The HR Director popped her head round the door of the CEO’s office and said (in cheerful tones):
“It’s Annual Appraisal time again!”
“Oh hell” was the reply in somewhat less than cheerful tones.
The dreaded annual appraisal usually does have that reaction from both management and staff for the very good reason that this is the time when everybody is supposed to come clean, to open up and to talk totally frankly about themselves and their issues.
Really? Once a year? No wonder that the onset of the appraisal process fills most people with apprehension and sometimes even fear.
Just consider the business that assesses its performance based solely on the annual audited accounts. Sensible? Of course not. The sensible course is to have monthly management accounts produced and then the annual accounts are a matter of confirmation of facts which are already known.
So why do we persist in having annual appraisals of people in the business when their performance can and should be monitored on a regular basis throughout the year?
Another and significant issue is the essentially subjective approach in the annual appraisal. I have looked at a few samples and they all use a scoring method based on opinion, for example, for attitude, commitment and enthusiasm.
Indeed what sensible and appropriate metrics can be used to assess a person’s performance over a period of a year? One would assume that it changes with the seasons and with other and often outside influences.
The point is that these are not metrics; they are shades of opinion masquerading as metrics. It is the difference between an emotional and a rational approach.
On these very specious terms therefore we assess performance and if it is deemed to be below par, then we won’t know whether there has been any change until the next round of appraisals. Nonsense? Of course it’s nonsense because we are in regular contact with most people in the business and we can assess how they are doing on a regular, if somewhat random, basis.
So what is the answer? If it is sensible to have monthly management accounts it is equally sensible to have a regular assessment of your people and especially the top team.
There is no question that monthly one-to-ones with everyone in the top team should be a mandatory entry in the leader’s diary. No discussion, no excuses; the monthly one-to-one lasting up to a couple of hours is the most important meeting that the leader and the team members can have.
It enables both to open up, to be honest, frank and truthful in the discussion and to expect the same in return. It does take a little time for such an atmosphere to be generated but in the end, a high level of trust can be the result.
The annual accounts are of true value only to the bank, the accountants and the Revenue because it is the monthly management accounts on which decisions are taken on a regular basis.
The annual appraisal is of virtually no value either to the leader or to the team member so ditch it. Replace it with open and honest monthly one-to-ones and watch how mutual trust grows.