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Posts Tagged ‘performance reviews’

Hurricanes, Tornados and Floods, oh my!

Nice New World
Let’s face it, a natural disaster causes retention problems for employers.  Their staff moves and sometimes never returns to their “home”.  After a coastal business had seen their employee count reduced due to a natural disaster and available new employee options thinned out, they were very concerned about keeping the good employees they had! So, we were asked to examine the consistency of their hiring process, profile their top performers for a Talent Audit, and review how effective they were communicating internally.    

How did they review their employees?  “We don’t like our review system at all”, we were told. They had a formalized approach for all of their company employees when assessing their performance.  Their company consisted of executives, management professionals, administrative and production personnel.   Upon closer review, the directors of the company were being assessed as if they were performing the same job as the manufacturing floor personnel…all because someone had provided a template solution.   

It is not uncommon for an appraisal format to be swapped or shared among consultants or companies, with little regard being paid to the impact that it can have on the results the company is achieving.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many companies I’ve written appraisals for like an interactive conversational style review.  We provide an opportunity for a self-evaluation that the employee completes prior to the appraisal.  There are many advantages to doing so because it:  

  • helps to jog the memory of the employer if he has missed any highlights during the year
  • reveals the mindset of the employee…what is their perception…did they think they had an exceptional year, average or possibly have areas needing significant improvement?
  • reduces the anxiety on both sides of the table, reinforcing the quality of work the employee has accomplished throughout the year

 The Reluctant Reviewer

One employee told me that his supervisor was not a “communicator” and wanted to cover his annual performance appraisal by email…and her office was right next door! 

Not every manager finds that communicating comes naturally.  If an owner finds conversation difficult, I’ll suggest a review where a list of core values, traits or measurable tasks can be reviewed by the employee.  Both the manager and the employee  select from this list ranking each item in order of importance.  This can be a good “icebreaker” to help the manager understand why the employee views his job the way they do.  The manager can then follow up with questions and review the ranking, asking why each was ranked as it was and why they see it that way. 

One manager was considering terminating a long term relationship with an employee he judged as “having an attitude”.  He interpreted certain behaviors as resistant and rebellious.  After utilyzing the alignment system, the employee-employer relationship transitioned to a new level of understanding and cooperation after experiencing years of misunderstanding.  

Employee Retention Downfalls

Every review has an evaluation scale of some kind whether verbal or numerical.  One of the quickest ways to build resentment which usually leads to a retention issue is to inadequately explain the evaluation scale.  Any ambiguity equates to “I fill in my own interpretation.” 

When a manager rates someone as a 5-6 (meeting expectations) and the employee thinks are a 9-10 (exceptional performance), there is room for confusion and hurt feelings. If the employee understands that “exceptional performance” means there is absolutely no room for improvement and one consistently leads the company/department in this area…the evaluation rating takes on a new light. 

The manager can open up communication channels by asking how the employee believes their performance can reach the higher level.  If they do not know, provide examples as to how the next level of performance can be reached and how you can coach or mentor them.

The quickest way to lose an employee is to take out your anger or disappointment in a review based on something recent that has occurred.  One manager fell victim to a misdirected email regarding their personal policy about mandatory overtime and passively lashed out at the employee by rating an employee harshly in their review.  They revealed later that their overreaction and harsh rating drove a wedge in their business relationship that was never repaired.

Penalizing Performers 

Although forced ranking is a popular management philosophy of the day, I suggest we continue to reward performers at all levels. I was asked this question after speaking at a national convention …” should be a set number of “A, B and C performers “in each department”?  If a manager is doing an exceptional job of hiring and developing Top Performers in his department , why should he be penalized by a company formula limiting the number of A performers he has?

Unravelling Performance Appraisals…does one size fit all?

Externsteine - place of power
The subject line of the manager’s email reads: Annual Reviews Due!!  At that moment an audible groan is muffled behind every manager’s computer.  Why?

“Review time! We just finished forecasting and budgets!  Now, I’m going to pull more late nights and Saturdays!  There are just too many *%!@*  things to do around here!”

Reviews, appraisals, salary performance reviews or whatever you call the process…tend to sneak up on a manager’s horizon.  Following employee terminations, it could probably be ranked as a manager’s least favorite activity. Conversely, it is one of the most anticipated events of the year for an employee and can have a strong influence on whether a top performer stays or goes.

Why anticipated?  Well, an employee may receive infrequent feedback and wonder how their performance has been perceived. Or, they work remotely and it’s the time of year set to review how they’ve met their goals and to set goals for the new year.  Maybe, they’re waiting to hear if they get a salary increase or not.  But first, you, as the manager, have to get past the “manager dread”.

Manager Dread

Why do managers dread performance appraisals so much?

  • Not enough time has been set aside during the year to document performance and whether expectations were exceeded or just average
  • There are not regular performance talks (informal or formal) throughout the year, so it feels awkward to address “deep” issues
  • There are areas that need improvement with no clear goals, job descriptions or job duties so it appears that the manager is just  “adding more to their job, as needed”
  • The employee might ask specific questions about goals that are not measurable, and your review seems  contingent on how you feel about someone 

How can we make performance appraisals better experiences?

  • Professionally written job descriptions or guidelines
  • Know the traits that it takes to be successful in the position
  • Frequent informal communcation with the employee, including talks about performance 

Companies often will be able to tell you what it takes to make them successful, such as their core values and mission statement.  Yet, when it comes to breaking down the values, mission statement and strategies into bite-size parts for the employees to handle, it resembles a jigsaw puzzle fresh from the box.  How can that be avoided?

Next time: “One Employee’s Story” and How to Avoid Turnover

"Pat brings her charm, wit and insight into her advisory relationships and shares the same with her audiences. She's got the systems to back up her concepts."

- Frank Maguire FEDEX Senior Founding Executive

John Maxwell


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