Guest Post by Erik Hobbins
Suddenly, you are expected to evaluate those who, a short time ago, were your peers. Not only that, you are expected to tell them what you think of them – the good, bad and ugly – but in a way that they will accept and even welcome. While this will never be an easy task – and shouldn’t be, given the potential impact on peoples’ careers and lives – you can develop coaching skills to turn a dreaded task into a tool to help build your team into a high performing engine. Here are some performance appraisal tips.
Don’t wait until appraisal time
Conduct formal and informal meetings throughout the year to discuss progress on projects and objectives. Encourage employees to be open and honest about what is not going so well and work together to identify how to get things back on track. Think of yourself as a coach, observing performance throughout the year and providing useful feedback to help performers understand and improve their performance. Don’t forget to compliment them on good performance and as they implement the things you have discussed.
Keep notes on your discussions and observations. By appraisal time, you will have supporting evidence for your evaluation and there should be no surprises.
Establish goals and performance expectations
You and your employees need to have the same clear understanding of what you expect from them and establish this understanding early in the performance cycle. Be as detailed as possible in describing what satisfactory and good performance look like.
If possible, engage your employees in helping to set their own performance goals and show them how their work supports and impacts the results for the group, department, and organization as a whole.
Observe and collect input
Encourage your employees to record progress on their goals and notes from your feedback sessions. As appraisal time nears, ask them to provide written input that you can consider during the evaluation process.
Consider other sources of input to get a well-rounded picture of your employee’s performance. Customers, team members, and matrix leaders may have insights into some aspects of your employees’ performance that you were not able to observe. Weigh all these in conjunction with your own observations to develop a complete picture with supporting evidence.
Use tools to evaluate performance
Job descriptions, written goals, lists of competencies and such will help you compare actual performance to an objective standard and assist you in avoiding bias and focusing on what matters most. Do your best to describe in objective terms what the employee has done well and what can improve.
Engage employees in the discussion
Try to create an open discussion where you both speak and listen. Approach the meeting with the mindset of you as coach providing feedback and working together with your employee to ensure future success.
Praise good performance and let the employee know how it positively impacted department or company objectives. For performance that needs improvement, use specific examples and brainstorm together strategies for the future, including what you can do to remove barriers and facilitate success. Keep your discussions focused on behavior and avoid assumptions about motivations. For example, if the employee is often late to meetings, point this out but stop short of adding, “I just don’t think you care about keeping us waiting.”
Include developmental ideas
Unless your employee’s performance is substandard, try to include a discussion about career goals and the competencies they will need to progress to the next level. Discuss development ideas and potential assignments to build competencies and lead toward the employee’s career goals.
Feedback is a gift, but most of us find it difficult to hear. Modeling openness and inviting feedback yourself is a good way to create a climate that inspires excellence. It will also help you improve your own managerial skills.
Becoming a good leader is a process and coaching for performance an essential element. Continually look for ways to do it better.
What additional performance appraisal tips would you add for new managers?
Erik Hobbins is an Account Executive at Halogen Software. Connect with Erik on LinkedIn.
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Performance Appraisal Tips for New Managers
I never thought that one way to make employee evaluation easier is to conduct formal and informal meetings to discuss progress on projects and objectives. Speaking of evaluations, what tips can one give when making an evaluation based on said meetings? How should one assess employees without them feeling uncomfortable?
Wonderful post, Erik! I think it is helpful to think of performance appraisals as part of on on-going coaching and feedback session instead of an annual discussion. When new leaders see the value of frequent feedback the performance appraisal is not an ambush or a surprise. It becomes a time to share dreams and goals and lessons learned.
This is a really terrific resource for new managers! The guidance I always gave the people on my team was to make time for regular, on-going 1x1s throughout the year so nothing in the formal appraisal would ever be a surprise. Also, having the 1x1s gives people a chance to take the feedback and make improvements along the way so by the time it got the the formal time it could be a really winning story to document.
I always tried for 1x1s every other week or at least monthly and it’s a time to put so many of the things you outlined here into play.
Great additions, Alli. I also try to do 1x1s every other week with my team members. This is valuable time in so many ways. It enhances my understanding of what they are working through along with what they are accomplishing. Thanks for some great additions! Jon
Thanks for your
comment. I agree that soliciting feedback from a variety of people throughout
the organization serves to enhance the evaluation process. Making 360 degree
assessments part of your annual review process, as well as using them
throughout the year, can be a great development tool that allows for multiple
perspectives. It provides a more holistic view of an employee and it just makes
sense given that people behave differently around different colleagues.
I recently read a book called the “Crowd Sourced Performance Review” It took an interesting angle…main idea..collect input from peers and key stakeholders all year round… let them have input in the appraisal. Knowing that others are watching generates more collaboration and support, and the supervisor has more examples to utilize.