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5 ways to simplify your organisation's performance appraisal

Post-it on a carton board with the words 'Keep it simple'.

Sim­pli­fi­ca­tion is the big trend in per­for­mance man­age­ment at the moment. Lat­est research from the likes of Deloitte, CEB and CIPD author Michael Arm­strong all con­clude that per­for­mance appraisals need to be made sim­pler and less bureau­crat­ic. As Deloitte points out, employ­ees and man­agers in mod­ern organ­i­sa­tions are becom­ing over­whelmed with the sheer vol­ume of mes­sages, emails, infor­ma­tion and activ­i­ties they have to deal with. So if we want them to tru­ly embrace per­for­mance appraisals, we need to stream­line the process so that they can focus on hav­ing high-val­ue per­for­mance discussions.

Here are 5 ways in which you can sim­pli­fy your organisation’s per­for­mance appraisals:

1. Lose the pre-appraisal forms

Many organ­i­sa­tions ask the employ­ee, and some­times the man­ag­er, to com­plete a pre-appraisal form in advance of their appraisal meet­ing. The pur­pose of this is nor­mal­ly to ensure that both par­ties ade­quate­ly pre­pare for the appraisal dis­cus­sion. How­ev­er, this leads to two (or some­times three) dif­fer­ent forms hav­ing to be com­plet­ed, rather than just a sin­gle appraisal form. No won­der many employ­ees dread per­for­mance appraisals!

Our advice is to drop the pre-appraisal form and instead, ask the employ­ee to com­plete the actu­al appraisal form in draft with their ini­tial thoughts and send that to their man­ag­er to review before the per­for­mance appraisal meet­ing. Then after the meet­ing, either the employ­ee or their man­ag­er can update the form with the nec­es­sary amend­ments to reflect what was dis­cussed and agreed. One form, one process — simple.

2. Assess val­ues rather than competencies

Com­pe­ten­cies have become a fea­ture of many per­for­mance appraisals over the past decade. How­ev­er, com­pe­ten­cy frame­works have fre­quent­ly become over-engi­neered with their assess­ment forms adding a sub­stan­tial amount of time to the per­for­mance appraisal process. Because of this, organ­i­sa­tions are start­ing to assess val­ues as an alter­na­tive to com­pe­ten­cies in their per­for­mance appraisals.

The advan­tage of val­ues is that they apply to all employ­ees through­out the organ­i­sa­tion, so employ­ees can be assessed against a sin­gle set, rather than with com­pe­ten­cies which are typ­i­cal­ly func­tion or role spe­cif­ic. This sim­pli­fies things enor­mous­ly. Sec­ond­ly, val­ues tend to focus on a small­er num­ber of items (typ­i­cal­ly 5 or 6) as opposed to tra­di­tion­al com­pe­ten­cies where assess­ing 10 – 15 dif­fer­ent com­pe­ten­cies is not uncommon.

The key to assess­ing val­ues in per­for­mance appraisals is to ensure that each val­ue has clear­ly defined behav­iour­al indi­ca­tors that can be eas­i­ly under­stood and objec­tive­ly assessed — nor­mal­ly a max­i­mum of 5 per val­ue. For exam­ple, a behav­iour indi­ca­tor for the val­ue of Qual­i­ty’ might be Deliv­ers work to a high stan­dard with min­i­mal errors’. With­out these under­ly­ing behav­iour exam­ples, val­ues can be too vague and employ­ees and man­agers will find them dif­fi­cult to rate against.

3. Don’t both­er with grand­fa­ther­ing’ the per­for­mance appraisal

Grand­fa­ther­ing’ is the process where­by a sec­ond, more senior man­ag­er, signs off an employee’s per­for­mance appraisal after their line man­ag­er has already done so. The orig­i­nal pur­pose of this has been to help to ensure qual­i­ty and con­sis­ten­cy in per­for­mance appraisals. How­ev­er, it adds unnec­es­sary bureau­cra­cy and time to the process and does not nec­es­sar­i­ly encour­age bet­ter qual­i­ty per­for­mance appraisals.

An eas­i­er approach is to ask senior man­agers to review a selec­tion of appraisal forms from dif­fer­ent line man­agers in their depart­ment, rather than mak­ing them sign-off every sin­gle one. This will be suf­fi­cient to iden­ti­fy any man­agers who are not putting sat­is­fac­to­ry effort into their team’s per­for­mance appraisals. Where rat­ings need to be checked for con­sis­ten­cy, this can eas­i­ly be achieved by extract­ing the rat­ings from your per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem (if you have one) and hav­ing senior man­agers review them, often in col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­er senior man­agers, so that rat­ings from dif­fer­ent teams can be compared.

4. Encour­age objec­tives and PDPs to be reviewed through­out the year

Review­ing how well an employ­ee has deliv­ered against their objec­tives and per­son­al devel­op­ment plan dur­ing a per­for­mance appraisal will be time con­sum­ing if their progress has not been reviewed at all dur­ing the year. There­fore, you should encour­age employ­ees and man­agers to peri­od­i­cal­ly review employ­ees’ progress against their objec­tives and PDP on a month­ly or quar­ter­ly basis. That way, the objec­tives and PDP review dur­ing the year-end appraisal can be a fair­ly swift recap of achieve­ments and learn­ings, rather than a detailed dis­cus­sion of what was and was not achieved and why.

Get­ting your staff to do this is not always easy, but you can encour­age them by empha­sis­ing the impor­tance of reg­u­lar progress reviews in your per­for­mance man­age­ment train­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and sell­ing staff the ben­e­fits of this approach (which typ­i­cal­ly include high­er lev­els of employ­ee per­for­mance and engage­ment, increased num­bers of objec­tives being suc­cess­ful­ly achieved and short­er appraisal dis­cus­sions). Using per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware which allows objec­tives and PDPs to be reviewed and updat­ed through­out the year will also help to encour­age this (our Clear Review soft­ware makes this real­ly easy).

5. Use per­for­mance appraisal soft­ware to stream­line the appraisal process

Per­for­mance appraisal soft­ware can help to sim­pli­fy your per­for­mance appraisals in a num­ber of ways, including:

  • Hav­ing objec­tives, per­son­al devel­op­ment plans and per­for­mance appraisals in a sin­gle place, rather than hav­ing sep­a­rate forms float­ing about.
  • Mak­ing it eas­i­er for the employ­ee and man­ag­er to col­lab­o­rate on com­plet­ing the per­for­mance appraisal form, rather than hav­ing to pass a paper form or Word doc­u­ment back and forth.
  • Stream­lin­ing the sign-off process — both par­ties can sign off the form with a sin­gle click, rather than hav­ing to phys­i­cal­ly sign it and send it to the oth­er person.
  • Auto­mat­i­cal­ly col­lat­ing the appraisal forms — man­agers don’t need to make copies of the form and send them to HR, as HR can access them direct­ly via the sys­tem. The soft­ware can also chase up those who have not com­plet­ed their forms.
  • Easy analy­sis of per­for­mance data — HR and senior man­agers can run reports to review per­for­mance rat­ings and train­ing needs across the organ­i­sa­tion or with­in spe­cif­ic departments.
See how Clear Review can simplify your performance appraisals and dramatically improve staff engagement