Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Performance Evaluations

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Performance Evaluations

Article excerpt

How to Conduct Productive Performance Appraisals

When you hear the words "performance appraisal," what is your first reaction? If you are like most managers, you probably express a frustrated sigh and think, "Not again! Has it been a year already?" If you are like most employees, you probably cringe and think, "Great! I can't wait to hear what surprises my boss has in store for me this year!"

Why is it that performance appraisals evoke such negative reactions? We often hear people say that traditional appraisals are "a lot of work, without a lot of value." But it doesn't have to be that way. Appraisals can be a valuable tool for managers and employees if they are conducted, used, and structured properly. Here are some of the most common pitfalls of traditional appraisals and some tips on how to create an appraisal process that is beneficial and productive.

Pitfall: The Standalone Annual Review

Manager: "Appraisals are just unnecessary paperwork that have to be done once a year for pay increases to go into effect. I'm too busy to try to remember everything that happened this year with each member of my staff."

Employee: "Performance appraisals give my manager a chance to evaluate my performance over the past year. Sometimes the information is a surprise to me.

The manager and employee are addressing the same issue from different perspectives. Employees need frequent feedback to improve their performance and develop new skills. Conducting an annual review or performance appraisal is a good idea as long as it is not the only time managers and employees discuss performance.

If managers aren't in the habit of coaching their staff members regularly, the annual appraisal can seem overwhelming. It might be the first time the manager even considers the performance of each employee, making it difficult to come up with constructive feedback. As a result, many managers base their appraisals on the employees' most recent activities, instead of looking at their overall performance.

Furthermore, when the results of the appraisals are tied to pay increases, managers face the added pressure of having to justify their assessments and the resulting impact on compensation to employees who might not agree.

For employees, the annual appraisal might be the first time they learn about a performance problem. Again, if the appraisal is tied to compensation, employees often become defensive and feel frustrated because they weren't given adequate time to improve.

Tip: Develop a Performance Management Process

To overcome the challenges of standalone reviews, consider tying annual performance appraisals into an overall performance management process. Whereas the annual appraisal is an event, the performance management process introduces the element of ongoing interaction between the manager and employee.

Mariela Spencer, senior employee relations consultant at CB Richard Ellis, has designed an appraisal that focuses on goal setting. During each review, the manager and employee jointly set three goals for the employee to work toward during the upcoming year. They also review the goals set during the prior cycle.

This type of appraisal process sets the stage for open and frequent dialogue between the manager and employee about the employee's progress and any challenges that might get in the way of accomplishing those goals.

Managers should openly and regularly give feedback to employees about their overall performance and discuss performance issues when they arise. The annual appraisal should not contain any surprises. The employee should be fully aware of his or her performance, and the appraisal should just recap the discussions that have taken place throughout the year.

Robert Gerst, senior vice president of human resources for Jones Lang LaSalle recommends that managers create an "exception file." He explains that "we all have our normal responsibilities and duties to carry out; the file isn't meant to document these typical activities, but those that stand out above or below the norm. …

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