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Performance Reviews Performance Management

How to Craft a Better Performance Appraisal

June 25, 2015
4 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged


The performance appraisal isn't the most popular part of an employee’s job. Though companies around the world commit to them every year, 45% of employees think they are a complete waste of time.

If employees think this is the case, it’s likely because the organization hasn’t made a good case for why they’re important, or because they don’t have a very good one. If you’re thinking about doing away with them entirely, it’s probably best to take a step back and look at how you could fix your review process with a few quick tips instead getting rid of them altogether.

Avoid Surprises, Make Them Regular

One of the biggest issues employees have with performance reviews is that they always seem punitive. Why else would someone schedule a meeting to discuss performance out of thin air, if not to tackle some problem they’ve been having lately? Because of the pressures involved in a “surprise" performance appraisal, 89% of employees would prefer it if their reviews didn’t come up on short notice. Setting the stage is important when discussing performance, and springing these meetings on employees is poor talent management.

You don’t want to sneak up on people with your performance reviews, but perhaps the problem isn’t with a lack of regularity, but rather a lack of motivation. Adobe, after seeing a drop in performance after its yearly round of reviews, decided to implement a check-in system, wherein every employee and manager discuss performance based around specific goals rather than as a whole, leading to more continuous performance management. This meant everyone was more motivated by the allure of positive feedback to do good work on a regular basis, instead when it came time for their review.

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.pngSee what Adobe did to improve employee performance after annual reviews didn't get so well.


Don’t Get Personal

One thing to remember when conducting performance reviews is knowing where your feedback should start and stop. Most notably, when a problem has to do with performance and when it’s simply a personality trait. As Sharlyn Lauby (@sharlyn_Lauby) notes, a performance appraisal suffers most when it loses focus:

"The conversation needs to stay dedicated on helping the employee be successful. Don’t let the conversation become personal and emotional. If the discussion is focused on performance, then it’s a win for everyone involved... If for whatever reason, the conversation becomes emotional, it’s important to remain empathetic without letting the conversation go off track. Remain calm, listen to the employee, and if necessary ask for more information to help the employee stay engaged."

Most managers or people in charge of reviews will argue that they only talk about performance, that their outside biases never affect their focus on the numbers. However, research has shown that managers will always let certain aspects of the employee’s character affect evaluations. Case-in-point: the word “abrasive,” along with critical feedback on personality traits, never appears on mens’ performance reviews, but appears frequently on womens’. This shows that both men and women tend to be more critical of how women behave in the workplace, often to extents that aren’t relevant to their actual performance. It’s imperative that reviewers stick to the numbers, and knowing when something isn’t relevant is just as important as knowing what to include.

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.pngResearch shows that managers let certain aspects of employee's character affect performance reviews.

Implement 360 Feedback

Another reason your employees might not see reviews as valuable is because they don’t think the feedback they’re getting from a single person can form an accurate picture of their performance, especially of the manager reviewing them is rarely the ones working with them. In order to give more accurate and actionable feedback, companies may want to begin implementing 360 feedback. Reviews where everyone working with the person being evaluated gives feedback can lead to a better assessment. In fact, 80% of employees see crowdsourced feedback as more indicative of their performance.

When a better picture of how an employee’s doing forms, it’s easier to give feedback that will actually benefit their performance. What’s more, consistent peer feedback can lead to better self-awareness among employees. This makes them more likely to self-regulate and fix errors on the fly, meaning they’re less likely to need more feedback on their lack of performance in the future.

ClearCompany gives your employees the most clear, concise, and actionable performance management tracking you could ask for. Sign up for a demo today and see how good feedback leads to better performance.


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