Overcome The Pain Of The Old-School Annual Appraisal

April 5, 2017

iStock_000059847428Medium_150At the beginning of this year, you probably spent a lot of time reading your employees’ self-evaluations, writing a 2016 performance appraisal for each person on your team, meeting with each employee to discuss their annual review and then tying the performance outcomes into the company’s financial incentive system.

It most likely took you a lot of time and effort – and then you had to get caught up on all the other projects you had put on hold while you were writing and conducting performance reviews and handling what probably felt like a mountain of electronic paperwork.

While you may be wishing your company would follow the lead of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell, IBM and other technology companies and move away from the old-school, labor-intensive annual review process, senior management at your company isn’t comfortable with the idea (yet).

If your company isn’t quite ready to abandon annual reviews, here’s how you can make this process less painful for the next time.

Create a Goals & Objectives (G&O) document for each employee. Work with each employee to clearly define their key projects and tasks for the next three to six months, sorted by priority and timing. Let each person know they will be the “owner” of their document and are responsible for providing you with regular progress updates.

Schedule progress update meetings. Determine how often you’ll hold update meetings with each employee and for how long. The timing will depend on the pace of the work your group handles and the number of employees. You might meet once a week for, say 15 to 30 minutes, or once a month for 60 minutes or longer.

Set expectations. Ensure each employee understands what will happen during these update meetings. This isn’t an inquisition about their progress. It should be an open, two-way discussion with the employee sharing how things are going (using their Goals & Objectives document as a visual aid) and anything they’ve run up against that’s standing in their way of being successful.

Shift from telling to asking. The progress discussion isn’t about you (the manager) telling an employee what to do or how to do it. It’s about listening and asking questions to better understand what you can do to remove impediments or to help each employee further develop their skills.

Each quarter, add to the G&O document. During the update meetings, have employees add any new projects or tasks that have been identified and work together to prioritize his or her workload.

The use of the G&O document, updated throughout the rest of 2017, and the regularly scheduled update meetings will help to:

  • Ensure that what needs to be accomplished is moving forward as planned
  • Uncover issues that could slow or impede progress
  • Reduce the risk of being surprised when it’s too late to take corrective action
  • Determine any actions you need to take to best support each employee

When it comes time for your company’s next annual performance review process, you’ll be ready – because you will have a document that captures all the important information about what each employee accomplished every quarter throughout the year.

Bonus: No information in a performance review will ever be a surprise to an employee, because you’ll have been meeting on a regular basis with each person throughout the year.

~ Lisa Quast

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