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.

Is it Cheaper to Look After Your Staff or Cheaper to Replace Them When They Leave?

How can the loss of key staff members be prevented when so many employers are not interested in managing retention?

Many employers don’t attempt to manage retention of their staff. Those that do so seldom evaluate the impact of their measures, and often base them on unreliable assumptions about the reasons why employees resign.

Several research studies have shown that retention is linked to employee engagement, which in turn is linked to profitability, customer service and other important business metrics. So is it better to focus on improving engagement, rather than retention. Or should you not worry and just bear the cost of replacing people when they leave?

Despite all the evidence that staff attrition costs money, many businesses take no active steps to control their staff turnover. Research has shown that action is most likely to be taken after the event: when turnover has already become a problem and damage is being done to organisational efficiency.

Studies also consistently show that employers tend to mishandle their efforts to manage retention, focusing on issues that they believe are linked to resignations rather than those that actually motivate staff to leave. Pay in particular is often used to encourage employees to stay, yet it is much less of a deciding factor in employees’ own decision-making than being offered career opportunities, being kept informed and consulted and having faith in the business’s leadership.

What is ‘employee engagement’?

It embraces the older concepts of job satisfaction, motivation and attachment that described individual employees’ attitudes to their employer, but goes beyond them to provide a complete model of the psychological relationship between individuals and organisations. It is a two-way process in which employers and employees interact and respond to each other, unlike the more static concept of job satisfaction.

Employee engagement involves two issues:

  • personal satisfaction in the individual’s job or role (“I like my work and do it well”); and
  • the individual’s contribution to their employer’s success (“I help achieve the goals of my organisation”).

Staff retention can be used as a measure of employee engagement, with many companies now believing that employee engagement is one of the keys to managing performance and retaining talent. Initiatives to improve employee engagement are much more likely to gain the interest and active support of senior management than those focused narrowly on increasing staff retention. Employee engagement has much broader business benefits, including:

  • increased profitability
  • faster revenue growth
  • improved organisational efficiency
  • better attendance levels
  • heightened customer focus.

Look after your staff and they are more likely to look after you and the future of your business. If you need some advice or ideas on employee engagement, email us at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk or call 0118 940 3032.

How Do You Deal with Poor Staff Performance?

What do you do when you first think that one of your members of staff isn’t doing as well as you would like them to?

Whatever you do, don’t ignore it and just hope that the situation will improve!

For some tips on how to deal with the early stages of poor performance, watch this short video.

If you still have any questions about how to help your staff to perform better, or you have a more difficult situation to deal with, call us 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk for some confidential advice.

Poor Performance – Can You Prove It?

Sometimes as a manager you need to deliver bad news or negative feedback to a member of your staff. You might need to pick them up on an issue of performance that you’re not happy with, or where they are not meeting your standards.

This is not a comfortable thing to do. You need to be quite assertive about it, to be taken seriously, so that your member of staff doesn’t just argue with you! To help you discuss the issue in the right way, you need evidence of the poor performance. You have to be able to show your team member what they’ve been doing wrong or below standard. Just telling them that they’re not doing what you want them to do, won’t have any impact, if you can’t prove it.

You need to collect the evidence, so your team member can really understand what they’ve done wrong and how you want them to change. It’s not about collecting evidence just to use against someone – you really need it in order to get the message across and to make a difference.

Is one of your team repeatedly late coming into work? If so, you need a recording system that shows them when they came it late and how often it happens. If your staff clock in and out every day, you have your system. If not, you need to look for another way of recording the time.

Does a member of your staff keep making errors in their work? How many times have they made a mistake and what was the result of it? Again, you need to create a way of recording the error rate and the consequences.

Do some of your clients repeatedly complain about one of your employees? If so, you need to keep all the emails or letters of complaint that you receive. When a customer complains over the phone, ask them if they would mind emailing you the details for your records, so that you improve the situation for them.

When you can show proof of poor performance, it is much easier to discuss the issue with the particular member of staff and, between you, work out what needs to be done in order to improve their performance.

We discussed the importance of collecting evidence at one of my interactive workshops. Click here to watch the short video and find out more.

