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“Appraisals, are one of various performance management tools that aim to ensure employees’ performance contributes to business objectives”

Given the year has been so strange and taking into account some companies have shrunk in output, targets have been unachievable, staff have been furloughed or companies have outperformed given their target market, how important are appraisals for reviewing the calendar period of 2020? 

The problem with appraisals from an employee’s prospective is that it is an opportunity by your manager/the business to critic your work over the past year.  The problem with appraisals from a manager prospective is that you don’t always get the information that you are looking for.  In other words, employees tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear!  Added to that, if the process is not used properly, some paperwork is completed, it is discussed, action points come out of it, and the paperwork then gathers dust in a draw/hard drive awaiting the next period to review. 

Personally, I really like the appraisal process both from an appraisee and appraiser prospective.  When managing teams there is something quite rewarding and satisfying when you run through the process properly and spend time finding out where the challenges have been throughout the year/quarter.  I also always relished the chance to sit down with my managers to form strategies to drive my business unit forwards.

54% of employees surveyed revealed that ‘management had not enforced’ appraisals during lockdown and 47% stating that old-fashioned paper processes are still used for appraisals – indicating that they are not digitally set up to do so. This may also explain why 1/3 surprisingly claimed that office communication has in fact decreased since lockdown.

In a recent survey, commissioned by a Leicester based software company, and in conjunction with OnePoll, figures showed that 54% of employees had not been appraised over the year 2020.  Added to this many people who I have spoken to have sighted a lack of communication being one of the biggest factors in looking for a new job.

We have all changed the way we work and there is discussion as to how long the change is going to last.  At the current time we are juggling working through lockdowns, managing families or managing to work in a shared house with several other professionals.  It has been a tough adjustment to make, and chances are we will probably be making further adjustments over the next few months and years.

On that basis alone, appraisals are more important now than they ever have been.  I think that there needs to be a subtle change in how we do them though and approach employee engagement in a slightly different way.  Whatever your objectives were in January for the following year, the chances are that they have fallen by the wayside.  This however is only one small part of the process.  Reviewing how we do things differently might unearth surprising finds. 

I always start my appraisals by looking at facts and figures.  Recruitment is a form of sales; it is easy to see where people are compared to their forecast.  It is a black and white starting point as the figures are what they are, they reflect facts, so employee and employer are on the same starting page.  Talking about a key performance indicator based on fact will inevitably direct you into a positive action such as a training requirement, more attention in a certain area or more encouragement to do tasks that you feel are out of your comfort zone.

In my discussions I always want to understand why an employee has reached the levels that they have.  Have they worked hard and overachieved, conversely have they coasted for some of the year and not had as much focus as they could?  Either way, it is important to highlight that it is not an opportunity to blame if performance is over or under the forecasted level.  The fundamental premise is that it is an opportunity to reflect and possibly re-calibrate.

“After all, a performance appraisal is not only an opportunity to evaluate recent work; it’s also an opportunity to reset priorities and focus on what needs to be achieved in the coming months. Without recognition for recent efforts and guidance on their new key priorities, employees can be left demotivated and unengaged, which negatively impacts productivity and output.”

2020 has been a turbulent year so surely it is the best time to be looking at a structured appraisal.  The conversation around figures is obviously less important as a company will have been at the mercy of its market.  What employers do have control of however, is the support that a manager can give employees for the next 12 months.

Training and development needs have got to be one of the biggest wins for the appraisal process.  If you can look at how a training program can be implemented to increase productivity, the appraisal has been a huge success.  Even spending a quality period of time with an employee/employer, either face to face or on a video call is vital to showing the employer cares.  Over the next few months/year, the employee engagement levels are going to be vital to the health of a company’s performance, not to mention an employee.

In summary, investing time in your direct reports, or being open and honest to your employer about your struggles and challenges is vital for continued success.  Going into the process and having a positive outlook will result in an exponential chance of taking something out of it that will result in your productivity increasing, the productivity of the company and overall the goodwill of all of those who you work around.

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Joe Savidge
Articles: 11

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