Face to Face

Article excerpt

Face to Face

Performance appraisals need not be ordeals. With a systematic approach, you can make them part of an effective management strategy. Do you and your staff stiffen at the thought of having to conduct annual performance reviews?

Why is it always so difficult?

Managers and supervisors too often emulate their own less-than-perfect managers, and the performance appraisal process becomes ineffective, ill-defined, or even counterproductive. But managers can learn to understand and use performance appraisal techniques that work, helping to ease the anxiety and avoidance that usually accompany performance reviews.

In every industry, employees are recruited, trained, evaluated, rotated, and promoted. In certain cases, they are terminated. But in many instances, performance appraisal is not even considered until an employee is placed on probation or in danger of being fired or laid off. Written and signed performance evaluations are virtually a legal requirement in almost every termination scenario.

As a result, many managers believe that written performance appraisals are done only because the personnel or human resources department requires them, and that informal, oral performance evaluations are actually a better way to review employees who are doing well.

Managers--people who are responsible for productivity, profit, and the employees who produce the profit--share responsibility for their employees' growth, professional maturation, and development into potential managers. When employees fail, managers fail; where the staff comes up short and underutilized, managers come up short and under-utilized. Managers must spend a great deal of effort on self-examination as they try to raise their consciousness of what they are doing as managers to create effective, efficient employees--or ineffective, inefficient ones.

Evaluating in a vacuum

Performance appraisal can't be discussed in a vacuum.

Learning how to evaluate and supervise a staff is as significant a responsibility as achieving productivity quotas and sales and revenue goals. The evaluation of employees is a continuous process rather than an event that happens once a year, just before a bonus, raise, or reprimand. Managers and employees should approach evaluations or performance appraisals with confidence, as opportunities for mutual gain rather than distasteful events to be avoided.

Most people at one time or another have been subject to unfavorable evaluations. A fair degree of nervousness and apprehension accompanies the entire process. If today's managers can move beyond yesterday's less enlightened supervisors, a more fluid, open, and communicative environment can be established.

A systematic approach

Managers are busy people. They don't always have the time to be as open and responsive as they might like. But if a plan is made and consistently followed, employees may never have to be fired.

With a meeting of the minds between employees and managers, job expectations and levels of performance can be clearly articulated and documented. Long before a point is reached at which an employee would have to be terminated (with a shop steward or employment law attorney in the room), the employee will already have met with the manager and realized that the best option for both parties is to begin a job search while still employed, with the understanding that time is of the essence.

Prepare for every appraisal the same way--with a plan of action. A certain amount of material, such as the employee's overall performance and areas needing improvement, must be covered. What questions might you ask yourself prior to the actual evaluation that will help keep the process focused, fair, and productive? Some suggestions:

* What results do you want to achieve from this appraisal? * What kinds of contributions is the employee making? * Is the employee working up to potential? …