit increase, promotion raise, how the review impacts the organization etc. Directly addressing these questions creates openness and instils confidence in the report of the manager’s ability to handle the appraisal.  

Here’s a quick guide of points that should be covered during an appraisal discussion with your report to leave no room for ambiguity:

  • Performance on Past Goals (WHAT part of performance)
  • Reports Competencies (Knowledge , Skills and Attitudes) - the HOW part of performance
  • Developmental Goals for the year
  • Support Needed from Manager
  • Closure or Commitments – Next steps agreed upon by both the Appraiser and Appraise

Seek Feeback: Last not but the least, conclude the discussion by encouraging the report to share candid feedback about the discussion. Amongst other things you can ask the report to share if they were happy with the format of the conversation, whether all points were covered as expected, what they liked or disliked about it, and if this were to repeat what they like to change about it. Honest responses to these questions will help managers tweak and further refine the format of the review discussion going forward.

Post Appraisal

Managers, performance review is just the initiations many futuristic discussions with the report. Now that you’ve together laid the foundation of the goals for the coming year, chalk out a plan to review the targets periodically. Karma Notes App is a great tool for that. With continuous feedback and coaching during and post projects, reports will have the necessary guidance needed to stay on target. Using this digital app you can easily prioritize your tasks and manage multiple reports by instantly sharing thoughts on reports performance vis-à-vis key milestones. Your continuous support, appreciation, coaching and leadership is critical to keep the employee engaged and on the right track to implement tasks. In addition, follow through on commitments made during the conversation be it for the personal development of the report or to reach organizational targets at large, you are responsible for honouring your commitment to the best of your ability for the continued support and trust of your reports. 

Image Source: Pexel

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