Ditch the Appraisal...
Yes I really mean it!
But I've not just dreamed this up as a good idea. There's a body of research that says people don't like them (in fact they are frequently hated...!), they can be toxic to our culture and well-being and there's very little evidence that they are any use at all.
They can be costly and have no impact on productivity. (Ref: Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior.)
In fact a a 2012 report gathered more than 23,000 employee ratings from 40 companies and found no sign that ratings had any effect on profits or losses. (Read it here)
Many companies do annual or semi-annual appraisals. I've done them and been on both sides of the appraisal equation. The appraiser and the appraise. In both circumstances I've frequently been at a loss when it's come to filling in the questions and ticking the boxes.
We tend to do them because we've always done them and not stopped to evaluate whether they actually work...it seems they don't!
In fact even according to brain imaging research, even high-performing employees automatically go into a defence mode when it comes to having their appraisals even when they have nothing material to fear. (Reference here).
So what should we do?
Yes I believe we do need to rate our players as research also says that the top 1% of our workforce accounts for 10% of our productivity. We need to know who these players are and not lose them. We also need to know who needs some support and who may not be a good fit for our team at all. Here are two ideas.
Sports fans love sport because of the results. Results come thick and fast during a season. Effective managers use these results to inform their decisions on overall strategy and game-by-game, play-by-play tactics. I think we need to do the same.
Most of our work these days is project-like. At the end of each project we can do a mini review such as:
Was it done on time, to quality and within budget
Who performed well
Who assisted from within or external to the team
Was it done according to the company values
These reviews may take a very short time to review and training and support needs can be identified and - importantly - executed immediately.
The Company's Values
A clear set of values is imperative to company health more than ever before and we can use these to evaluate our players on a regular basis without a formal review.
The values cover all aspects of a team member's behaviour: the way they talk to and treat co-workers, the support they give and receive, the recognition they give to others their sense of ownership and many more.
Calling out behaviour that is out of line or recognising behaviour that supports your values as it happens is another key way of developing our players.
One Size Doesn't Fit All - And a Word of Caution
Although getting rid of annual or semi-annual appraisals is a great idea...sorry there's no one alternative solution that will work for everyone. We need to try various approaches which are much closer to evaluating performance on a much more frequent basis.
However be careful. Too much attention is not good either!
Managers who are constantly looking over shoulders of their players cause anxiety and stress too! Players can perform very well when they are given enough autonomy to make decisions for themselves. We need to check in on them just regularly enough to provide them with feedback and support.
Be open with your team as you try new approaches. If they don't work try something new and re-evaluate. Either way I'm pretty sure they'll all thank you that they're no longer in annual appraisals!
Remember our Scaling Up workshop on 23rd May will discuss many of these types of issues along with other tools and techniques to keep you Scaling.
My best wishes,