3 Steps to Get You Through Those Dreaded Appraisals!

With the end of the year approaching fast, now is a really good time for you to be thinking about annual appraisals. It is ideal if you can complete them all by the end of the year, as they give you a good opportunity to review the performance of your staff this year; and to plan what you want them to achieve next year.

Many managers approach appraisals with fear and trepidation. However, if you put some time into preparing for them, they can be a very useful tool for developing your people and improving performance across your business. Read on to find out how to this simply and efficiently!

It seems that many managers, whether relatively new to the job, or with many years of experience, would rather not spend more time than is absolutely necessary on annual appraisals. They have bad press as being a waste of everyone’s time. This is quite possible, if you approach them at the last minute, with no preparation. Here are three steps that will help you and your employees to find them much easier to get through and actually get the best from your time.

  1. Preparation

This is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process and is often missed or skipped over too quickly. You need to have facts about each employee’s performance and evidence of instances in which they have performed well or badly. This will make the appraisal constructive and meaningful.

Throughout the year, track each employee’s performance and keep a log of memorable incidents or projects they’re involved in. Look back at previous appraisal information and job descriptions to make sure they are meeting their agreed objectives.

Make sure that your employees are prepared too. Agree the date, time and place for the meeting at least two weeks in advance; brief them on the importance and scope of the meeting and what you expect from them. Ask them to spend some time thinking about what they’d like to discuss at the meeting too. Click here for an example of a form that you can ask each employee to complete before the appraisal.. If an employee also works for someone else in the business, ask them to be involved too.

  1. The Meeting

Once the preparation is done, here’s how to carry out the meeting:

  • Ask open and probing questions, giving your employees the opportunity to decide how to answer; encourage them to talk freely
  • Listen to what they say without interrupting. Also watch their body language for messages
  • Evaluate performance, not personality. Focus on how well the employee does their job rather than personal characteristics
  • Give feedback based on facts not subjective opinion. Use feedback to positively reinforce the good. In the case of underperformance, use it to help the employee understand the impact of their actions or behaviour and the corrective action required
  • Set SMART objectives for the future and set a timeline for improvement if an employee is underperforming. Look also for development opportunities to help your employees reach their potential.

Document each appraisal. Write a summary of the discussion, what was agreed and any action to be taken while it’s fresh in your mind.

  1. Follow Up

Don’t just walk away at the end of the meeting, breathing a sigh of relief and forgetting about it all until next year!

Do what you say you will do. Fulfilling your promises reflects well on you and your business. If you’ve set deadlines for performance reviews, follow up on them. Check on progress that you discussed in the meeting.

Not following up with appraisals means that the whole process will be a waste of time and something that neither you nor your employees look forward to or find useful. Spend some time planning and preparing and you’ll find them really useful and productive.

If you need help with appraisals, why not use our Appraisal Service? We will help you to hold meetings that actually work for you, your staff and your business. Click here to find out more.

What’s the Difference Between Informal and Formal Appraisals?

This is a question I’m often asked by managers, so I thought I would answer it here.

A performance appraisal can occur in two ways – informally or more formally (or systematically.) Informal appraisals can be carried out whenever the supervisor feels it is necessary. The day-to-day working relationship between a manager and an employee offers an opportunity for the employee’s performance to be assessed. This assessment is communicated through conversation on the job, over coffee, or by on-the-spot examination of a particular piece of work. Informal appraisals are especially appropriate when time is an issue. The longer feedback is delayed, the less likely it is to encourage a change in behaviour. Frequent informal feedback to employees can also prevent surprises when the formal evaluation is communicated. However, you should make sure that they don’t become too informal – don’t be tempted to discuss an appraisal in the pub!

Although informal appraisals are useful, they should not take the place of formal appraisals. These are used when the contact between a manager and an employee is more formal. This could be when they don’t see each other on a daily, or even weekly basis. It requires a system to be in place to report managerial impressions and observations on employee performance.

When Should You Carry out Appraisals?

Appraisals typically are conducted once or twice a year, most often annually, near the anniversary of the employee’s start date. For new employees, common timing is to conduct an appraisal 90 days after employment, again at six months and annually after that. ‘Probationary’ or new employees, or those who are new and in a trial period, should be evaluated frequently—perhaps weekly for the first month and monthly thereafter until the end of the introductory period for new employees. After that, annual reviews may be sufficient.

Some managers prefer to meet with their employees more frequently. Some companies in high-technology fields are promising accelerated appraisals— six months instead of a year—so that employees receive more frequent raises. The result for some companies has been a reduction in turnover among these very turnover-prone employees.

