Nearly every person who has held a job is aware of the employee performance appraisal. The vast majority of employees dread them, and simply hearing the words “employee performance appraisal” can provoke anxiety in both supervisors and employees. Unfortunately, there is much negativity attached to the process, but, if done properly, employee performance appraisals can be extremely beneficial for both the employer and employee.
The employee performance appraisal has been defined as a structured formal interaction between an employee and supervisor that normally takes place once or twice each year. The appraisal process is intended to identify strengths and weaknesses of the employee, as well as opportunities for improvement and skills development. It is also a time to highlight the employee’s achievements and discuss performance goals.
While large corporations almost always have a structured review process, many smaller organizations have a less structured system and leave employee performance appraisals up to individual managers. As a result, managers frequently procrastinate in giving the review until problems get out of hand. Worse, employees who do not receive timely reviews or pay raises, oftentimes become disgruntled and create problems within the company. Therefore, all employers, regardless of their size, should establish and consistently administer performance appraisal systems that provide feedback to employees regarding skill level, work quality and productivity.
Developing a sound performance appraisal process can help the employer avoid legal liability and reap the benefits of improved communication. And, while it’s important to have appraisal procedures in place, it’s even more important to train supervisors in handling the appraisal efficiently and professionally.
A great appraisal needs to be fair and objective. It should involve two-way conversation that addresses the needs and expectations of both parties. The evaluation should be an interactive process that gives employees the chance to participate, ask questions, respond to feedback, and offer suggestions. The employer should offer the employee the opportunity to comment on the review in writing, and should make those comments part of the employee’s file.
Although there is no single “right” way to structure an employee performance appraisal system, there are certain elements that should be incorporated to develop an effective program.
Scheduled reviews: Employers should establish a scheduled review period and provide it in writing to each employee. Effective programs generally include a first review after 90 days, with follow-up reviews every 3 to 6 months. If the appraisal process only takes place once or twice a year, opportunities to support and guide the employees are overlooked.
Consistency and clarity: Employees in the same job category should be measured similarly. The employer should prepare job descriptions for each position and clearly state the responsibilities and expectations. These job descriptions can serve as a good starting point for the employee performance appraisal.
Specific examples: When providing employee appraisals, supervisors should carefully select examples that focus on performance, not personality or trivialities. The goal of the appraisal is to encourage the employee toward continual improvement and productivity, with an eye toward helping the employee to understand the assessment.
Future action plan: The performance appraisal should provide an opportunity for the supervisor and employee to jointly develop a plan for future growth and development. This may include the provision of educational training to improve or acquire new skills, or opportunities for the employee to take on new responsibilities or advance their position within the company.
Encourage employee feedback: Supervisors should encourage employee feedback and seek interaction with them with frequently. Doing so makes employees feel valued and allows supervisors to identify problems early, helping them to intervene before things get out of control.
An effective performance management system provides guidance so people understand what is expected of them. It offers enough flexibility to nurture each employee’s creativity and strength, while providing enough control to prevent personal and personality problems from interfering with productivity. It sets new employees up to succeed, so they can help your organization succeed.