To Appraise or not to Appraise - This Appears to be the Current Question

Where the board is not seeing a return on investment for the time and fiscal investment to conduct and administer these, I agree, it is futile to continue. But for every action, there is a reaction, and I have so often seen that consequences do not manifest until much later, often years. 

As someone who has, in the past, been subjected to inadequate appraisals, but also effective appraisals I know the impact that both these can have: not just personally, but also to the organisation and therefore shareholder dividends.

I still feel saddened when I hear of organizations, where the appraisal system is a negative experience, with employees and managers dreading the meeting. Equally, where objectives are generic for teams of similar roles, rather than tailored to individual performance development and career aspirations. Coupled with annual objectives that are set and then forgotten about until the year-end when managers painstakingly try to determine why an objective was not completed or to give feedback on something historic. This is not what performance appraisals were intended for.

Performance appraisals were implemented shortly after the second World War, when managers, working for corporate enterprises realised that a formal system would improve productivity and, therefore, profitability. The purpose of performance reviews is to provide motivational support and guidance, to achieve continuous performance improvement through development and constructive feedback.

Where organizations have a dedicated HR professional, the board of directors should be supported to achieve the business strategy and long-term vision through the setting and completion of objectives that drives both personal and organizational performance. In order to be effective, companies also need to address the root causes for inertia, negativity or ineffective performance.

As Talent Management Associate, I was asked to review the appraisal, shortly after joining the business and, although I had previous experience, I wasn’t prepared to implement something that I previously used for ease. I reviewed the whole process, listening to both managers and appraisees, seeking to understand: what was being achieved from the process how both parties felt, the impact on the business, ownership and development opportunities, reflection, plans for the future – both personal and feeding into the business strategy, how objectives were set and monitored.

From research and analysis, my response was similar to that of Google, Deloitte and, more recently Accenture – it achieved very little for individual development, or for the business. And so, over 2 years ago, the directors of Collingwood supported me to replace the annual appraisal for a ‘live’ system that is forward focused on continuous development, evolving HARD objectives (heartfelt, animated, required and difficult) and, with the biggest difference being that it is owned by each individual, and supported by the manager – by guiding and mentoring the appraisee, rather than telling.

The process was not designed to be bureaucratic – with all plans and development reflections captured in one document.

A good manager will establish a positive relationship with their reports, recognising each one’s diversity and how to motivate to get the best from their staff. It is a poor manager, with low emotional intelligence, that berates staff for making a mistake and waits until months after the incident to address the situation. Whereas a good manager will help the individual to reflect and learn from the experience, and put in place actions to avoid it from happening again. It is these soft skills that create the right culture, will help drive engagement and organisational performance.

So yes, I am still an advocate of an appraisal, but strongly believe that other factors need to be addressed first, and perhaps develop the appraiser before looking to develop the appraisee.


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