Tutorial: The Appraisor's Role in using Appraisal Smart
when Conducting Performance Appraisals/Reviews (cont...)
Let's now consider each step in more detail:
STEP 1: Start with an icebreaker
Start the discussion with a little small talk to ease the initial tension of the interview.
STEP 2: Explain the purpose of the interview
Explaining how you wish to conduct the Appraisal Interview will let Appraisees know what to expect, and will eliminate any unrealistic fears they may have.
Say something like: "Sandy, I would just like to summarise the purpose of today's meeting again: It is to look at how you have been doing with the Performance Measures we have agreed on last time, and to see if there is anything I can help you with in the form of resources and training, or removing any obstacles that might hinder you in your work. Having done that, we will look at new or adapted Performance Measures for the next performance period of 'x' months. I will be making notes (on the Appraisal Smart System) in respect of everything we discuss and decide. You can view everything I have entered onto the system on your own PC afterwards, and just let me know if I have added anything incorrectly so we can discuss and rectify it.. Do you have any questions or concerns before we start?"
STEP 3: Work through the Performance Measures, and agree on a rating for each
Take the Performance Measures - one at a time - and ask the Appraisee how s/he thinks s/he has done with them. Ask for and give facts and evidence pertaining to each (also consult the Appraisee's Evidence Record on Appraisal Smart).
Your job is to act as FACILITATOR of the process. Always ask for the Appraisee's comments first. The key is to get them to self-appraise. Ask probing questions to get examples and supporting evidence of good performance. If you disagree, don't say so directly - ask questions so that Appraisees can come to more realistic conclusions themselves. Facilitation of this nature is particularly important with Performance Measures where subjectivity may come into play - therefore necessitating the opinion of the Appraisee even more.
Praise them where deserved (be genuine and sincere!), mentioning specific examples of achievement and behaviour, e.g.:
"I am particularly pleased with the way you..."
"Your contribution here means that we ..."
When discussing Performance Measures that were not sufficiently met, it becomes even more important for Appraisees to self-appraise. It is so much more effective if they mention areas for improvement themselves. People can also sometimes be much harder on themselves than you would like to be.
Explore the factors that have affected their performance. Probe: "Why?", "What Happened?", "What would have helped", "How can we correct the situation / avoid it from happening again?"
Using 'we' as opposed to 'you' in trying to find solutions to problems indicates to Appraisees that they are not alone in this, and that your support is always available.
Be careful not to apportion blame. Discuss performance, not personality (what they do, not what they are). Focus on performance improvement and actions to prevent the recurrence of problems. There is nothing you or anyone else can do any more about the past. Rather use the lessons from the past to improve on the future. Concentrate on behaviour which can be changed, and give praise where possible - even when discussing poor performance.
Avoid negative words such as "mistakes", "sloppy", "careless" and "shortcomings". The key is to keep your feedback constructive and non-judgemental, maintaining the Appraisee's self-esteem throughout.
Admit openly if you have a shared responsibility for the Appraisee's under-performance, and undertake to set this right. Also admit if you are wrong in your interpretation of the facts.
If they blame you for something that went wrong, stay calm and avoid defending yourself - respond in a non-reactive way and don't get personal. Avoid arguments, by focusing on facts and supporting evidence. Always avoid comparisons with other people.
VERY IMPORTANT: You may never drop a bombshell (surprise) on the Appraisee by mentioning areas of under-performance for the first time during the Performance Appraisal. These, plus positive feedback, MUST be given to employees as soon as realistically possible after the event itself.
This, in effect, means that the Performance Appraisal only becomes a SUMMARY of what the Appraisee already knows, thus reducing most of the frequently reported stress that line managers have when conducting Appraisals.
Don't allow Appraisees to avoid areas of under-performance. Attempt to draw it from them with probing questions. If they persist in avoiding certain issues, give it to them straight, but sensitively, e.g.: "Jane, let's now talk about the three customer letters of complaint we have received over this performance period. How do you feel about it?"
After each Performance Measure had been discussed, and the agreed Actual Performance recorded, the Appraisor and Appraisee need to give it a realistic performance rating. For this purpose, use the Rating Keys and consider the Performance Standards and/or Behavioural Indicators listed on the Performance Review Form.
Never ask for the Appraisee's rating until the extent to which the Performance Standards have been met, have been discussed, agreed and recorded.
It is wise never to give your own preliminary ratings as thought of prior to the Appraisal as part of your preparation. Rather wait for all the evidence to be discuss first (and recorded), then ask what the Appraisee think would be a fair rating based on that. If s/he is unrealistically high, facilitate a more realistic rating by asking questions such as:
"Considering the three customer complaints you have received John, how do you justify a 4-rating that reads: 'Above Target/Standard?'"
"Considering the number of customer complaints you have received John, how do you justify a 3-rating that reads: 'On Target/Standard, including small deviations plus or minus'?. I cannot agree that three such rather serious complaints be regarded as small negative deviations. Would you agree?
Be prepared to adjust your thinking on a rating if the facts and arguments offered, justify this.
Care must be taken that the rating of performance does not deteriorate into a battle of wills. The secret is to stick to actual performance as proven by performance data/statistics, and recorded incidents/evidence (that were discussed with the employee at the time).
Of course, as line manager, you retain the prerogative to insist on a rating that you are happy with, as long as you can offer your reasons for it, whether the Appraisee accepts it or not.
Consider bringing in the second level line manager (Appraisor's boss) as arbitrator if an Appraisor and Appraisee cannot get agreement on Actual Performance or Ratings. This senior line manager's decision will be final, although, in many organisations, an unhappy Appraisee may still resort to taking it further in some way, i.e. lodging a grievance (consult your organisation's HR policy in this regard).
However, by following the Appraisal Smart process and recommendations carefully, major differences in opinion between Appraisor and Appraisee can be largely avoided. Both parties should also approach the appraisal process in a positive, constructive spirit so that Performance Management and Appraisals will effectively deliver on their intended purpose.
Remember: The primary aim of the Performance Appraisal is to identify stumbling blocks that prevent the Appraisee from performing optimally, and should therefore be an open discussion to achieve just that. The rating of performance is secondary and should not detract from the problem-solving purpose of the discussion.