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Performance Appraisals: Tips for Managers

The performance appraisal used to be a one-time event, typically conducted at the end of the year. It was the only time a supervisor and employee sat down to discuss the employee’s performance. It also may have been the only time a "good performer" received any recognition for a job well done. However, today, a "good" performance appraisal system should provide for ongoing feedback to the employee throughout the year.

One of the main benefits to conducting regular performance check-ins is establishing clear communications and transparency. By the time a year-end appraisal meeting takes place, there should be no surprises from either the supervisor or the employee. Everyone should have a clear understanding of what will be discussed, what areas need improving, and where the employee really shines. 

Managers should also address any issues that come up during the year as they occur, and reinforce performance expectations on an ongoing basis. This helps employees always know where they stand. 

Performance Appraisal Objectives

There are three main objectives for the performance appraisal:

  1. Assess the employee's prior work and potential;
  2. Ensure alignment with organizational goals and objectives; and
  3. Improve the employee's and the company’s performance.

An effective performance appraisal  will review the employee’s past performance and compare it to where the employee is today. This helps both the manager and employee identify areas where growth has occurred, while also revealing any areas of concern. Additionally, an effective performance appraisal will ensure the employee is working towards achieving  goals that are tied to the big picture objectives of the company.

Preparing for the Performance Appraisal

A company’s performance appraisal process or system should include planning guidelines and preparation tools to help both the manager and employee participate. The main goal is to have an open dialogue that accurately reflects the employee’s performance and how it compares to the organization’s expectations. During the meeting, the manager should be able to clearly define the major areas of responsibility of the employee, the results expected, and how the employee goals link to the goals of the company. Sounds simple, but defining and incorporating performance metrics is also key. The employee and manager should understand how progress towards goals will be measured, such as setting productivity or revenue targets or efficiency goals. Be specific.

A manager should gather their measurement data and be prepared to share specific examples of the employee’s performance to ensure the conversation is productive. The employee should understand what can be improved upon and where goals were met. Providing concrete examples and using data helps bring the conversation into the real world and avoids vague discussions or misinterpretations. Ultimately, this helps the employee examine their own performance and provides an objective method for evaluation.

Finally, a performance appraisal should always help the employee recognize and bolster their strengths, not just identify "weaknesses." Create a roadmap for success, together and revisit it throughout the year.