Before we get started on these performance appraisal examples, have you read the first article in this series on employee performance review? You might get more from this article by starting there. And if you just want to look at a sample form then click here (but again I recommend you read this article first!)
As we said in the earlier article, an employee job performance review should simply be the climax of the regular Performance Feedback and Discussion meetings you have been having with your team member.
Isn't it interesting that in many organizations, time is only made to sit down and talk with team members when there is a crisis. Leaders in high performance organizations are far more proactive than this. They not only say the words, "our people are our greatest asset", but they put them into action by making sure that people are regularly connected with, and that they take the time to regularly meet face-to-face, to discuss those things they need to enhance their performance.
Many of the elements in this sample performance review can be used on a bi-weekly or monthly basis for informal get togethers with your team member.
Prior to the Meeting You and The Team Member Pre-Plan
Two weeks prior to the formal job performance review and feedback discussion, set a date, and time, for the discussion and personally hand the Performance Feedback Form to your team member. Ask your team member to pre-plan, and think about the areas they want to talk about, and to make notes of points they wish to discuss.
Ask the team member being reviewed to bring three lists to the performance feedback session:
- Areas where the team member performs well (the strengths s/he brings to the team);
- Areas where the team member has shown recent improvement; and
- Areas where the team member feels weak and believes s/he needs support to operate differently in order to get better results.
- There is a fourth list, just as vital as the first three. The fourth list is the team member's response to the question: "What can I, as your leader, do differently so you can be more effective in your job?"
It is best to give the team member time to think through these lists, and if you haven't been having regular meetings, (and if you haven't been having regular meetings you need to think about how you might improve YOUR performance in this area), you may want to give him/her a couple of weeks to complete this piece of work.
It is critical to let the team member know, that you will also complete these lists prior to the meeting, and during the meeting together you will fill in the performance appraisal form. Team members are more likely to bring candid responses to the table.
So, share with the team member the purpose of the pre-work: "I want your input, because generally you know best where you shine and where you need support, and I will also share with you my perspective on areas where:
- You shine and how you contribute to the organization;
- You have shown recent improvement; and
- There is a performance gap for you which we need to cover off."
The key point here is that, your team member will hear you say that there are performance areas you value in their work, and just as importantly, that the s/he can still improve in other aspects of the job.
It is Human Nature Not To Want To Discuss Faults
This is why I'm not a fan of performance appraisals ... particularly those with ratings attached to them. You are on a hiding to none before you even get started. Performance appraisals are emotional discussions - there's no avoiding it.
It is human nature not to want to bring up our faults; but it is also human nature to prefer to point out our own shortcomings rather than having someone else do it.
Because, in the pre-work, you've asked your team member to identify those areas where she or she could improve performance you've taken long strides towards overcoming this challenge.
There's a psychological principle that you should be aware of called 'loss aversion'. Humans are hard-wired to screen for loss. We are mentally asking ourselves, about every single event we encounter, "What could this cost me?"
The cost in a performance appraisal is loss of salary potential, lost of self-esteem and loss of status. Everyone of us knows that stepping into a performance appraisal because we are going to be rated and be found wanting ... because of course none of us are perfect. Even though we'd like to think we are!
Because of loss aversion even if you say 15 great things about an individual and one weakness ... you can almost guarantee they'll spend more time focused on that negative comment, than all the great things you said.
You can soften the blow of negative feedback by saying something like, "One of the areas you could enhance performance is in ...."
Create The Right Environment
Schedule one hour of uninterrupted time: the discussion may well take less than an hour, but it is important not to rush the meeting. If you do rush the meeting, you might just be closing the door on an open exchange of views. Allow ample time - don't schedule in an important meeting 20 minutes after the meeting or have a lunch date waiting in the foyer. Your team member needs to feel that you take this incredibly seriously.
Set up a comfortable environment to talk: choose a suitable environment which allows free and relaxed conversation, privacy and is free of disturbances. Book a meeting room or arrange to use a free office, the door closed with a 'do not disturb sign' to discourage people from popping in 'to ask a quick question!'
Mobiles, computers, phones should all be switched off.
Ideally the team member should be speaking about 80% of the time. The focus of the leader, particularly while the team member is presenting his or her own assessment of their performance, is to listen without interrupting and use questions to aid clarification (your time, to offer your viewpoint, comes after the team member).
Keep The Meeting on Track
It is important to keep the meeting on track.
Cover the areas outlined in the performance appraisal form and/or the pre-work you completed and how the person's performs against those criteria.
If, during the meeting, it becomes clear that an issue is coming up that needs more in-depth discussion, make sure you park it and move on.
For example, say in the course of the discussion, you identify the need to re-organize work flows because the process is having a negative impact on people's performance. It is a mistake to get caught up in that discussion. Advise that you will park this for another discussion and move on with the performance appraisal.
Remember that a Performance Feedback & Development discussion is not designed to replace feedback on "day to day" work issues. Throughout the year you will be addressing performance issues as, and when, they occur. When a team member arrives for the performance appraisal he or she should come to this meeting absolutely clear about your perception of his or her performance ... there shouldn't be any surprises and/or bombshells.
A Performance Feedback & Development discussion is not the time to raise contentious issues for the first time - nor are they disciplinary meetings. However, if you've spoken several times about a contentious issue or a pattern of behavior that is causing concern, it won't be a surprise to them if you raise the subject again and use it as an example (but do balance it with other behaviors that the person is getting right).
Want a sample performance appraisal form to download? Go to the performance appraisal form page.
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