There’s been a lot of heated discussion on a couple of online threads recently about whether or not to develop and keep appraisals or dump them altogether. To sum up both sides’ views:
Why should we dump appraisals?
- They take too darn long to fill in
- On top of that, other people are expected to input and it takes time and effort to, a) seek that input, b) get it and, c) make sense of it
- Appraisal formats are always being changed so there are new rules/procedures/diagrams/scoring systems to get to know
- They’re a chore for line managers and as a result not enough time gets devoted to them
- Line managers – appraisers – and their direct reports – appraisees – find the whole process excruciating and as a result fake both their input and responses
- There’s too little, if any, link between appraisals and organisational results/performance
- Appraisals allow ineffective managers to avoid managing and developing their people on a day-to-day basis
- Where they’re done at a particular time of year, appraisals can hijack the business of er, business, as everyone has to shoehorn extra time in for drafting, contributing to, giving and getting appraisals
- No matter how hip and cool they’re made to look, appraisals have all the excitement and fairness of a school report and are usually badly written
- In spite of exhortations to prepare for the conversation – both appraiser and appraisee – they tend to be ‘let’s get it over with’ affairs, sometimes with nasty surprises.
Why should we keep appraisals?
- A good manager, who has regular performance and development conversations, will be able to do the annual formalities quickly and easily
- Bad managers who don’t discuss performance will at least do it once a year if there’s an appraisal system in place
- It’s vital to have a formal record of how people are doing
- Appraisals are often an employee’s only chance to go on record about what they want and need
- The admin burden can be lightened by technology
- An appraisal system can be an essential component in assessing individual, team and departmental performance
- Senior managers can compare a whole bunch of appraisals to spot rising talent
- Appraisals inform reward – even if best practice currently holds that pay and performance be discussed separately
- Multiple input on an individual’s performance can counterbalance the over-praising or over-critical line manager’s view
- People need to know how they’re doing – and need to know that others in the organisation know it too.
So what’s to be done? Dump them or keep them?
On balance, I think keep them – with some important caveats. Here are my Top Tips to make appraisals work:
- Seek input from representatives at all levels about when’s the best time to do them: annually or on anniversary of joining?
- Also get input on the optimum amount of info needed. No, you may not be able to tick all your wish list. Yes, you will get more of them filled in right if they’re short
- Debate and decide if you want a scoring system. If yes, decide if you want to use odd numbers or even – the latter makes raters get off the fence
- Hold regular briefings – depending on 1. above this could be annually or quarterly – on the appraisal system, why it’s there and how it works
- Include ‘how to prepare for your appraisal’ for all appraisees as part of the regular briefing, which should include drafting their own point of view
- Ensure that only those trained in how to do appraisals are let loose on them
- Any development – training, coaching, secondment, mentoring, study, project work – and results delivered should be recorded
- Have a steering group or groups that review appraisals for teams/departments and raise any questions about what’s recorded in them
- Train line managers to coach and discuss performance with their team on a regular basis
- Include on-going people management and development as a required capability in all line managers’ job descriptions, and evaluate it in their appraisals