By John Young
The performance appraisal is your opportunity to help the people who work for you grow and become better than they were. And really, isn't that what we all want? But this is something that gets missed by so many supervisors. It's easy to forget about those appraisals. You're so busy with all the other tasks you have to accomplish every day. And those appraisals only come up once a year or once a quarter. Maybe, if you're lucky, you have to complete them once a month.
But the performance appraisal is one of your best tools for getting the best out of each employee that you supervise. This is your opportunity to let them know what you think of their performance. How they can improve. What they need to do to get the rewards they desire. Even what they are suppose to do and how well they are expected to accomplish those tasks.
This is your opportunity to reinforce the excellent work and good behaviors that you have seen and received from an employee and to correct that work and behavior that doesn't meet the standards of you and the company. The thing is, if the employee doesn't know, they have no reason to change the bad work and behavior or keep doing the good work and behavior.
So what do you need to do for a performance appraisal??
Glad you asked. Let's start with those job description you put together for the position when you hired the employee originally. Of course, if you find yourself in the position of having to perform a performance appraisal for someone who has been in their position before you started than you are going to want to figure out what the job description is for that position.
Once you have the job description for a position it is time to establish the standards of performance for that position. Every employee needs to know what the standards of performance are for their job so that they know what it takes to be successful in their career with the company. The setting of those standards are your responsibility. There are a few guidelines that can help you set those expectations.
Once you have the expectations completed for the position you need to communicate those expectations to the employees. Don't set them up to fail by reviewing their performance when they don't know what the expectations are for their job. You should be sure to set those expectations when they first start on the job but you also need to communicate those expectations to your employees at the beginning of each year. This will bring those expectations back to the front of their mind and allow them an opportunity to meet or even exceed those expectations over the course of the year. This is also the time to set their goals for the year.
What are goals? Those are the improvements that each employee is going to attempt to accomplish over the course of the year. Much like expectations you will want to keep them SMART, be objective, and be concise but you will also want to ask for the employee to help set those goals. These goals should be aimed at improving the gaps in their existing performance and the expectations of their job. They can also be based on the company and departmental goals.
Once those expectations and goals have been communicated to the employee you may think that you are done with the performance review until the next time it's due but you're not. You should be thinking about the employee's performance all year long and you should record everything that you notice, good and bad, throughout the year. That way when the next performance appraisal comes along you have documented and objective reasoning for your assessment of their performance the previous year. Many managers will have a file folder for each of their employees where they store all of this information which will make your next performance appraisal that much easier. Just remember that this file is personal to you and doesn't have to be nor should it be shared with the employee or anyone else.
The Performance Appraisal
And the year has gone by, the employees have performed their jobs, and you've noted all the good and bad things that they have done over the course of the year. It's time to sit down and set down all that information into a form that the employee can understand and refer to over the course of the next year so that they can improve their performance.
Use your company's performance appraisal form to evaluate each employee on the various aspects of their job. Many company's will use a generic form for every position. You will have to determine what applies to what parts of their job and determine where they fall on the scale the company uses to evaluate their employees. Be sure that you list a concrete example to demonstrate why you chose to evaluate the employee the way you did. Be objective about their performance, not subjective. For example:
- You don't seem to handle customers well.
- You turned away three times when a customer walked in the store this past month.
- I just don't think you are on top of your game.
- For the past week when zoning you only corrected the front row of product leaving the rear rows disorganized.
A sample sheet for performance appraisals
When the day finally arrives for the actual meeting you should give a copy of the appraisal to the employee about an hour before the meeting. This will allow the employee a chance to see the appraisal before the meeting and allow them a chance to work through their emotions in private. This will let the meeting progress in a constructive and rational manner as the employee has already had a their first emotional response, good or bad, to the review.
Performance Appraisal Meeting
When it's time to sit down with the employee make sure that you are in a quiet place without interruptions. The employee needs to feel like this is a constructive process and not feel as though they are about to be attacked. Greet your employee warmly, talk about something else, and be enthusiastic about the process so that the employee feels at ease about the process their self.
Once the actual meeting starts begin by reviewing the job and their major responsibilities. Concentrate on the top three or four duties for the position. Then ask the employee to present an evaluation of themselves. Be sure that you are actively listening to their self-evaluation. Then present your assessment of them. Explain the reasoning for the high and low marks.
One thing to keep in mind though is if the employee is good you will want to emphasize the good points in order to help them continue as a good employee. This doesn't mean that you should ignore the bad or sub-par elements but don't emphasize them. And vice versa for the sub-par employees. Also be sure to let the poor performers know what will happen if they don't make those improvements. You are not doing them any favors by sugar coating their performance. If they don't know what needs to change then can you realistically expect them to change?
Be sure to discuss goals for the coming year with each employee and help them improve themselves. This is where your familiarity with each employee will help you help them decide what those goals will be for the coming year. Not every employee wants to be the company CEO. Some merely wish to be the very best at what they are doing. Your job is to help them achieve their goals.
Once the review has been discussed and goals for the coming year have been set it's time to bring the meeting to a close. Summarize what you have discussed including the goals for the next year, thank the employee for their past efforts, reaffirm your personal interest in helping the employee to grow and develop in whatever direction they desire. Be sure to remind the poor performers what will happen if they don't make the improvements discussed.
An outline for Performance Appraisal Interviews
Let me know move on to the more common activity you are going to encounter throughout your career as a supervisor. Coaching. This activity can happen everyday and should happen everyday. Whenever you encounter a 'teachable moment,' or something happens that needs to be addressed, or just on a regular day-to-day basis, you should talk to your employee about what happened. But don't talk at them. Engage them in conversation.
Make sure that you are using pin-pointed messages versus generalized statements. For example:
- Your attendance is poor.
- You have missed a day in each of the past four pay periods.
- You need to cooperate better with department heads.
- Company policy is to give department heads the cost information when they request it.
- You need to follow our safety rules.
- This morning I saw you performing the job without wearing your safety goggles.
You should also use an 'I' message to tactfully address any behavior problems. This is an appeal rather than a demand for change on the part of the other person. This protects the other person and keeps the positive relationship between you and the employee. The 'I' message should have three parts.
- Feelings: indicate how you feel about the effects of the behavior.
- Behavior: identify the specific behavior
- Effect: Spell out the end result of the behavior
An example is "I missed you at the meeting this morning. When you aren't there I feel that we miss your expertise and insight."
Learn the employee's viewpoint by using open-ended questions to clarify the situation. As they state reasons for the situation, keep summarizing and paraphrasing what you have heard to assist the employee in digging deeper. Keep the focus on the employee. If they blame someone else let them know that it will be addressed at a later time. That currently you are talking about them. And when you feel the topic has been fully explored then summarize what has been stated before moving on to a new topic.
When you are searching for solution let the employee lead the search. Ask them open-ended questions, "How would you suggest solving this problem?" Don't lead them to a solution you have come up with. If you provide that solution the employee doesn't own the solution and doesn't grow. If the employee doesn't come up with a solution on their own then you can toss out a couple of your own ideas and invite the employee to kick them around with you.
Before you leave the employee make sure that you develop an action plan. Put the goals and timeline in written form so there is no misunderstanding between you and the employee. Allow the employee to summarize the goals in a memo or report to make sure that their understanding is clear.
Then leave on a high note. Express your enthusiasm for the employee's help with solving the problem and give them your confidence in their ability to reach the goals the two of you have established. The last thing you have to do with every coaching session is to follow-up and monitor their performance. If you don't follow-up you will loose their respect and the ability to coach them to higher standards and achievements in the future. Which, remember, is our main goal as a manager.