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Performance Appraisals: Are they helping or ruining your productivity?

We are all familiar with the traditional year end or mid year performance reviews and appraisals. While these are designed to ensure that employment standards and expectations are kept up, we would all be guilty of dreading these time periods.

For one, most corporate reviews would necessitate the time consuming process of endless form filling which takes away from the time we could spend on actual work.

While the intention behind the appraisal process may have been positive – to give employees and employers a chance to have a constructive conversation on their objectives, has the entire process become a mindless exercise that is now counterproductive to productivity? As we groan through reams of feedback emails and electronic forms required by the HR team, have we missed the forest for the trees? Has the feedback process become an additional work stream rather than an opportunity for mutually beneficial dialogue?

We would venture to assert that many companies utilise a "one size fits all" approach to appraisals without much thought to their own corporate cultures and how this links up to their employees as individuals. Perhaps, some companies have incorporated an appraisal process just to say they have one rather than one that is actually fit for purpose.

Using our own prior experience as a benchmark, the appraisals we have attended (both as the appraiser and the appraised) have been purely numbers driven. For the avoidance of doubt, we are not at all knocking numbers. Numbers is key. Without the numbers, there is no business to speak of. The question however, is how to achieve those numbers by harnessing all the collective skills of the team rather than trying to force every individual within the team to conform to a standard ideal.

At many an appraisal meeting, we have been presented with monetary value targets and how individuals have either met or not met those targets. While this is an important aspect of any business, are we thinking about the indirect and more nuanced contributions our employees have made? For example, Employee A may not close actual sales, but through the strength of his or her relationships with clients, he or she has enabled many of his or her colleagues to close the deals. Should our appraisals focus more deeply on the "how" rather than the "why"?

According to Naturalhr, a software company that provides online human resources services to a wide spectrum of companies, it states that: "An appraisal should reflect the employee’s job, their key responsibilities, their wider participation within the team and their overall contribution (or expected contribution) to company-wide business objectives. Appraisals should focus on performance and personal development with specific areas for employees and employers to concentrate their efforts on above and beyond the day-to-day environment."

This simple yet logical definition is profoundly true. As leaders, are we taking each appraisal as a way to empower our team to grow their individual careers? It is important to be mindful that as our employees grow, business growth is a collateral benefit that helps everyone to prosper. While this might sound simple enough, I could say with a certain degree of confidence (and certainly based on my own experience) that most performance review structures in most companies do not fulfil these objectives.

This is an excerpt based on a personal sharing from one of our clients, “I had an unsettling experience with one performance appraisal done with my direct manager in a giant MNC where appraisals are a must. She had focused on a minor mistake I did during one of my early months of joining as a junior as a reason not to give me an increment of a mere $35 after 1 year into the role. Many questions raced through my mind - why hadn't my manager mentioned this mistake to me immediately after I had done it? Was the purpose of an appraisal supposed to focus on my flaws and decrease my increment? In the end, based on that "mistake", my performance review for the year was rewarded with a low increment and an undesirable grading score."

As we move forward into this digital age of technology and with the influx of millennials and Gen Y&Z generation entering the workforce, it is time companies consider adapting different ways to purposefully appraise their employees.

Companies would need to creatively merge rewards and recognition opportunities based on prioritisation of regular acknowledgement and conversations, rather than a fixed 6-month and year end timelines, which by then, many managers would have forgotten the work of their employees.

Re-framing the appraisal process would also be another good direction. E.g managers could use it as an engagement vehicle to advocate Collaborative Conversations or Recognition and Reward mapping. Above all, as a company, your top priority should be retaining good employees, therefore, being fair and transparent is the best way into any conversation at work as employees will always know when you are being authentic.

At Engaging Leaders, we seek to empower our clients to grow and develop with us, much the same way that businesses should grow with their employees. We help our clients to navigate and strategise a purpose-designed engagement plan and develop toolkits to help each business create a performance review process. This has to suit their business needs and allow flexibility to recognise contributions that are representative of their culture, resulting in long-term sustainability. Ultimately through this journey, leaders can then effectively communicate with employees in a mutually beneficial manner, leading to positive business outcomes.

Does your appraisal process need to be appraised? Start with a discovery process with us.



Key Contact: Monica Tan

Monica Tan, Engaging Leaders, leads our clients through a journey of performance and change. With more than 15 years of client and project management experience, she serves as a key advisor to our clients.


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