Today’s performance appraisal is a far cry from the performance review you might have had in the past. Gone are the days when managers used checklists and weighty manuals to appraise employees. Today, organizations use more informal and frequent feedback tools that are less about checklists and more about continuous coaching. Performance appraisals shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Instead, they should be ongoing conversations between employee and manager that happen throughout the year. However, whether you’re revamping your current system or starting from scratch, there are plenty of ways performance appraisals don’t work—and tips on how to fix them!
1. Employees don’t see the point of performance appraisals Performance appraisals are often seen as a necessary evil that no one truly enjoys. When employees don’t see the value of something, they’re less likely to be compliant with it. For many employees, the annual performance appraisal is analogous to a visit to the dentist — it’s not something they look forward to nor something they’ll put a lot of effort into. If you want to keep your employees from dreading the process, you need to show that the appraisal is more than just a checklist. It’s also a way for employees to receive the feedback and support they need to succeed at their jobs.
2. Managers often wait until the last minute to conduct them There’s no specific time of year when performance appraisals should happen. In fact, many companies are moving away from the idea that there is one specific time of year when it should take place. Instead, managers and employees alike should be having these conversations throughout the year. For example, you can initiate the conversation when you notice an employee making a positive change or when you want to start a new project. For the best results, you should aim to complete the appraisal before it becomes a burden or a chore. After all, no one enjoys being put on the spot at the last minute!
3. The feedback employees receive isn’t actionable Good feedback is both specific and actionable. It’s also timely, meaning that it should be given when something happens, not years later. A performance appraisal should be the time when you give specific feedback about an employee’s strengths and areas for improvement. This is the time when you can share your observations about what the employee does well and what he or she could do better. If an employee receives feedback that’s years old, it’s likely no longer relevant. It also doesn’t help that employee come up with concrete ways to improve for next time. It’s up to you as a manager to be timely with your feedback. However, you also want to make sure that you’re extra clear with your employees on what they can do better next time.
4. Employees don’t understand why they’re being rated as they are Employees are more likely to respond positively to a performance appraisal if they understand why they’re being rated as they are. For example, let’s say an employee is being rated as “meets expectations.” If the employee doesn’t understand that, it’ll likely leave them feeling frustrated and confused. They won’t know what they need to do to improve, nor will they know how to apply the rating to future job searches. If you have any doubts about whether your employees understand the ratings you’re using, you should have a conversation with them about it. The goal is to leave them with a better understanding of your feedback. You might also want to consider switching to a different rating scale. There are plenty of options on the market today, and you might find that one works better for you and your team.
5. The ratings don’t mean anything People often use the same ratings year after year. However, if you’re consistent with your ratings, they’ll start to lose meaning over time. For example, if you typically give all of your employees “meets expectations” every year, that rating loses its significance. The employee might wonder if they’re really doing a good job or if they’re underperforming. Again, the solution is to be more timely with your feedback. If you need to give someone a “meets expectations” rating, do so as soon as possible. If you wait until the next performance appraisal, it won’t have the same impact as it once did. You can also switch up your ratings every year, so they don’t become stale. This will help you to provide more timely feedback, and it will keep the ratings meaningful.
6. The process itself is painful for everyone involved If you’re anything like most managers, you dread the performance appraisal process. Part of this is because you feel the weight of giving negative feedback. However, the rest of it is because the process itself is painful. The longer it takes you to complete the appraisal, the more painful it is for both you and your employees. These are busy people with busy schedules, and they don’t want to waste time on something that is unnecessary. The best way to combat this is to have the performance appraisal process be as quick and painless as possible. This means having clear expectations about what you want to accomplish during the performance review, planning ahead, and setting appropriate expectations for both parties involved.
7. There’s no transparency in how people are being evaluated The only thing worse than an unnecessarily painful process is a process that lacks transparency. What does transparency mean? It means being open and honest with employees about how they’re being evaluated. It also means being open and honest with employees about how they’re being compared to others. This might sound scary at first, but it’s actually a good thing. It helps to put employees at ease knowing that they’re being evaluated by consistent criteria. For example, if you’re looking at ways to evaluate employee performance, you can choose a rating scale like “exceeds expectations,” “meets expectations,” and “needs improvement.” However, if you don’t share these methods with employees, it can leave them feeling anxious about the process. They might also feel as though their ratings aren’t fair.
Bottom line: Performance appraisals should be about continuous coaching, not just a one-time check-in Performance appraisals were never meant to be a one-time thing, but they’re often treated as such. The best way to make sure your system is working is to make it continuous. If you want to revamp your system, you’ll want to start by asking yourself these questions: – What do we want to accomplish with performance appraisals? – What type of culture do we want to create? – What are the values of our organization? – What are the problems that our performance appraisals are designed to solve? – What type of language and communication do we want to use? Once you’ve answered these questions and have an idea of what you want to change, you’ll have a better understanding of how to make your performance appraisals work.