If you’re like most people, you’re already thinking about resolutions for next year. Let me suggest one for you. Stop using an annual or semi-annual appraisal. If you can’t deliver feedback in real time, what’s the point?
For many companies, the forms have become so cumbersome that it can take managers and employees days to complete them. What actual work is getting done while you’re checking the boxes? That’s not to say you should completely do away with having a one on one conversation about performance. Here's a few alternatives.
· Establish measurable goals. Everyone wants to know where they stand and no one wants to wait a year to find out. So set some goals that can be measured and measure them. Find some way to deliver the results on a regular basis, even if it’s just quarterly. Waiting a full year to find out how you’re performing is counterproductive. Your mediocre employees might not care, but your top performers always want to know where they stack up against their peers.
· Set up monthly calls. You don’t need to be in the same office to connect with your employees in a meaningful way. Carve out 30 minutes to an hour every month for each of your employees. The only agenda item should be “How’s it going?”. Give them the opportunity to update you and give yourself the opportunity to provide them feedback. If you think you don’t have the time to spend 30 minutes a month with your employees, you need to step away from being a manger. Managing people is your job.
· Incorporate real time feedback every day. It’s difficult to ask for or deliver feedback if you only do it once a year. But as the manager and leader, you have the opportunity to create a culture where feedback is expected and welcomed. Every time you notice something really outstanding or something that missed the mark, give them the feedback when it happens. Don’t forget to ask for feedback on your own performance. It takes courage and they may not feel safe enough to be really honest, but if you start with, “ here’s what I thought went well, or where I thought I failed”, your employees will start to open up.
· Use simpler and more frequent appraisal forms. Why do companies feel the need to document the hell out of your appraisal? No one reads them once they’ve been filed, so you’ve killed a lot of trees for nothing. Why not use something simple like a STOP-START-CONTINUE form. It takes way less time and is way more meaningful to your employee. Because it takes less time to complete, you can deliver it more often, maybe quarterly. You can even incorporate it into your monthly calls.
If you can’t get away with just ditching the annual review altogether, then make it more meaningful. Have a discussion about their career goals and what they need from you to achieve those goals. If you do that once a year, your employee may actually look forward to your appraisal meeting.