Take Seven Steps to Improve Employee Performance – Part Three

In a previous blog we wrote about steps four and five of a seven stage process that you need to follow, when you want to improve performance in your business. Click here to read that blog again if you need a reminder. If you missed steps one, two and three, you can read them here.

When you’re trying to reach a higher level in your business, you’re only as strong as your weakest member. Dealing with somebody in your team who doesn’t live up to the standards you require is difficult, both legally and ethically. Before you show an employee the red card, be sure you have tried everything that is expected from you, the employer, to guide them and push their performance to a higher level. To deal with the matter correctly, here are the remaining steps to follow:

Step 6: Agree a Performance Improvement Plan

Where you have issued a warning, agree a written performance improvement plan with your employee. This will help you to formally identify unsatisfactory aspects of performance, agree on where further training, coaching, or other support could improve the matter and set new objectives or reiterate existing ones. You can also agree the standards to be achieved, within clear and reasonable timescales.

Provide your employee with appropriate support to improve their performance, allowing them a sufficient and reasonable period to make progress and carefully monitor this.

Step 7: Follow-Up Meeting

At the end of the agreed review period, arrange a formal follow-up meeting to discuss your employee’s progress and repeat the procedure from Step 3 if necessary. Up to three performance review meetings should be held before dismissal is considered.

If your employee’s performance reaches a satisfactory standard within the review period and no further action is necessary, inform your employee in writing. If this is not the case then agree a further performance improvement plan and set a further period in which your employee must improve.

Finally, with any incidence of poor performance it is crucial that you follow the ACAS Code of Practice on discipline and grievance and ensure that employees are treated fairly and consistently.

Deal with issues of poor performance as soon as you notice them and you’ll find it much easier to work them out, to get the best results for your employees and your business.

If you missed the first two parts of this process click here for Part One and click here for Part Two. If you need some specific advice for your business and any of your members of staff, call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk and we see how we can help you.

Take Seven Steps to Improve Employee Performance – Part Two

Improving the performance of employees is something that all employers should be thinking about on a regular basis. But what happens when someone isn’t performing as well as they could be? What do you do when one person’s performance starts to affect the rest of the team?

There is a simple seven stage process that we recommend you use in these situations. Recently we wrote about the first three steps to look at – holding informal conversations, offering support and carrying out a performance review meeting. Click here to read about them again, or if you missed them.

Here are the next two steps of the process to follow.

Step 4: Make a Decision

Once you’ve carried out the performance review meeting with your employee, you need to make an informed decision about the action you need to take, in order to improve their performance. Take your time in reviewing the situation and don’t be too hasty to make your decision. Consider all the facts and the situation.

It could be that you need to provide your employee with a clearer job description and expectations for what you want them to achieve. They might need training in order to be able to carry out their job to the standard you expect. In the worst cases, you might need to give them a warning about their performance and explain how you want the situation to improve.

Step 5: Inform Your Employee of Your Decision

Make it completely clear what decision you have made, following the meeting with your employee. Telling them face to face is usually the best way to do this, as it allows further discussion. You should also put your decision in writing, so that there is a record of your decision on file, should any issues arise later.

At this stage, it is also vital that you agree the next steps with your employee. What actions do you want them to take and by when? Explain the goals you want them to achieve, or tell them about the training you need them to undertake. Again, make sure everything is in writing.

There are two more steps that you need to follow, in order to fully tackle performance issues. We’ll cover them in a future blog. If you can’t wait until then and you have employee issues that you need to deal with now, don’t leave them to escalate. Contact us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk for some help and advice.

Take Seven Steps to Improve Employee Performance – Part One

When you’re looking to grow your business, you’re only as strong as your weakest member. Dealing with somebody in your team who doesn’t live up to the standards you require is difficult, both legally and ethically. Before you show an employee the red card, be sure you have tried everything that is expected from you, the employer, to guide them and push their performance to a higher level.

There is a seven stage process you can follow, to help you tackle poor performance. Here are the first three steps to take:

Step 1: Informal Conversations

Your starting point for resolving issues should be to deal with them early and informally. Sit down and discuss your concerns with your employee. Use these meetings to encourage and develop the behaviour and performance you want.

Never automatically assume that the employee is at fault. Investigate the causes of poor performance before deciding what action to take. Your aim should always be to help your employee bring their performance up to standard.

