Managing Performance in a Changing Workplace
By Cindy Boyle, Director of Financial Operations, The Mutual RRG, Inc.

Are you a manager that dreads writing and delivering performance appraisals to your staff?  Are you an employee who thinks that the performance appraisal process is a waste of time?  If so, you are not alone.  Many companies have started to question the value of the annual performance appraisal and its benefit to the employee.

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The annual performance appraisal has long been the standard for documenting an employee’s performance for HR purposes.  It is typically used to develop standards for improvement and to award salary increases and bonuses.  But it's very subjective process and does not necessarily reflect an employee’s skills and ability.  As managers and employees recognize that the annual performance appraisal does not give an employee effective feedback that encourages performance, companies have begun to develop alternate options to monitoring and evaluating performance.

Cathy Ellwood of Ellwood Enterprises held a session for the Career Skills Development track recently at the Annual Education Conference in San Antonio titled “Innovation and Trends in Managing Performance.”  In her session, she discussed alternative methods for feedback and evaluation beyond the annual performance review and discussed critical success factors for implementing changes to existing performance reviews.

The most common criticisms of the annual performance review are that it allows for delayed feedback, it includes subjective and vague objectives ratings and it allows for subjective measures of performance.  In response to these issues and the need for more meaningful and actionable feedback, more companies have moved away from the annual performance review and developed alternative approaches to performance monitoring.  Some examples of the alternatives now being used are project assignment/goal-oriented reviews, shorter review cycles, coaching and feedback, team-based appraisals, development oriented reviews and 360 degree feedback – on demand.

With the implementation of any new performance review process, some key issues may still require addressing. Cathy discussed in the session that managers will continue to need to properly document performance feedback and abide by the legal requirements associated with employment.  When training managers on the new process, issues such as inconsistent metrics and standards, difficulty providing needed feedback and compensation equity will still need to be addressed.

The development of a performance appraisal process that is both beneficial to the company and the employee can result in a process in which feedback is more consistently and fairly communicated by the manager and will be appreciated and motivational to the employee.  The overall result can be a timely, less stressful and fair performance appraisal process.

You may not be able to change your company’s performance appraisal process by reading this article, but you can challenge yourself to think about your role in the process and how you can make the process better by having an awareness of its drawbacks and reinforcing its positive aspects.