Is it time to ditch your current appraisal process? Mar 2017

Nobody ever seems to really look forward to the annual appraisal. All too often they become an arbitrary tick box exercise, a way of managers evidencing they are fulfilling one part of their role. HR has historically championed the annual appraisal, as a way of enforcing compliance, and in order to satisfy a meaningless KPI to show the Board that HR is adding value. KPIs can often be superficial, tending to focus on the quantity not the quality of appraisal conversations, which is the element that is worth measuring.

Fresh thinking is needed in this area. Begin by asking the question ‘Does your appraisal process actually help employees to do their jobs better’? Forget the mechanics of the process for a moment. Is your current process actually helping boost creativity, collaboration and deliver better results within your business? If your current appraisal system isn’t a driver for better performance, what’s the point?

The business world moves rapidly, as do people’s individual lives. An annual cycle is too long in which to review performance and look at objectives for the future. I recently reviewed an annual appraisal form that was 15 pages long, and each manager in the business had a management span with 10 direct reports. Every manager in the business was asked to complete 150 pages of documentation in a short period of time every year. No wonder they were completely stressed by the process! Annual appraisals have become too focussed on the process not the person, which should be the main reason for doing them in the first place.

Fortunately, there is a better way and many businesses we support have successfully moved away from annual appraisals to shorter, sharper Job Conversations. Job Conversations keep the person at the heart of the discussion, with all of their complex needs, anxieties and aspirations for the future. The process itself becomes secondary to the human being at the centre of the discussion. There are lots of good examples of performance review systems working in practice, which have a healthy blend of support and challenge. Adopting a less directive, more conversational approach via a coaching model is likely to yield much better results. It is still important that some of the performance basics are in place, are written down and recorded for future reference, particularly where you are supporting an employee who is underperforming.

If there is one decision that is likely to boost morale and help your managers, it is the ditching of an outdated, rigid and time-consuming appraisal process. This may be one of the best decisions you make in terms of shifting to a truly people centred culture, unlocking performance and reducing levels of stress in your business.

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