Many organizations engage managers and employees in a stressful year-end or annual
tango called "performance appraisal." Organizations believe this is
motivating...and it is not. They believe it lets the employees know how salary
increases are justified...and it does not. Manager and employee alike would never have this
encounter if not mandatory. Yet, the appraisal of
performance is what most companies focus upon rather than the management of performance. The
difference between appraisal and management is somewhat like the difference between financial management and accounting. One
tends to be more forward looking - planning oriented - while the other looks backward - a postmortem.
We already know that employees report seven different general concerns regarding performance appraisals, all of which guarantee
the experience will neither motivate nor legitimize salary:
1. Focusing on the negative rather than the accomplishments.
2. Little or no communication all year then...surprise!
3. Poor or no expectations given beforehand, thus never establishing a target.
4. Inconsistency between number ratings and verbal comments.
For example, "If I do an "excellent" job, why am I a
‘3’?" or "If I’m your "best" ____, shouldn’t I be a
5. The "recency" effect. Mentioning recent, year-end situations
that could be isolated events from earlier in the year.
6. No connection between the performance rating and salary increase.
7. Managers do not like to do performance appraisals and many would not if it were not mandatory. This is apparent in the
rushed, unprepared, and inaccurate assessment dialogues that they conduct.
Performance Management is a better approach. This process provides managers and supervisors with an effective way to let
employees know where they stand compared to expectations. It offers a method of allowing people to change course during the year
before it is too late.
The goal of Performance Management is "No Surprises." Each
employee arrives at year-end knowing how he or she has performed. Accomplishments are acknowledged and the employee
understands what remains to be improved. Most importantly, he or she understands the progress made against the agreed upon
expectations. This is an important reference for when the conversation
eventually comes to salary or bonus.
Performance Management has three main parts:
The process starts near the beginning of the year when supervisor and employee sit
down to discuss, describe and agree upon the Expectations for the year. In
this important step the supervisor must describe
what good behavior looks like. Each Expectation should be clear and brief, such as
"load the trucks in under 20 minutes, complete all work each
day," and so on. Five to ten Expectations for each job should be adequate
but there is no magic number. Expectations should reflect the job description. Setting Expectations is critical and often not part of a
traditional performance appraisal process. Lack of clear
Expectations is a major pitfall of performance appraisal.
Professional positions will require Expectations focused more on results than actions, allowing for professional
judgement. But the professional employee still needs to know what good results look like.
This is perhaps the most important step. Interim Discussions are short, informal progress reviews lasting 5-10 minutes, one or two
times during the year. Emphasis is on "informal" and
"short." After two Interim Discussions there should be little new information to
discuss at year-end. This makes the annual summary easier, faster
and less stressful for manager and employee. Interims need to be dialogues however, or there is a risk that the Interim degrades into
just another more frequent performance appraisal where the boss does all the talking.
Feedback Interactions are critical to the success of objective Interim Discussions. Feedback Interactions involve the manager
commenting on a regular basis when observing something that meets Expectations. Some would call these comments praise.
Successful Feedback Interactions are focused and brief. "Good job on
the loading times today" for example is both brief and tells the
employee exactly what happened according to Expectation. Remember intelligent people will be more likely to duplicate
behavior that impresses their boss. Few rational people wake up in the morning with the intention of doing things the wrong way.
Conversely, if the manager notes performance that is not matching Expectations, the Feedback Interaction becomes a dialogue on
why, and coaching on how to improve. Sometimes people have just forgotten and coaching isn’t necessary. These Feedback
Interactions provide an opportunity for employees to change course and
avoid hearing about an issue at year-end when it is too late to change. Feedback Interactions then provide material to talk about
during Interim Discussions along with a review of progress. New employees or those new to a job will need more Feedback
Interactions than seasoned employees.
