Handling the Performance Appraisal of a Not-so-great Performer
Q. It’s that time of the year again and I am dreading appraisals this year. With a 180-degree performance appraisal system at our office I will be evaluating my team of four members. What gets me worried is that one of my team members has not been consistent with his targets. What advice do you have for giving effective feedback that goes down well? – Suresh K.T.
A. Suresh, your reluctance towards performance appraisals is not uncommon and many managers share the same kind of discomfort, especially when giving bad news. But it is also vital to understand that even the best performers sometimes have rough patches. So to make sure that your appraisal is as fair, balanced and based on facts as much as possible, here are the steps you can follow:
Step 1: Your appraisal is only as fair as your appraisal system. It is important for HR to establish an unbiased system that takes into account not only aspects of the job on a macro level (company objective, values, mission statement), but also on the micro level (KPIs, job responsibilities). If you don’t have a systematized appraisal system in place, make your appraisal as empirical and objective as possible. Note down all the aspects of the job – micro and macro, and have a five point rating system (ranging from ‘below expectation’ to ‘exceeds expectation’). You should rate the employee on all parameters and the total average would correctly indicate how good or bad his/her performance has been.
Step 2: Hear the other side of the story. Make sure your appraisal system also includes a self-evaluation. Again, the self-evaluation system should take into consideration the factors similar to the ones described in step one. Ask your employees to cite specific examples when they rate themselves – this will make the system less subjective. Self-evaluation will also help you know how well the employee understands his/her responsibilities.
Step 3: Arrange for a one-on-one and prepare. Once you have scheduled a one-on-one discussion, make sure that you read his/her self-evaluation and compare it against your report. This will help you prepare for the flow of discussion. If both the evaluations are similar in rating on most factors, this means that you both are on the same page and that your teammate is well aware of his/her shortcomings. In case both the evaluations are vastly divergent in rating, this indicates that there are deeper issues to address, such as understanding of job responsibility and job-role match. This process makes the appraisal system more transparent and makes communication more open, which is vital. In fact Bayt.com’s ‘Work satisfaction in the MENA’ poll (November 2012) shows that more than a quarter of professionals in the Middle East and North Africa region feel that communication channels are not open in their organization
Step 4: During the one-on-one discussion. It’s the little things that can make this meeting more pleasant. Know that your employee is dreading it much more than you; it’s one thing to give feedback, it’s another to receive it.
Always begin by thanking the employee for the efforts and communicate the general highlights of the year’s performance. Then bridge with a question to open the conversation as related to the target inconsistencies. “I know you exerted a lot of effort, how do you feel about the results?” and “What could you have done to ensure consistency in achieving your targets?”. This will help keep the employee’s self-esteem intact will help acknowledge their performance challenges than to be told about them.
Step 5: Planning a roadmap to success. A good manager not only leads the team but also motivates them to achieve their fullest potential. Now that you have seen both sides of the story and communicated openly about the employee’s performance, you need to help them take their performance level a notch up. If time management is an issue help them plan their day or reallocate tasks. If insufficient knowledge or skills is the case offer them training options. Statistic available form Bayt.com’s ‘Work satisfaction in the MENA’ poll (November 2012) indicated that 20% of professionals agree that what they would most like to change about their job is their training and development path, thus offering training options is a step in the right direction.
However, at this stage you also need to set timelines for the coming months during which the employees performance will be evaluated on the lacking parameters. Be firm and diplomatic without being bossy and also communicate the consequences of bad performance.
If you follow a systematic, well-planned approach such as one above, you will definitely make it easier for all parties involved as well as more efficient. Good luck with this!