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Sunday, 2 August 2015

Is Annual Appraisal Time Approaching? Don’t Bother, They Don’t Work!

It is always encouraging when one is able to read articles that agree with and, I like to think, substantiate one’s opinions.  At last, I feel, that I am not a lone voice in the wilderness.

For a long time I have been banging on about the use of the annual appraisal to check on and assess the performance of each individual.

For example there is a recent article on the Forbes magazine website that covers the subject in some detail:


This is only one of a raft or similar articles that examine the annual appraisal and most of them come to the same conclusion.

It always seems to me that using the annual appraisal alone (which is quite common) to make this assessment is similar to using the end of year accounts to manage the business without any reference to what is happening on a month-to-month basis.

If that is not countenanced why should the use of the annual appraisal be used in the same way?  It just doesn’t make sense to assume that everyone can be assessed merely on one form filling exercise every year.

What therefore are the reasons NOT to use the annual appraisal system?

They are many in my view and cover mostly the reaction of the individual being assessed.  For a start many managers do not realize that the prospect of undergoing the annual grilling strikes fear and trepidation into the hearts of many of their employees.

People can become fearful of what might transpire and, worse still, the possibility of action being taken by the company as a consequence.

People being people, the usual assumption is negative which can have a very depressing effect even if the results are eventually good and positive.

It can viewed as a modern form of the Star Chamber with the individual being brought to book by someone who may actually not like them or worse, see them as threat of they are a great performer.

What I find even more invidious is the use of some form of ranking as a consequence of the appraisal, say, 1 to 5.  The assumption is that 4 and 5 are good, 3 is moderately acceptable and 1 and 2 absolutely not acceptable.

Jack Welch of GE fame was a great leader but he used the ranking system with apparently no concern for the feelings or indeed the actual value of the individual.  If anyone scored 1 or 2 they were out and that was that.

Can you imagine the feelings of someone rated 1 or 2 who would know immediately that they were apparently dispensable?  What a way to treat a human being who may well have valuable attributes that didn’t emerge in the appraisal.

The answer to this situation is to understand that you can find out much more about people if they are looked after and who feel that the business cares about them.

The ideal answer is a regular one-to-one with everyone conducted by their line manager.  This meds to be at least monthly for at least an hour, preferably more, and is to the agenda of the individual not the manager.

The first question should be: “What di you want to talk about today?” and that ought to bring out any problems that they have.  It may take some time for people to feel free to talk and that is entirely up to the manager or leader.

Doing this on a regular basis will almost eliminate the annual appraisal although there may be some value in retaining it a summation of what has been discussed through the year.

Finally if you do persist with the appraisals they should NEVER be used to determine next year’s salary level.  That would make the individual even more nervous and militates against any sensible discussion.

Use the regular one-to-one judiciously and just watch the results.


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