Traditional performance appraisals don’t work,
and are damaging your business

You know the drill, once a year you invite your teams’ members along to a meeting to look at their performance over the past year and, to the best of your ability, give them a performance rating. Your team member gets the chance to say what they think you agree or disagree and negotiate and the score. Performance appraisals have happened this way for many years in pretty much every organisation across the world.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t drive high performance, in fact it probably does more to hinder performance than it does to develop it.

Among other things the main problems are:

  • Managers do not believe in the performance appraisal system. Because of this they do not adequately prepare and base the review on what they can remember. They leave it to the last minute and respect for both manager and team members is broken.
  • Most managers follow the system which drives them saving up performance feedback until the appraisal, which may be months after the feedback was needed.
  • The documents used in many organisations asks for judgments based on concepts and words such as excellent performance, exhibits enthusiasm, and achievement oriented. Statements that do not reflect the actual day to day key performance indicators of an individual.
  • Most managers are uncomfortable having performance conversations with individuals, they are not adequately trained to handle all situations. Often it is when giving great feedback to someone that they just don’t know how to handle it.
  • Organisation do not adequately benchmark what good looks like and measure performance form that benchmark, leaving mangers to have inconsistent scoring at the appraisal.
  • The team member whose performance is being reviewed becomes defensive If performance is rated as less than the best, or less than the level at which they perceive their contribution to be.

Working environments have changed, team embers work across multiple work streams in matrix organisations. More and more the people who should rate the performance of an individual are not the direct line managers. If the approach taken is the traditional one it is harmful to performance development, damages workplace trust, undermines project working groups and discourages high performance.

A feedback driven organisation

Developing a feedback driven organisation, where the performance appraisal happens on a regular basis looking at current successes and planning needed development at the right time will drive high performance. The annual appraisal should be the cumulation of those regular meetings.

In a feedback driven system, regular feedback remains integral to successful practice. Everyone forms part of this and is trained well enough to be confident in giving feedback.

The feedback is obtained from peers, direct reports, and project teams; the people who actually experience the performance of an individual. This will enhance understanding of an individual’s contribution and developmental needs. The best way to do this is by using role specific 360-degree feedback.

The 360-degree feedback report then is a discussion for both the individual and their manager to discuss what is working and what needs further development. Celebrate the success in the moment and look for opportunities.

A mutually agreed development plan works to establish the organisation’s commitment to the individual and supports everyone in continuing to expand their knowledge and skills.

How to do it?

The approach of replacing the performance appraisal, creating a feedback culture and using 360-degree feedback is perfect for the change in today organisation. Just as the name implies, a 360 is intended to provide 360 degrees of feedback from a larger group of perspectives. I

Dependent on where your organisation sits at the moment this could be a radically different approach. You should note that this is also not the sort of evaluation that only happens once a year, it is designed to happen on a regular basis. Doing this once or twice a year can be helpful but only shows just a snapshot in time.

Think about the people completing the feedback. If you have not been through a 360 it is nothing like a traditional performance review. In fact, people will be asked about performance that have never have to give feedback on it before. Think about how you will train people and get them ready for this. Part of that training should be around benchmarking and understanding what good really looks like.

This about the individual who is receiving the feedback. Much of the information you get back is raw and unfiltered. Most people will be tempted to become instantly and intensely defensive. The biggest investment you can make is to develop a feedback culture which takes in to account everyone in the organisation.  Develop an understanding of how it works, committing to it, and developing a culture that supports it.