Step 2: Offer Support

Where your conversation reveals a cause that’s not the fault of your employee, your initial response should be to offer help and support. Regularly monitor performance, referencing the objectives and timescales agreed, where appropriate. You should offer ongoing support, even after the discussion; and keep records and notes of all informal discussions.

Step 3: Performance Review Meeting

If, following informal discussion and support, and from monitoring your employee’s performance, you don’t feel improvements have been made, you’ll need to follow a formal capability procedure. This procedure provides for a series of performance review meetings with the employee following which formal warnings may be issued.

You must give your employee at least 48 hours’ notice of a performance review meeting and ensure the arrangements are handled with discretion and confidentiality.

Make sure you’re accompanied at the meeting by a colleague or HR representative. Their role is to support you and take accurate notes of the meeting, enabling you to focus on handling the session fairly and appropriately.

There’s a lot to take in here, so we’ll cover the next steps in another blog. In the meantime, if you need any help now with a staff performance issue, call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk and we’ll give you some advice.

Improving Performance Through a Probation Period

Taking on new members of staff for a growing business can be a costly and time consuming process – especially if you get it wrong. Finding the best person for your business is important, and many people think that they can sit back and rest once their new recruit arrives on their first day. But that’s just the start of it!

This blog looks at how to give your new employee the best start with your business.

You worked hard on crafting the best Job Description for your new team member. The adverts went out and the applications came in. You spent time interviewing potential candidates to join your team. Finally you found them – the perfect person to work with you. They even turned up on their start date. What happens next?

If you think you can just sit back and expect your new recruit to get on with their job and perform as you expect them to – with no input from you – you’ll be disappointed.

The first thing to do – even before a new employee joins you – is to decide on the length of their probation period. This could be between three and six months, depending on the type of work being done. The probation period is your chance to start assessing your new recruit; it’s their time to find their feet and get used to their new role. It is a vital tool in measuring the performance of a new employee.

Next you need to plan when you’re going to review their performance, during the probation period. Planning a review halfway through is a good idea – don’t leave it until the end. This allows you to take action if you’re in any doubt about their ability to do the job for which you have employed them. Their performance will only get better if you do something about it. They might not have understood the job that you need them to do, so this is the time to go over what you expect from them. It’s also a good time for them to air any concerns they might have about their future with you.

You should next plan to review the performance of your new recruit before the end of the probation period. This could be after five months, if the probation is six months in length. This gives you time to properly review their performance and plan any action that needs to be taken – such as training or development. This will put you in the best position to be able to confirm whether or not your new recruit will be staying on.

If you decide that they will not remain with you, and your employment contract is correctly worded, the notice period for a new employee is usually less than for someone who successfully completes a probation period. If they have to leave, you can quickly turn your attention to finding a better person to fill their role.

There is no legal requirement for using a probation period at the start of an employment contract. However, it is a very good way of making sure you get the right person for the job, after all the time and effort you put into the recruitment process. Just make sure that your employment contract explains all this and that you discuss the use of the probation period with anyone to whom you offer the job!

What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Staff Happy?

Happy employees make happy clients and customers. Here’s a check list of all the things you should be doing, to keep your staff – and therefore your clients and customers – happy. How many are you doing?

  • Improve their engagement with your company – low cost options include offering flexibility, the opportunity to buy or sell holiday and working from home
  • Cheer everyone up – buy them food at work
  • Give lots of praise – in public, if necessary
  • Recognise their achievements – a lot
  • Be reassuring (but realistic) about job security
  • Be flexible about working hours and opportunities to improve their work life balance
  • Be open, honest and involved with your team
  • Keep them in touch with all the news – good or bad
  • Keep up with employees training and development – it does not need to cost a lot. Don’t abandon development and new opportunities. Job training is perceived as a value
  • Develop your company culture – involve everyone in decisions and provide opportunities for staff who don’t normally work together to get to know each other
  • Offer chances to put forward suggestions – it could save you a fortune and it increases the sense of ownership and belonging
  • Provide regular team meetings to reinforce the company culture and beliefs
  • Think about using a promotion as a low cost way of improving self-esteem and self-worth
  • Treat everyone with respect – it doesn’t cost anything and it improves motivation.

How well did you score? What more could you be doing to keep your staff happy?

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.