Rethinking the employee appraisal process

ckp communications team in a knowledge share.jpg

I’ve been fortunate to work in diverse settings throughout my career — large Fortune 100 businesses, small nonprofits and my own agency before being acquired by CKP. The most valuable resource in every work environment? The people.

This isn’t a novel concept, and we pay much lip service to the value of the individual contribution to the success of the team. Some employers have endless tools and vast human resources departments to ensure that employee appraisals are conducted on a regular basis. Many business settings, however, don’t have this luxury and the onus is on the leadership to create a fair and effective process for evaluating personal performance.

Take a look at the work history of professionals today, and you’ll rarely see — at least among Gen Xers and Millennials — a lengthy history with one employer. Inherent in this discovery is the knowledge that work as we define it today has many different paths for professionals.

Some people stay in the same field for their entire career. Some change mid-stream, having found that their first work “love” is not in fact the career that lights them up and takes them into retirement. And, with the growth of working parents and entrepreneurs, we’ve seen even more who may choose to work part-time, changing employers every few years in order to grow and evolve.

While this is reality, there are values that appear to transcend all generations in the workforce. One of those values imperative to most individuals is a level of confidence that we are learning new things and becoming more of who we want to be as professionals in our current work setting. If this value is not being met, we will look for it elsewhere.

Change is important and we should wish well those who seek something that we can’t provide for them in our wheelhouse. But let’s make sure that we’ve done our best to deliver that value if we can. It’s far easier to help an employee move in a different direction internally that benefits the person and the business than it is to see them go and have to replace them.

Here are a few things to think about when you take on the often dreaded “How do we handle employee appraisals” question:

  • Keep them fast and frequent. Rather than the laborious annual assessment, consider 6-month interval reviews where both self-assessment and supervisory assessment can be compared and discussed. You can cover more ground, and you can turn the tide if things are not working well. I like this Fast Company piece, which encourages more frequent gut checks, less rigorous rating systems, and compensation connectedness.

  • Make performance conversations an ongoing part of the work environment. Whether it’s weekly wins, a recurring one-on-one to check on your people, or making changes to scope of work as soon as you identify a need, employees — just like clients — want to know what you think and want to share what they think as it evolves. Note the quote in this article from Accenture’s CEO on appraisals and the millennial generation.

  • Talk about and plan for the career path. Obviously any form of assessment or appraisal has to reflect on recent performance. Aside from this, we should have a conversation about the next promotion possible as well as where leadership sees the individual being able to go internally. Ask the individual how that feels and sounds to them. If there isn’t synergy here, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate if we as employers missed something or if we as individuals want something that might not be attainable here. This article quotes a recent survey suggesting that 40% of those polled never have the career path discussion with their employers, although 93% want to have this conversation.

Think about the best performance review process you have experienced and examine what made it a good experience.

If we agree that the people are the most important thing in the business, this is surely a work deliverable that deserves time and attention. And, if you’ve developed a good process for your business, we’d love to hear your tips and tricks.