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End of year performance appraisal season is upon us

End of year performance appraisal season is upon us!

Where has 2011 gone? Carols are piping through shopping malls and train stations, it’s almost impossible to get a taxi on any night of the week, people are walking the streets wearing reindeer horns, and you can’t find anything half decent to watch on TV.

Yes … it’s that time of the year again.

Time for end of year performance reviews!

While some large companies have a team of people dedicated purely to employee engagement working full time on assessing employee satisfaction, co-ordinating 360º feedback and conducting performance appraisals, in smaller organisations employee engagement and staff satisfaction (key measures of staff retention) are often left to fall by the wayside.

Not only do regular one-to-one catch ups often get left out of the calendar entirely, but what should really be formal annual performance appraisals often become a quick impromptu catch up over a sandwich at a nearby café, a 15 minute chat in a taxi on the way back from a client meeting, or worse still a two-line email along the lines of “You’ve done a terrific job this year. Keep up the good work”.

For the benefit of both the organisation and employee, performance appraisals should ideally be conducted every six months (and definitely not just in a café or a taxi!).

A performance appraisal is a two-way street. No employee wants to turn up and be suddenly told about something they did wrong five months earlier, or just to have a “so how are you going?” informal chat. Similarly no manager wants to turn up to a review only to be told by an employee out of the blue that, “I’m really not enjoying this job any more”.

Preparation (from both parties) is key. Reviews should be booked into the calendar in advance. About two weeks prior to the scheduled review time, the employee should be sent a “pre-appraisal questionnaire” containing a series of several questions including:

• “What do you consider to be your key accomplishments in the last six months?

• “What are your top four priorities for the next six months?

• “What further training would you like?

• “Overall why are you a better employee now than you were six months ago?

As a manager you really need to get this questionnaire back with enough time to then prepare for the review. You can’t just get it back on the morning of the appraisal. You then need sufficient time to prepare your thoughts and comments.

A performance review should be in part reflective, but should also be a chance for targets, goals or objectives to be set for the next six months. But if you expect these goals to be reached or objectives met, you also need to appreciate that your staff member is expecting you to follow through on anything you might commit to – for example from a training or professional developmental perspective. So don’t just put the review documentation into their file and lock it away for another six months.

If you treat the performance review process seriously, then your staff will also take it seriously. They will feel more looked after and appreciated, and you will have a more constant finger on the pulse of what people are feeling like in your business.

So before you think about just having a quick word with your individual team members at the Christmas party as everybody shares their $10 Kris Kringle gifts, put some time in your diary between now and the end of the year to sit down one-on-one with your staff to ensure that you’re all on track for the year ahead. You’ll avoid any nasty surprises.

Cofounder at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for 20 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.