Performance reviews, appraisal interviews, annual reviews – whatever you call them it all boils down to the same thing. Extra work. I used to hate preparing for appraisal interviews with members of my team. Now I really enjoy them. Why? I’ve changed my approach. Rewind 10 years or so: I’d make the appointment, forget about it until I saw it on my schedule for the next day, have a quick think, dig out a few pertinent facts, come up with a few random goals, and off I went.
What’s changed then? I want to keep my employees in the company. And performance appraisal interviews are important in making sure this happens. So, I use my “5 Keeps” approach:
“If you’re reading this, apologies to those individuals who had to live with how I used to prepare for performance appraisals. I’m probably part of the reason you hate performance appraisal interviews.”
Keep it objective
I’ve finally understood that appraisal interviews don’t work if you see them as an event that happens once a year. How can they? We’re all human and we don’t remember things. We inevitably end up reviewing what the employee did most recently. If that was good, great. If something wasn’t so good, then the employee gets a poor review for the whole period, which is not really fair, is it? Emotions play a role here. It helps to find a way of standing back from what is happening at the time of the interview and look at the whole year objectively.
This may sound a little geeky, but to help with the appraisal interview, I keep a little notebook for each member of my team. I make notes of the little things, feedback from clients, team members, from other members of the management staff. Anything that could be of interest really. This means I don’t have to spend time gathering information before the interview. I have the specific examples I need in front of me. All I need to do at the preparation stage of the appraisal interview then is grab my little book. I schedule time for preparation before the meeting. I align my notes with the appraisal interview form and the self-evaluation form from the employee, and I’m all set for the interview.
Keep the conversation open all year
The thing about my notes is that there is nothing secret in there. Everything has already been shared. When I get good (or bad) feedback from a client, I tell them about it when it happens. When they do something really well, I tell them. When they underperform, I tell them.
Keep it developmental
Too often the focus can be on the operational details. Sure, that’s important for the business, but you can talk about that during the year. The key question is: how can I use this opportunity to make sure that this person is not doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same way this time next year? I want to make sure the focus is on development. I want to make sure goals we set together are motivating and are going to help the person grow. If they grow, we grow.
Keep it fun
Fun? Really? Yes, appraisal interviews are a great opportunity to talk to your employee about them. Do you have much time during the year to really learn about them? Probably not as much as you’d like. Here you’ve got allocated time to hear about how they feel – make the most of it, be encouraging, and enjoy it!
More on performance appraisal interviews
This post is the first of a 4-part series on performance appraisal interviews. Make sure to come back if you’re interested to read more about:
- Starting a performance appraisal interview
- Giving opinions and explaining reasons in a performance appraisal interview
- Summarizing a performance appraisal interview