A regular time interval is a feature of formal, systematic appraisals that distinguishes them from informal appraisals. Both employees and managers are aware that performance will be reviewed on a regular basis and they can plan for performance discussions. In addition, informal appraisals should be conducted whenever a manager feels they are desirable.

Should We Talk About Pay As Well?

Many experts say that the timing of performance appraisals and pay discussions should be different. The major reason for this view is that employees often focus more on the pay amount than on what they have done well or need to improve. Sometimes managers may manipulate performance appraisal ratings to justify the desired pay treatment for a given individual.

However you carry out appraisals – whether informally or formally – take some time to think about the pros and cons of the different options. This will help you implement the best process for the development of your business and your employees.

How Do You Make Sure Your Employees are Performing to the Best of their Ability?

How Do You Make Sure Your Employees are Performing to the Best of their Ability?

Your people are the key to the success of your business. By investing in them you are investing in your success. But how do you make sure they are working as hard as they can, to bring about that success?

Here are our top 10 tips to help you get the most from your people:

1. Provide a vibrant and stimulating working environment and a culture that values the contribution made by each person

2. Embrace the diverse range of skills, expertise, experience, attitudes and backgrounds of all your staff

3. Encourage your staff to reach their full potential. Provide them with opportunities to develop their expertise, both in terms of technical and soft skills

4. Provide formal and informal performance reviews on a regular basis

5. Set clear objectives and achievable targets with your staff and allow them to air their concerns within an environment of trust and honesty

6. Deal with issues as soon as they arise. Don’t wait for them to become a significant problem

7. Equip your managers with the skills they need to deal with difficult situations confidently and effectively

8. Reinforce and reward good performance. Provide incentives and rewards that motivate each individual member of staff

9. Offer a clear career path to incentivise employees to be the best they can be

10.Conduct regular employee questionnaires to highlight areas for concern and ensure staff feel that you value their opinions.

Managing staff is often the hardest part of any manager’s job. Follow these simple tips and you’ll find it easier to encourage your staff to put their best efforts into working with you.

How to Make Appraisals Really Easy

Appraisals should be divided in three stages – preparation, the actual meeting and the follow up. Here’s what to focus on at each stage.

 1. Preparation

This is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process and is often missed or skipped over too quickly. You need to have facts about each employee’s performance and evidence of instances in which they have performed well or badly. This will make the appraisal constructive and meaningful.

Throughout the year, track each employee’s performance and keep a log of memorable incidents or projects they’re involved in. Look back at previous appraisal information and job descriptions to make sure they are meeting their agreed objectives.

Make sure that your employees are prepared too. Agree the date, time and place for the meeting at least two weeks in advance; brief them on the importance and scope of the meeting and what you expect from them.

2. The Meeting

Once the preparation is done, here’s how to carry out the meeting:

  • Ask open and probing questions, giving your employees the opportunity to decide how to answer; encourage them to talk freely
  • Listen to what they say without interrupting. Also watch their body language for messages
  • Evaluate performance, not personality. Focus on how well the employee does their job rather than personal characteristics
  • Give feedback based on facts not subjective opinion. Use feedback to positively reinforce the good. In the case of underperformance, use it to help the employee understand the impact of their actions or behaviour and the corrective action required
  • Set SMART objectives for the future and set a timeline for improvement if an employee is underperforming. Look also for development opportunities to help your employees reach their potential
  • Document each appraisal. Write a summary of the discussion, what was agreed and any action to be taken while it’s fresh in your mind.

3. Follow Up

Don’t just walk away at the end of the meeting, breathing a sigh of relief and forgetting about it all until next year!

Do what you say you will do. Fulfilling your promises reflects well on you and your business. If you’ve set deadlines for performance reviews, follow up on them. Check on progress that you discussed in the meeting.

If you don’t follow up with appraisals, the whole process will be a waste of time and something that neither you nor your employees look forward to or find useful.

Still need some help? If you follow all these tips and still think that carrying out appraisals seems too difficult, we can help. Full preparation, support during the meetings and follow up for just £90 +VAT per employee! To find out more or to book dates for your appraisals, call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me straight away.

Scrooge’s Guide to Presents

In case you missed my December email newsletter, here’s a catch up for you!

The start of a new year is the time when some businesses think about how best to reward their staff for their hard work over the last 12 months. Instead of a one-off ‘thank you’, what about putting a more ongoing, sustainable rewards scheme in place?

Here’s the story of how one Dickensian employer got it right!

Ebenezer Scrooge loved Christmas! He really enjoyed giving his staff time off, to spend with their families over Christmas. He encouraged them to go Christmas shopping and to send cards to all their friends.

