When done right, performance appraisals are tools to help employees enhance their performance and contributions to organizational goals. They become detailed, data-backed and highly effective instruments that leaders can wield to retain top-performers and create high-performing teams.
If you’re gearing up for your annual performance appraisals and want to make them positive learning experiences for yourself and each employee, here’s a guide on how to approach them for the best outcome. We’ll share advice for before, during, and after each review.
Most appraisals fail to generate any meaningful outcomes because they don’t address all the areas that matter, which is why thorough preparation is crucial.
What to prepare
Like any other activity in an organization, appraisals can be broken down into processes and guided by templates. As you develop your structure, here are two considerations to make:
- Develop a template with all the information you need for each staff member. This template should include sections for notes from meetings held throughout the year, performance data, achievements and areas for improvement.
- Include a section where you provide review notes of the above. These will become your collection of talking points in your meeting.
If you’re looking for templates, here’s a link to 70 free employee review templates you can use.
A word on preparation
Feedback is an essential component for producing high-performing teams and individuals, but it must be provided regularly to be effective.
In most organizations, feedback is unstructured, and this leads to less than desirable results. If your organization struggles to manage or prioritize feedback, vi’s real-time performance feedback feature helps you track all aspects of employee performance, provide real-time questionnaires, and manage the scheduling of feedback from the relevant stakeholders.
You’ll also never have to worry about finding old notes and files scattered across folders and network drives again. All feedback is securely stored in vi and easily accessible when you need it.
Get your staff ready
Typically, organizations have a process that involves employees completing self-assessments. If this is not the case within your business, provide your staff with a template they can use. In it, have them compile notes on their performance, challenges and accomplishments.
I recommend having your staff complete these assessments several weeks before your meeting. This gives them enough time to collect data, provide well-thought-out responses and mentally prepare.
Like your template, theirs should also address the same areas. This level of transparency does away with the notion that performance appraisals are fault finding exercises. It also gives the employee a sense of confidence in you as a manager and the appraisal process as a tool for professional growth.
Your meeting is where you’ll get to use all your prep work. While you will have a structured approach, meetings about performance can be a little uncomfortable, especially if you need to address poor performance. So, here are a few tips on how to handle each meeting:
Create a positive setting
A simple way to create a positive setting is to open with transparency. Make it clear that the appraisal meeting is about a recap of the employee’s performance and finding opportunities for growth. This approach reinforces the idea that all performance is backed by data and shows the employee that the goal is to arrive at a positive outcome.
Providing negative feedback first is often the easiest route most managers see, but when taken, it isn’t effective in generating positive results.
If you must deliver negative feedback, start with a positive. Lead with a clear explanation of your intentions and how you would like the employee to gain the most from the feedback, then share the feedback.
When sharing negative feedback, don’t stop at where the employee fell short, provide solutions and alternatives to help the employee avoid the same outcomes in the future.
Ask open questions
As part of your feedback process, it’s important to ask open questions. Doing so gives each team member the opportunity to open up and address or share challenges that have influenced their performance. Providing a platform for staff to share at a deeper level will not only help you tailor solutions to aid their performance, but also create a stronger manager-employee bond.
Once you’ve held all meetings, it’s time to document all feedback and plans. Here, your goal is to deliver clear action plans for improvement. It may not be easy to provide detailed plans yet, however, acknowledging responsibilities, discussion points and goals is essential. Details can be thrashed out later as you develop a plan of action with each staff member, but don’t delay.
The period after each performance appraisal is just as important as the preparation and the meeting phases. When managed effectively, it generates the right amount of momentum that leads to positive future results.
Numerous research points to employees needing more guidance and engagement to do their best work. A plan of action along with regular formal and informal feedback sessions will give each employee the level of engagement they need to grow professionally.
Performance appraisals need not be uncomfortable experiences for managers and employees. When structured and approached with a positive outlook, they can help managers retain top-performers and empower team members to elevate their performance.
Consider using tech like vi’s to streamline performance reviews.