The company I work for is in the business of producing software that automates employee performance appraisals and other talent management processes.
As such, I work every day with companies who are trying to improve the way they do performance appraisals. What often strikes me though is the fact that companies seem to have lost touch with “why” we even do performance appraisals. Many managers and companies do them primarily out of habit, to justify pay rises, or to document employee performance so they can legally support terminations. Some managers use them as a tool to wield power over their employees.
And I think these are the reasons why many employees, managers and companies are questioning their value.
To my mind, the reason any manager should conduct performance appraisals with their employees is because it’s their job. Now hear me out before you object too strongly.
A manager’s job is fundamentally to accomplish work through others. That is, a manager is supposed to:
- give their employees direction and support for their tasks/accomplishments,
- communicate and reinforce organisational priorities, values and goals,
- give employees feedback and direction on their performance,
- support employee development and career progression, and
- recognise and reward employees’ accomplishments.
Put more simply, managers are supposed to help their employees and the company be their best, and succeed.
And that’s what good performance appraisals are supposed to do:
- review the accomplishment of previously set and agreed to objectives,
- review the demonstration of core and job-specific competencies,
- identify and address areas needing development,
- set objectives for the coming year,
- align those objectives with the organisation’s goals/mission/vision/values, and
- support career advancement and upskilling.
In so doing, we address most of our employees’ basic needs for engagement.
And it helps us provide a safe place for human development and growth. It supports increased transparency, communication and awareness. It helps frame individual performance, behaviours, values and needs in the context of a larger collective – the larger group of employees and stakeholders who form “the company”. It lets employees know what we as an organisation value, and helps them see how they can influence the organisation’s success, driving accountability. All of these are hallmarks of a conscious business.
Now for this to truly happen, a manager should really function more as a mirror, guide and coach for their employees; not an authority who judges and corrects. I think we all need others to help give us perspective on ourselves and our circumstances, to help challenge us and broaden our views, to help us take stock and set goals.
Performance appraisals really need to just be the culmination of an ongoing, two-way dialogue about expectations, performance and development. The whole process should ideally be collaborative and collegial.
It’s when we lose sight – or “consciousness” – of the basic role of the manager and the performance review that we often go off the rails. Managers and companies become concerned with forms and processes, ratings and rankings, etc. They forget that performance management isn’t really something you do once a year during the employee’s performance appraisal. It’s something
managers and employees do every day; and it’s really just good basic management.
Sean Conrad is a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, where he helps customers automate and improve their talent management processes. He is passionate about improving the way companies manage and develop their employees, and writes and speaks frequently on the topic.