It's Easy to Get Lost in the Past with Performance Reviews...

You’ve looked far and wide for a solid reason to keep the performance appraisal aspect of your performance management system around. You know the metrics from the evaluations are key to improving the business, unfortunately your managers and employees aren’t so keen on the lingering practice.

Performance appraisals set the stage for great employee (and subsequently organizational) performance, and you need to be able to have these regularly in order to develop and track goals. How can you make them better for your managers and your employees?  Let’s look at some ways you can make the process more effective from a tertiary standpoint.

Talk Less About Yourself

You’ve heard the cliché, it’s not you, it’s me, right? Well, research suggests during reviews, managers can have a tendency to have self-evaluative undertones in the conversation. Steven Scullen, Professor and Associate Dean at Drake University, explained that much of the traditional review process is personally biased. In fact, 65% of the variance in ratings can be attributed to personal partiality and idiosyncrasies of individual raters. Scullen continued to say:

“For example, one person might give you low marks on strategic planning. But that doesn’t mean a different one would share the same view. Much of the variation comes from raters’ different opinions of the importance of strategic planning, or their own skills in strategic planning, or other personal factors that have nothing to do with the work you performed.”

Focus on the Progress

All too often, performance evaluations are focused on the wrong aspect of the review. Yes, for performance appraisals to be successful and effective, there needs to be a similar process each time for the sake of measurement. This should not, however, be the crux of the conversation itself – progress is the fundamental focus of every effective and worthwhile performance review. More than a raise, employees want to know where their current career path will take them.

Give them tips to improve their performance, but also give them an insight into where their job growth and development can take them. Congratulate employees on a job well done, but emphasize the idea there’s always room for improvement, whether that means a different angle on a project or finishing a project sooner with the same quality of work.

Plan for Development

Some organizations are making professional development planning the fourth part of the appraisal process. Using performance reviews to leverage employee’s ability for growth and their drive for career development helps companies to create talent pipelines within the company so they can create a robust success plan. Nicole Dubbs, former Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness at Teach for America, noted:

“What motivated us to build something really robust is the fact that we wanted to begin to have a system where the senior-most leaders of the organization could have a better understanding of what our talent looks like across the board… Managers on a one-by-one, case-by-case basis would have to feel accountability for constantly knowing where their people are at and what they need to stretch and grow.”

Rather than center the review on the past performance, make the focal point of the performance appraisal about professional development. Past performance, albeit important, doesn’t necessarily determine performance improvement. Work with your employees to create a professional development plan so you can propel them into the future of their career.

Your organization can still use performance appraisals to gauge internal performance standards, all you need is a bit of adjustment for everyone to be on the same page about their effectiveness. Reflect less on your own abilities and focus the conversation on progress and development for more well-rounded and effective performance reviews from everyone’s perspective.

Bio: Chris Arringdale

Chris Arringdale is the Co-Founder and President of Reviewsnap, an online performance appraisal software that allows you to customize performance management, competencies, rating scales and review periods. Reviewsnap serves more than 1,200 customers worldwide including, Penske Racing, CubeSmart, PrimeSource and Nonprofit HR Solutions.

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