If the above has taken place, the conversation (performance appraisal) at year-end becomes much easier. The manager has only
to review the Interim Discussions with the employee. There should be little if any new ground broached at this time. The employee
should know exactly what the conversation will involve before
sitting down because of the short Interim Discussions that have already occurred and been documented.
Performance Management is a process. However, it requires supervisors skilled in coaching and facilitating conversation.
Organizations considering this approach need to ensure that supervisors receive such skill training. For the supervisor whose
company requires only the completion of an appraisal form at year-end, the Performance Management process with its focus
on setting Expectations and offering feedback via Interim
Discussions is still a recommended tool so that he or she manages performance with NO Surprises!
It is probably safe to speculate that, without exception, each of
us has had at least one performance appraisal/review experience that made us cringe.
Did you know that these same performance review issues have
been around since the 1940s?
According to Rich Mohr, "This is old stuff. These same performance appraisal issues were documented in publications dating
back to 1945. Then and now - same problems!"
Mohr started developing his No Surprises! Approach (see related article) to performance management while working on his
Master's Thesis. He added 15-years of real world business and human resource experience to make it the user-friendly process it
"By taking the surprise out of the process, the year-end conversation is truly only a review of the interim
discussions. Employees feel better about it because they have been given an opportunity to
make any needed mid-course corrections or changes. They see it as a growth opportunity versus a year-end
Development tools such as coaching, 360-degree performance evaluations, and career counseling often prove beneficial in
assisting employees to make the necessary changes. "These are natural linkage
points," says Mohr.
The No Surprise! approach "requires some formal training to show that it really does makes sense, and works well if properly
applied. Proper application would emphasize setting clear expectations and goals, and making the year-end summary just a
year-end summary with no major issues introduced. Absolutely no
Mohr is a human resources manager in the Wisconsin-based offices of Degussa, a large food ingredient company. Vernon
Roche Hodgson (VRH) has worked with Mohr since 1990.
Additional information on coaching or other professional development services offered by VRH is available
by calling 414-259-9722.
Did You Know...
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics
provides 10-year employment projections on where future job
growth is expected by industry and occupation. Widely used in
studying long-range employment trends, these projections are
especially useful to students for education and career planning.
For the period 1998 - 2008, the projections indicate:
Total employment will increase by 14%.
Service-producing industries will account for virtually all job
Manufacturing’s share of total jobs is expected to decline.
The five fastest-growing industries include:
Computer and data processing services
Management and public relations
Personnel supply services
Occupations expected to grow faster than the average are
executive, administrative, managerial, technicians and
related support, and marketing and sales.
The ten fastest-growing occupations include:
Computer support specialists
Desktop publishing specialists
Paralegals and legal assistants
Personal care and home health aides
Social and human services assistants
You may wish to visit the web site that posts these
projections - http://stats.bls.gov
the Hiring Process
What is described here is a three-stage, process-oriented
approach to the hiring process. Each stage has proven strategies that
you can use to weed out poor candidates and get new hires off to a
Stage 1 - The Prehiring Process
Interview people who already work for you. Pick your best
employees and talk with them.
Do your best not to hire anyone. Do not assume you have to
"knee-jerk" hire a replacement just because you lose a worker.
The first place to look for
"new" employees = your own
company. Hiring and promoting from within increases morale
and gives you candidates with track records.
Write down on a piece of paper,
"I will not lower my
standards." Even if it is the 25th candidate, hiring subpar
candidates inevitably leads to firing subpar workers.
Stage 2 - The Interview Process
Learn to spot producers. Hire people with a proven track record
of producing results.
Send candidates to lunch with a trusted employee after the
interview. At lunch, polished candidates let their guard down
and act more natural (especially when the interviewer is absent).
"What were the strengths and weaknesses of your past
supervisors?" Repeated stabs at former bosses may indicate a
problem with authority.
"What was your biggest failure in your last job?" If the
failure was someone else’s you may have your own problems.
Test if you are dealing with a team player. Listen to the
pronouns used. You want "we" people not "I" people on your