As the year comes to a close, employers and employees are wrapping up their 2019 performance appraisals and looking forward to well-earned time to reflect on and celebrate their accomplishments. But, now also is the time for employers to prepare for the 2020 performance appraisal process so it provides the greatest opportunity to improve employee engagement and achievement.
Although the majority of employers are not required by law to conduct performance appraisals, it is generally in an employer’s best interests to engage in some form of employee reviews in order to document performance expectations and goals, as well as to provide documentation to help defend against potential lawsuits.
Begin With the End in Mind
At the start of the performance review process, supervisors should discuss their employees’ long-term aspirations with them and put the mechanics in place for employees to achieve their goals. Clearly defined key performance objectives (KPOs) should also be established so the employee understands the criteria that will be used to evaluate performance. By involving the employee in determining and agreeing upon the KPOs, the employer gains the employee’s commitment to them and improves the employee’s level of engagement.
Performance appraisals also should reflect the organization’s business values and goals. Performance objectives should include categories that address the type of behavior an employer would like to encourage among employees, in addition to expectations regarding job-specific skills.
If employers make their business goals and values part of the performance evaluation, employees will keep such requirements in mind throughout the appraisal period. Employees will also be more likely to achieve these goals and follow the employer’s values if they know they will be held accountable for them at review time.
A self-evaluation form may help an employee when considering KPOs and setting goals. If an employee has not performed well in an area that is central to those goals, they should focus on learning and development in this area. But if it’s an area where the employee has been focusing for some time with little improvement, the manager might need to help the employee review their development goals for the coming performance period. It may be more beneficial to the employee and the organization to focus on goals and KPOs that maximize the employee’s strengths.
Plan to Touch Base Regularly
Ideally, the appraisal process should be a yearlong conversation between employees and supervisors and be conducted with a view to increase overall employee engagement, retention and compliance. Even if your organization chooses to stay with an annual performance review, supervisors should provide regular feedback to employees to help them recognize their strengths and areas where they can improve. Doing so helps employees make realistic choices about their career development and also makes it less likely they will be surprised about feedback during a performance review.
It is important not to save employee conduct or performance issues until an annual review. Doing so can cause an employee to feel that issues were allowed to fester with no opportunity to understand and correct the problem. It also subverts the review from a forward-looking, positive and motivational process into one that looks backward and is seen as punitive.
Employers should clearly communicate with employees if performance expectations are not being met. If an employee is demonstrating deficiencies in a particular area, employers should immediately bring these deficiencies to the employee’s attention, with guidance on how their performance can be improved. It is important during such conversations to provide employees with an opportunity to provide their input, ask questions and otherwise engage in the discussion.
Likewise, employers should also commend employees when their performance improves, or when it meets or exceeds expectations. Recognition of success can greatly boost employee morale and motivate them to continue to do their best. Failure to acknowledge employees’ achievements, however, can decrease engagement and reduce motivation.
Early planning and goal setting and regular communication can lay the groundwork for an employee’s success with a prospect of a glowing performance appraisal at the end of the year.