Mr Scrooge even loved giving presents to his staff. But he often struggled to find the best gift for each person. So one year, had a great idea. Instead of buying each member of his team a gift at Christmas, Mr Scrooge decided to set up a reward system for all his staff, which would run all through the year, rewarding them on an ongoing basis for their hard work.

Here’s what Ebenezer Scrooge did to create the best Christmas present that lasts for 12 months:

  1. He put a structure in place – just a simple one to begin with
  2. He took the time to identify the things that were really important to his staff – including non-financial benefits – and incorporated them into his strategy
  3. He invested in making his company an interesting and fulfilling place to work. This helped him to attract great people and helped keep overall pay costs down
  4. He created a scheme that was simple to understand, so that his line managers didn’t struggle to explain it. They were key to making his reward structure a success
  5. He didn’t assume that it was just about pay. According to research that Mr Scrooge read, some executives would consider a pay cut of up to 35% in order to get their ideal job.
  6. Then he reviewed the scheme and the effect it had on his staff throughout the year, to make sure he was still getting it right
  7. And finally he enjoyed spreading Christmas cheer amongst his staff all year long and they loved working for him!

 

Think about how you can engage your staff beyond Christmas by setting up a reward scheme this year.

One of my employees is underperforming. How long do I give them as a review period?

The answer to this question is that there’s no statutory time frame for improvements for underperformance.

Timescales for an employee’s improvement must be reasonable and will depend on the circumstances, including the employee’s role and position within your company and his or her length of service and past performance. In some cases, a review period of a few weeks may be sufficient – for tasks that are carried out every day, or for performance that can be seen every day, such as starting work on time. In others cases, a review period of several months may be more appropriate, for longer term activities such as sales.

When you agree to provide your employee with additional training or support, this will need to take place before their performance can sensibly be measured again. You should make sure that you monitor your employee’s performance during the relevant review period. The period should be long enough to allow you to assess whether or not your employee has made and sustained the necessary improvements.

The answer to this question will also be different for each different situation. If you have a member of staff whose performance needs to be reviewed, get in touch and we can talk about the situation, to help you work out the best way forward.

You can also find out more by watching one of my recent videos, by clicking here.

How to Give Great Feedback to Your Staff

Motivating your employees is about more than your charisma and vision for your business. To help your employees perform their best, as their leader you need to provide feedback – the right kind, at the right time. Feedback is an essential tool for any manager, whether you run a small business or a large company.

Just as they need blood and oxygen, our brains need to receive comments about how they’re doing. Feedback works on the emotional system in the brain. It enables the brain to use higher-level thinking skills to decide how to continue doing good work, make the good work better, or make changes to get more positive responses and work harder toward company goals. Your leadership skills rely heavily on your ability to give and receive feedback.

Here are some ways in which you can feed your employees’ brains and give great feedback:

Be specific and timely. Comment while the task is still in the mind of your employee. This is especially important if you’re working toward a specific goal and you want to keep the momentum going. Specific feedback corrects or reinforces certain behaviours, enabling the brain to focus on something concrete, which it doesn’t do from a simple “Thank you.” If you decide to congratulate employees as a group, be sure to talk to each one personally as well.

Fit the feedback to the person. Now and then you may need to provide a pat on the back to one of your employees, or a nudge in the right direction, in a subtle yet supportive way. For such feedback to be really motivational, provide it in a way that’s best suited to the recipient.

Connect your feedback to company goals. Goals help the brain focus. Make your employees feel that their contributions are valued and create a positive emotion with the feedback. Some employers want to encourage competition, so they make sure that the entire company or department sees how everyone is doing.

Set up a schedule for follow-up conversations. A quick memo or email can easily be misinterpreted, so continued face-to-face feedback is best. Studies have shown that negative feedback may be less stressful to the brain than no feedback at all; for this reason, follow-ups are especially important for employees who need improvement. Put your message in writing as well as delivering it verbally.

Build on employees’ strengths when giving negative feedback. By beginning with the strengths, you involve the prefrontal cortex right away. If you begin with negativity, the information may never reach the frontal lobe; it may get stuck in the primitive emotional areas and put the employee in survival mode. Always give suggestions for improvement.

See if you can work all these points into your appraisals, or any time when you’re giving feedback and you’ll find it much easier to deliver, as well as much more effective in creating improvements in your employees’ performance.

With thanks to Marilee B. Sprenger, author of The Leadership Brain For Dummies

Getting Started with Performance Appraisals

Here are some things to think about, before you carry out your annual staff appraisals, to make them less daunting and more effective. We’ll go into more details on these tips and what to actually in the appraisal meeting, at our forthcoming workshop on 11 September 2013.

