The importance of being honest

As the financial year draws to a close, many companies are running annual appraisals or performance reviews for staff.  Well conducted appraisals can be very motivational.  However, managers must be trained in conducting appraisals to ensure that feedback is constructive and honest.  All too often to avoid conflict managers mark staff highly and avoid highlighting areas for improvement.  However, this doesn’t actually help the individual in the long run and can lead to greater problems in the future.  If performance is not up to scratch and further action needs to be taken, the employee can point back to their exemplary appraisal record and, quite justifiably, complain about not being told that there was anything wrong.

Performance reviews should include the following elements:

  1. Preparation on both sides.  The manager needs to gather views from those that the employee has worked with to get a broader view of performance.  This could be through a 360 degree appraisal process or, in smaller organisations, just by talking to them.  The manager will also need to gather data in relation to performance against objectives.  Individuals should also gather together information demonstrating the achievement of targets, give thought to their performance over the last year and think about their future aspirations.
  2. Measuring performance against the previous agreed targets and objectives.  This shouldn’t just focus on the overall outcomes, but also consider behaviours and attitudes – the “how” as well as the “what”.
  3. Giving positive reinforcement about things that have been down well and constructive feedback on what can be improved.  Remember to focus on behaviours, not personality traits. For example, telling an employee that they are lazy is not helpful, but telling them that they need to ensure that they are in the office on time as clients are frustrated if they cannot speak to someone at 9.00am gives them detailed feedback about exactly what needs to be improved and why.
  4. Exchanging views about performance and career development, particularly in light of any planned changes or restructuring. This is not a one way conversation: employees need to talk about their career aspirations and plans for the future.  In addition they also need to be given a chance to tell their manager about what further support, training and development they feel they need from their manager or from others.
  5. Agreement from everyone about what has gone well, what needs improvement, and how to get there.  Objectives and targets for the following year also need to be agreed.

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