Tips for Conducting Performance Appraisals
If you expect employees to continually develop and take on increasingly difficult challenges, you will need to provide them with feedback and coaching and help them meet performance goals. Performance appraisals provide a productive forum for identifying and correcting poor performance. Evaluate employees effectively and you will go a long way toward developing your staff into fully functioning and satisfied employees.
Prepare for the Appraisal
Give yourself adequate time to review an employee’s file, complete an evaluation of his or her performance, and outline topics for the session. It is also a good idea to note some talking points and do a mental walk-through of the meeting.
The employee also needs to prepare in advance. Notify the employee one to two weeks prior to the review and give him or her an evaluation form to use to assess his or her performance. Ask the employee to jot down concerns, questions, and opinions regarding his or her work and suggestions for improving it.
Prior to the review session, you and the employee should exchange and read the other’s evaluation so that you can come to the meeting prepared to talk about each other’s comments. This kind of preparation for the evaluation encourages active participation and facilitates discussion.
Explain the Reason for the Meeting
When you begin the review session, state the purpose of the meeting in straightforward terms. No matter how often employees have been through appraisals, they may not understand how their work is being judged, why it is being evaluated, or what the performance appraisal is for. Reassure the employee that your role as manager is to help the employee succeed in his or her job and to identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement.
Avoid using judgmental phrases and words like “poor performance” or “weakness.” You are there, however, to suggest ways in which an employee can improve his or her work and discuss causes of below-average performance. Express your concerns in concrete terms and use detailed examples.
Watch your Body Language
Effective face-to-face communication is critical during a performance appraisal. Pay attention to your manner and posture. Sit in a relaxed but forward-leaning position, maintain eye contact, and speak in a steady tone.
Your discussion should be guided by open and closed questioning techniques. Closed questions, which tend to elicit a “yes” or “no” response, require specific answers. Open questions encourage a general discussion and usually begin with “could,” “would,” “how,” “what,” or “why.” Use open questions at the beginning of the appraisal to stimulate discussion and closed questions at the end to summarize.
Foster Productive and Open Communication
Paraphrasing and concisely restating what the employee has said leads to more in-depth exploration. In general, when you reflect the employee’s thoughts, he or she feels understood and acknowledged.
Be Prepared for Negative Reactions
When you talk with an employee about poor performance or inappropriate behavior, he or she may deny, blame, fall silent, respond abusively, or have an emotional outburst, such as crying. If the appraisal session deteriorates, terminate it and reschedule the meeting.
During the appraisal, discuss any areas that are in need of improvement, and offer specific, realistic, and concrete suggestions and solutions. Be prepared to sell your improvement suggestions to the employee—he or she may not be receptive to your ideas. Together you and the employee should develop a plan to correct any problems.
Close the Interview
Summarize the major points and be sure to end on a positive, encouraging, and upbeat note, even when the employee is very troubled or deficient. If you cannot provide the employee with immediate feedback, follow up as soon as you can and finalize the appraisal in a timely fashion. The final appraisal becomes the official document that gets placed in the employee’s personnel file.