Prepare. A good appraisal form will provide a natural order for proceedings, so use one. If you don’t have a standard appraisal form then find one online – there are plenty of templates available. Organize your paperwork to reflect the order of the appraisal and write down the sequence of items to be covered. If the appraisal form includes a self assessment section and/or feedback section, make sure you give this to each member of staff in plenty of time, allowing them to complete it before the meeting.

Part of your preparation should also consider ‘whole-person’ development, beyond and outside the job skill-set. Many people are not particularly interested in job skills training, but will be interested and motivated by other learning and development experiences. Get to know what your people are good at outside of their work. Appraisals are not just about job performance and job skills training. Appraisals should focus on helping the ‘whole person’ to grow and attain fulfilment.

Inform. Let your staff know when and where their appraisal will be held. Give them the chance to assemble any data and relevant performance and achievement records they need.

Venue. Plan a suitable venue that’s private and free from interruptions. Privacy is absolutely essential.

Layout.  Room layout and seating are important elements as they have huge influence on atmosphere and mood. Irrespective of content, the atmosphere and mood must be relaxed and informal. Remove barriers – don’t sit across the desk from your staff member; use a meeting table or easy chairs and sit at an angle to each other.

Introduction. Relax your member of staff by opening with a positive statement. Smile, be warm and friendly to create a calm and non-threatening atmosphere. Set the scene by explaining what will happen and encourage a discussion and as much input as possible from them

When you spend some time thinking about how you’ll carry out your annual appraisals, they’ll be much more effective for both you and your members of staff.

For more information, come to our workshop on 11 September 2013 for just  £12 +VAT. Click here for the details and online booking.

Should You Bother with Appraisals

Should You Bother with Appraisals

Why should you bother with appraisals? Because you don’t know if you don’t ask.

Essentially a conversation, appraisals are a very useful conversation when you want to get the best out of your employees and see your business grow. Useful for finding out information and giving feedback, appraisals are also a great opportunity for employees to reflect on their goals, objectives and contributions. Well conducted appraisals result in a better understanding of your team, allow positive changes and increase morale.

What you can find out from an appraisal:

  • There may be expertise or knowledge within your team that you didn’t know about
  • Some employees may feel dissatisfied with their role or may be struggling with their work
  • You may find some gaps in the knowledge of your employees
  • Maybe they are really happy and performing well!

What do you do with this information?

This knowledge allows you to sort out problems and make sure individual employees are the right people for the right roles. If someone is more suited to a different role, re-structuring will make a more effective use of the people you have.

You can organise training that is required to increase efficiency and encourage staff to share expertise with their colleagues.

When misunderstandings and communication problems surface, you can organise regular team meetings to keep everyone in the loop.

Getting your employees’ views allows you to find out what they need and gives them a sense of being in control of their job. Without talking to the people you work with you remain oblivious to problems that may be hindering productivity, motivation and ultimately the success of your business.

What can you tell your employees?

An appraisal is your chance to say “well done” or ask the questions to find out why an individual is not be performing at their best. Money is not always the best way to reward people for good work; recognition is extremely motivational. Appreciation and praise encourages loyalty and focus. Individuals who have received positive feedback about their work are more likely to give 110%.

So why bother?

Because regular appraisals make sure your team remains highly motivated and satisfied at work which ultimately increases productivity, reduces absenteeism and staff turnover. Carried out professionally and sensitively, they are an essential component of success in business.

To find out about how to carry out effective appraisals, book you place on the workshop I’m running in Henley on Thames on 11 September 2013. Click here to book your place online for just £12 +VAT.

What Do Employees Want from Appraisals?

Many people have had bad experiences of appraisals, so many employers don’t enjoy carrying them out. However, for your business and your staff to progress, some form of regular appraisal is essential.

If you put yourself in the shoes of your members of staff, you can both get more from your time together. There are five things that your employees need to know at their appraisal:

  • Tell me what’s expected of me – talk to me about goals and expectations so that I can work towards them.
  • Give me the opportunity to perform – give me the chance to take responsibility and let me show you how good I am.
  • Tell me how I’m getting on – if you like what I’m doing, tell me; if you’re concerned about my progress, I need to know that too.
  • Give me support guidance and development – help me to grow and develop by giving me what I need to reach my goals.
  • Recognise my contribution – say thank you to show that you’re grateful for all the hard work I put in.

When you can meet these five needs, you’ll be able to carry out a much more effective appraisal, both for you and your employees. On 11 September I’m running a short workshop to help you carry them out even more smoothly. To book your place online, click here.