Employee appraisal methodsAppraisals, regardless of role and of industry can be very stressful processes. Personally Idislike the word appraisal as it sets a mindset of once a year so I prefer the termperformance review. However given that appraisal is the term most commonly used inindustry today Ill stick with it.In this article, I would like to explore two ways forward. Firstly I will look at thetraditional process for appraisal, that of the employee: manager, one to one, and then lookat a process I believe companies could potentially adopt. This is the peer appraisal or peerreview process where the employees appraise each other with senior managers simplyreviewing and "rubber stamping" appraisal outcomes.Firstly lets look at the standard method of appraisal for both the employee and managersin todays industry. This is still very much a one to one process and if this is donecorrectly and skilfully it can be very productive and motivational but it also depends on anumber of crucial factors.1. The manager facilitating the appraisal must be capable with good appraisal skills, up todate correct information and have no favourites within his or her team.2. The Appraisee must also have good influencing skills and have their appraisalinformation up to date in order to present their case.3. Theoretically, the end of year appraisal should be a "rubber-stamping" exercise and ineffect should be a "4th Quarter Review" with no surprises. As the previous three quarterreviews will have been structured in order to review business and personal developmentplans and to monitor and guide the progress of each, the 4th quarter review should holdno surprises what so-ever. In fact I firmly believe in monthly reviews so that performancecan be carefully monitored and kept on track.This all sounds pretty straightforward but in my experience there are a number ofchallenges that both managers and employees face in getting to a situation where theyear-end appraisal is as straightforward and "painless" as it should be.1. Many managers do not hold structured quarterly or monthly reviews where time istaken to analyse fully the employees business performance and their development plan.This is due to in most cases the managers workload and also on the priority that theyplace on the performance reviews.2. Many managers by the time it comes to the year end appraisal, go into them with theirmind made up as to what a particular employee is going to get in terms of a performanceor appraisal rating. It is all decided on limited, top-line information and perhaps "gutfeel".
3. On the other hand, in many cases, employees go into the appraisal with a mindset thatsays, "Ill just have to accept to accept what my manager gives me".Bad and ineffective appraisals lead to individual de-motivation and ineffective teamwork.So what should managers be doing to make their one to one appraisals more effective andmotivational?a. Make sure they have good, effective appraisal skills. These skills include contracting,listening, performance coaching, giving and receiving feedback, motivation, andobjective setting. Without these skills then the appraisal will not be as productive ormotivational as they should be.b. Managers should go into appraisals with an open mind and be prepared to beinfluenced by facts and figures not by judgements. Managers knowledge of theiremployees and their progress against objectives should be kept up to date.c. Ensure that the managers hold regular reviews where they are guiding and coachingemployees towards their "appraisal aims". The benefit of this is that the manager willknow whether an employee is "on track" at any given point during the year. Quarterlyreviews are regular enough without being too frequent. Anything less frequent, I wouldsuggest is unacceptable. Monthly, on an informal basis, is ideal.If a manager follows these steps then the year-end appraisal is very much a "rubberstamping" exercise and can be used to start the planning for the following year, ratherthan just concentrating on the year just passed.But what about alternative methods of appraisal? I was heavily involved in pilot work inthe pharmaceutical industry whereby we put in place processes to move appraisals frombeing run by the manager to being run by the team and where instead of the traditionalmanager: employee appraisal, appraisals were done in peer groups where eachindividual was appraised and supported by the team as a whole.At first there was great reluctance from management to go down this route. The reasonsfor not wanting to move to peer appraisal (as per manager feedback) were as follows:a. "Not enough time to train the team members in how to perform peer appraisal."b. "No internal expertise to ensure good skills uptake and to facilitate such peer meetings"c. "Its quicker and less stressful just to tell them what performance rating they aregetting".d. "The manager is "scared" of giving up control, either in terms of how they might lookto their senior managers or in terms of their belief in the ability of their employees to givethemselves "honest" appraisal ratings".e. "Its change - and not the way we do things round here!"Having said that many managers I have interviewed could see the benefits:
a. "Done well, I can see a lot honesty coming out. I know that there can be discontentwhen some employees appear to get a better appraisal rating than perhaps they shouldget"b. "It would help the employees to grow as a result of the fairness and honesty. It wouldalso help the trust levels between employees and managers"c. "We would probably get a better picture of reality."d. "I believe that the skills of both the employees and managers would increase as aresult"e. "Although I am wary of how best we could do this, I see that it could free up a lot mytime. Time that I could use to move the business forward"There are numerous advantages to going down the route of peer appraisal but it is verytough and does not happen overnight! There are some essential skills and mindsetsneeded in order for it to happen productively.1. Managers need to have the mindset that says "My team is composed of mature, capableadults who given time, support and the right skills, will make this initiative work" If youdo not have this mindset as a manager do not attempt this - in fact if you do not have thismindset then, I my opinion, you should not be managing full stop!2. Another mindset that managers must have when involved in peer appraisal processpersonally is to ensure that they have an interest in seeing their peers succeed. There canbe no place for internal competition and in no way can this process be seen as a way of"getting back" at peers who have perhaps been in conflict with the individual. Teammembers must have an interest and knowledge of each individuals business anddevelopment objectives and be as supportive as possible.3. Managers should be leading the way and in their own particular management team, begoing through the process first.4. Managers must have the skills to ensure the process works. The main skills are that ofgiving and receiving feedback and of facilitation. These are two skills which, in myexperience, managers need to work a lot on. They are difficult skills to grasp but wellworth the time and effort. Managers must also have courage to give the constructivefeedback and to challenge inappropriate and negative behaviours in their peers.5. Communication must be of the highest order. People must know what is happening;why it is happening and what the various steps are that will enable it to happen. As in anyselling situation, the benefits to every individual must be clearly spelt out and eachmanager should take time with each individual to make sure they fully understand what ishappening and what the benefits are to the individual.6. Planning skills must be good also. In the early days time must be built in so thattraining and trial runs take place. In todays high-pressure industry with the need forresults paramount, spending time on any form of development sometimes becomes anafter-thought.
All in all my experience of supporting the implementation of such a peer appraisalscheme (and also of taking part personally) is that it is fraught with emotion andnegativity to begin with, but with perseverance and patience, when implemented well it isdefinitely the way forward.If managers can demonstrate the skills and are not afraid to trust their employees, thenpeer appraisal can work for both manager and the team, and work incredibly well. Butmake no mistake - it is very, very tough in the short term.As a manager do you have the skills, mindset and determination to give this a try or areyou too scared to upset the "apple cart"?http://performanceappraisalebooks.info/ : Over 200 ebooks, templates, forms forperformance appraisal.