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8 Savvy Ways to Perk Up Performance Appraisals

Editors Note: This guest post by Nick Hedges originally appeared on LinkedIn. His opinions are his own.

The idea of having performance appraisals can make team members feel all sorts of emotions. Some feel fear and anxiety, others may feel neutral or excited, or even entitled. As the time for performance appraisals approaches, here are 8 areas management can review in helping upcoming appraisals to be more valuable, insightful and inspiring.

1. Set expectations

All managers and team members should know the specific time and location of the appraisal, as well as the topics and themes to be discussed. The element of surprise is best kept away from performance appraisals as meetings will be most productive when those gathered are as comfortable and clear-headed as possible. If positioned well within a business, performance appraisals should be recognised by the team as part of a normal series of events and conversations that happens throughout the year.

2. Be prepared

As cliché as it may sound, being prepared for each appraisal is an essential way to maximise everyone’s time and reach the most valuable outcomes. If all attendees have relevant background knowledge and adequate preparations then the meeting should progress in a smooth and orderly fashion.

Managers can do additional preparations such as knowing about the employee’s work circumstances and any relevant information, knowing where the boundaries are to be set within each appraisal, particularly if it comes to negotiation, and by creating the right setting with comfortable seating and no outside disturbances. Although the meeting may flow into a two-way conversation, it is important for managers to stay on topic and guide team members back from other non-relevant areas if they digress. Other topics can be scheduled for a later discussion.

3. Keep it positive

Most people would naturally want to shield themselves from negative feedback. An appraisal is a time when an employee may need to hear about such findings as low performance levels. When giving feedback, it is possible for criticism to be constructive and for feedback to be made to feel positive.

Think about repositioning any ‘negatives’ as challenges and developmental opportunities. When arriving at each meeting, it can start well to be there with a positive intent and with an attitude that the performance appraisal will be a great way to smooth out the past, stabilise the present and get excited for the future. If any improvements need to be made, focus on the ‘how’ aspects of getting the team members to want to improve, such as through additional training, goal-setting or mentoring.

By keeping it positive, the rapport should be positive, helping to uplift the mood of the team members and making it easier for any ‘challenging’ feedback to be taken positively.

4. Be 0pen and non-judgemental

This is a time for team members to have their say and ‘get things off their chests’. They may feel uncomfortable about broaching topics of concern, perhaps not even sure how to raise some issues. As a manager, it is important to remember that although appraisals have a managerial function, they are intended to give each team member their time to be open, upfront and honest. By listening calmly and intently, and being open and non-judgemental in any response, conversations can be more open and productive, with quicker solutions and better outcomes.

5. Be compassionate and empowering

Team members like to feel cared for, acknowledged, recognised and supported, and a performance appraisal is a great opportunity to show your care and support. When a team member feels that their thoughts are being heard and understood by management and that they have a supportive ‘partner’ in their career future, they will feel empowered and committed to achieving mutual success. If goals or KPIs are being set, ask employees for input and find out their career aspirations and visions. Discover ways to create a shared vision that you can achieve together.

6. Watch how you say it

The tone of what we say may be more important than what we actually say, but in saying that, of course, what we say is important too! During appraisals, team members’ senses may be heightened and they are more likely to contemplate non-verbal cues during and after the appraisal.

Managers should be aware of how they speak, including their own non-verbal responses, such as body posturing, facial expressions, hand gestures and eye-contact, though being natural in general. Managers should feel comfortable to ‘not rush ahead’, even to slightly elongate their response time following a question to help remain as clear and articulate as possible.

7. Follow up

It can be easy for a round of performance appraisals to come and go, merely passing by as a formality but if used well, appraisals can provide the basis for touchpoints with team members as the business moves forward. Follow-ups with team members could be about goals that were set, challenges that were presented or resolved, milestones that were achieved and more.

Having frequent catch-ups outside of the performance appraisal setting can foster and promote a workplace with increased communication, more cohesive performance and higher levels of overall satisfaction. Ideally, managers and their team should be catching up regularly – every week, fortnight or at least monthly. The ‘formal’ performance appraisal then becomes somewhat of a summary or culmination of all the little ongoing conversations.

8. Harness the information

During an appraisal there is a lot of conversational content generated and in this ‘online age’, there are accessible and economical tools that can help. Ideally businesses can incorporate an online system that monitors the progress, challenges and developmental aspects all team members.

Good luck with your performance discussions – don’t build them up bigger than they ought to be!

Nick Hedges

Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice and training to managers and business owners.

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