What annual performance appraisals and Aunt Mary's fruitcake have in common

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Performance Management

What annual performance appraisals and Aunt Mary\'s fruitcake have in common

While many spent yesterday giving thanks and today will rush around to land the best Black Friday deals, the start of the holiday season can also mean the start of the annual performance appraisal process.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Yes, annual performance review time is quickly approaching for many organizations. And, like Aunt Mary’s overly dry Christmas fruitcake (wrapped in aluminum foil, dressed up with recycled red bow), there’s simply no escaping it.

Understandably, the whole process can be daunting to managers, stressful for employees and nothing short of a major headache for HR. But unlike Aunt Mary’s fruitcake, there are ways to turn the annual employee appraisal meeting into a beautiful thing. A highly effective and welcome (yes, I said welcome) process.

One that can elevate employee engagement, foster a high-performing culture and drive better business outcomes.

The manager’s role in performance management

Our suggestion? Avoid a mad, end-of-year scramble by holding managers accountable for performance management all year.

Would you say that managers in your organization are held accountable? Or is it just another end-of-year task to “wrap up” quickly before the holidays? If the latter approach rings true, it’s probably time to make a few changes.

Recognize that performance management is not an ‘event’

It’s critical for everyone in your organization to understand that performance management is a year-round activity, not a once-a-year event. A year-end review should be just what it is — a review. If your organization is following performance best-practices, there shouldn’t be any surprises for either the employee or the manager during the annual review meeting. Instead it’s an opportunity to review then look forward and discuss what’s next.

Five ways for managers to do performance management right

To ensure performance management is an ongoing, iterative and effective process throughout the year, your managers should:

1. Add more review meetings
Conducting performance reviews only once a year doesn’t exactly encourage ongoing dialog between managers and employees. More frequent review meetings have the benefit of dealing with the most current information.

They also allow a manager and employee to deal with a performance issue early on. Before it becomes a major stumbling block and turns into a tougher discussion or, worse yet, an unfortunate ending (i.e. termination).

2. Help employees to continually develop
In some organizations, employee development is only dealt with during the annual employee performance review. Development needs are identified based on performance ratings and “stretch” goals. Then, a few courses or learning activities are assigned. Bad idea.

A better way to ensure continuous growth, improvement and engagement is to provide ongoing coaching and assign development activities as needs arise. When development plans are tied directly to performance needs it also ensures organizations can more easily measure the effectiveness of these plans.

3. Use a performance journal
Unless you’ve kept copious notes throughout the year, writing employee performance reviews at the end of the year tends to result in skewed evaluations. i.e., we easily remember what happened in the last quarter but tend to forget the details of what went on much earlier in the year.

The easiest solution is to keep a record of employee performance year round. Managers and employees should jot down notes on milestones, accomplishments, successes and challenges as they occur — while they’re still fresh in one’s mind.

4. Monitor goal progress
Employee goals should never be finalized, tucked away and ignored until the end of the year. By the time the annual employee performance review meeting rolls around, it’s simply too late to take corrective action to ensure goals are met or to adjust goals that are no longer SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based).

The economy, competitive landscape and many other things can change in a flash. Therefore it’s critical to stay on top of the status and ongoing value/appropriateness of goals at all organizational levels.

5. Provide feedback, feedback and more feedback
A recent blog post by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni, states that employees in every sector are starving for feedback. All the more reason not to wait until the end of the year to give it! If managers withhold feedback, employees could become disengaged — and pose a retention risk.

Opportunities for feedback are all around. Invite feedback from from peers, customers and, of course, managers. According to Kaye and Winkle Giulioni, “Feedback really does help employees grow where they are, so they won’t go and grow somewhere else.”

Where to go from here…

Like I said earlier, there’s no way to escape the year-end performance review process, but it can be made significantly better –and certainly more welcome that Aunt Mary’s fruitcake. From which, alas, there is no escape.

Interested in more talent management best-practices to share with your managers? Visit Halogen’s Center of Excellence — performance management training for managers. Here, you’ll find some great resources your organization can use to transform your employee review process to an “all-season” activity that delivers results.

Performance Management Training for Managers


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Performance Management Training for Managers


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