The Green Sheet Online Edition
August 24, 2009 • Issue 09:08:02
How to do effective performance appraisals
ISOs employing merchant level salespeople (MLSs) need to conduct performance appraisals on a regular basis. Constant change, new regulations, organizational restructuring, new products, services and technologies, and changing delivery systems are just some of the reasons why.
Performance appraisals provide:
- Insight into the work being done and into employees who are completing the work
- Communication for the development of new or improved ideas and the discussion of greater responsibilities and career advancement
- Clarity to employees about how the quality and quantity of work is perceived
- Timely feedback to increase performance and productivity
- Recognition of good work with positive feedback
- Two-way communication to help clarify company goals
- Two-way communication to help managers grow and improve leadership styles
- Guidance for managers on how to conduct professional performance appraisals
The dreaded eval
Some managers fail to conduct employee reviews because they fear the possibility of disagreement and confrontation, as well as accumulation of hostility over past events. Once an argument starts, managers feel they have to win. So do the employees. Usually, neither wins.
Lack of interpersonal and interviewing skills is another common reason for avoiding reviews. If you do not know the techniques for directing the appraisal interview effectively, you are not likely to look forward to completing it.
But other issues arise as well. Many managers fear making matters worse by talking about performance. Some are anxious over who will review the completed forms. Sometimes their opinions may differ from higher level managers, and they allow this to overshadow real communication, which makes the entire process seem phony. Also, if the company's questionnaires are too complex, they take over the process and make it seem too bureaucratic.
An additional challenge centers on our challenging economy. The fact that an employee's work is favorable does not automatically ensure a promotion or raise, but employees sometimes expect one or both. This mistaken notion often results in disappointment for the employee, which may end up in the MLS quitting.
A performance appraisal is an opportunity for a conversation between a manager or supervisor and MLS, to discuss what they expect from each other and how well those expectations are being met. Performance appraisals are not adversarial proceedings or social repartee. They are an essential communication link between two people with a common purpose.
Leading those discussions is not always easy, but you can learn the principles and techniques for conducting effective appraisals and apply them to all of your employees. Performance appraisal systems must be workable, equitable, ongoing and as unbiased as possible.
Effective appraisal interviews depend in part on establishing limited, attainable objectives. The objectives are to:
- Set goals
- Judge results achieved in the past, and
- Establish goals for the future
Effective appraisals focus on:
- Performance, not personalities
- Valid, concrete, relevant issues, rather than subjective emotions and feelings
- Reaching agreement on what the employee is going to improve in his or her performance and determining what you can do to assist the employee in improving performance and productivity.
Many legal issues surround how employers can conduct reviews. The following are simply guidelines; they are not intended to replace legal counsel or representation.
Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection 1978 is the controlling federal law in the area of performance appraisals. Your appraisal system must have no adverse impact on any of the areas covered by the law, such as race, sex, religion, national origin, age or handicapped status.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires that any measure of employees must be valid and fairly administered. You must be able to prove:
- A skill is a valid, true and necessary requirement of the job.
- You consistently observe the employee performing the assigned tasks.
- Your rating criteria must be the same for all employees of the same grade, class or group.
- Performance can be described accurately and be based on documentation, such as logs and diaries.
- No sexual innuendo or sexual harassment colors the appraisal - or any other employee communications.
- Access to performance appraisals and other confidential items is controlled and limited because every employee has the right to privacy.
- Performance is accurately measured and described, and less-than-adequate performance is not praised.
There are five steps to conducting effective performance appraisals.
10 things to keep in mind
Here are the top 10 guidelines for performance appraisals:
- The process is not easy, but using the principles and techniques provided in this article, you can learn to do an effective job.
- Different managers have different styles and approaches. You must decide what works best for you and your company.
- The annual performance app-raisal is not a social event. Be careful not to lose your credibility by treating it lightly.
- The entire process must be carefully thought out and planned. Be sure to do your homework. Remember, you are in control and must not begin the interview until you have command of the issues and your emotions.
- Remember to adapt for different kinds of employees.
- Establish proper goals. They must relate directly to the job, and they must be S-M-A-R-T: Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Time and cost restricted.
- Keep a log, diary or list of the year's outstanding performances, as well as areas for improvement. acknowledge both throughout the year (successes publicly, areas for improvement privately) so there will be no surprises when you get to the year-end review.
- Follow the five steps for conducting an effective performance appraisal.
- Remember to create a "sandwich" - begin with the positive, fill in with the opportunities for improvement and close on a positive note.
- Follow through.
Every ISO with employees needs to conduct routine performance appraisals. Using these tools, you will be able to conduct an effective performance appraisal and continue to provide a climate conducive to on-going success.
Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at email@example.com or call her at 601-310-3594.
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