People & Human Resources

Performance appraisals – love and hate

SmartCompany /

Traditional performance appraisals don’t work for lots of reasons. The good news is, there’s a better way…


People often view appraisals as a pain and both managers and staff often feel they are going through the motions. Some people object to ratings and often it’s the first time they have even discussed what is actually being rated.


Why don’t traditional performance appraisal schemes work?


There are various reasons, but usually it’s because:

  • The criteria that are used to appraise performance are usually vague and ambiguous.
  • They are not specifically related to the person’s job.
  • It becomes a ritual exercise in filling out the form!


And people resent the time it takes to complete the paperwork and managers start to feel uncomfortable making judgements, wondering what the criteria actually mean – for example, what is an “acceptable” level of initiative, communication or customer service?


And after the appraisal staff are often not all that clear where they stand, and many report that few constructive actions resulted from the appraisal.



How do we reinvent appraisals and get them right?


Appraising performance means reviewing, evaluating, judging, assessing. But you need to be clear what is being assessed, which is why performance planning is really the first stage and it comes months before the actual appraisal. This means working out what is required in the job.


Then you’ve got an agreed basis on which the appraisal can take place. And after appraising performance, the plans may need to be changed so there’s a planning and appraising cycle, not just appraising on its own.


This is not just an annual event, it’s ongoing. Plans should be frequently reviewed to incorporate changes in directions, roles, structures and systems and this means communication about performance is ongoing – weekly, monthly, sometimes even a daily event and should be part of the way we work.



You need to plan and review performance fairly and this means involving the staff member and:

  • Agreeing on the overall goal of the job/role.
  • Determining key result areas.
  • Identifying performance standards.
  • Managing change and developing performance.



There are some great benefits:

  • – Involvement leads to commitment, and staff become more enthusiastic and committed to the plan.
  • – Staff understand their role in strategic plans, they see clearer where they fit it.
  • – Frequent communication ensures optimum performance, and this method requires ongoing feedback and communication, rather than a once a year appraisal.
  • – Change is managed better as job descriptions are very static and this approach is more flexible and dynamic.
  • – Mostly people want to be clear about what is expected of them. If they are not performing well, for example, they are not left trying to second guess their manager. They know they’re not performing so they can self-correct.
  • – Managers have an agreed objective basis to appraise performance down the track.


Play Click here to see the video The Performance Management Cycle





Psychologist Eve Ash is managing director of Seven Dimensions and co-producer with Peter Quarry of the Ash.Quarry Productions video The Performance Management Cycle (Reinventing Appraisals Series)


For more Eve Ash blogs, click here.



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