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How to take the stress out of a performance appraisal

Performance appraisals offer significant benefits to a business by ensuring that each employee’s performance is contributing to meeting business goals and introduces a culture of responsibility, accountability and empowerment.

They have become essential to the successful operation of businesses with a survey conducted by Recruitment Coach showing that 92.62% of business owners conduct performance reviews in their business.  Interestingly, only 31.34% of these respondents actually look forward to delivering performance reviews to their team members.

Performance appraisals needn’t be a ‘scary’ experience for employees or managers.  Here’s how you can alleviate the anxiety and stress associated with the performance review process to ensure both you and your employee get the most out of the meeting.

Ensure employees know what to expect in the performance review

Performance appraisals can create an atmosphere of high anxiety and stress. Many staff members fear performance reviews if they don’t know what to expect from the process or how their performance is being measured.  In this instance, it is valuable to set prior expectations relating to the desired behaviours and on-the-job performance so that your employee is aware of what is expected of them in their role.

This should include the setting of goals and benchmarks for performance and explaining the difference between meeting and exceeding expectations so that your employees are aware of their performance measurements. In the appraisal meeting, put your employee at ease by letting them know it is a two-way discussion, with the mutual goal to review performance and set goals for improvement and career development.

Remain objective

Another reason why many employees dread performance appraisals is because they feel they can be quite subjective. It is not uncommon in some businesses for managers to evaluate the employees’ personality, instead of their work performance.  This can frustrate employees as they find it difficult to distinguish whether they have been assessed for the final result they’ve delivered or the effort they put into delivering their performance.

Dedicate time to prepare for the meeting and review previous objectives and notes you have made over the year. Gather their current performance figures (e.g. sales figures, KPI measurements, customer feedback) and aim to focus on as much factual evidence as possible. By relying on facts and figures, you take the emotive angle out of the meeting and signal to your employee that you are focusing purely on their outputs.

Engage in a two-way discussion

The performance appraisal meeting should be a two-way conversation between manager and employee. For many employees, it can be disheartening to not be able to contribute to the discussion. It is important that you give your employee the opportunity to respond to your ratings of their performance.

As it is their performance that is being reviewed, it makes sense that they should be able to explain how they performed and why they felt that was appropriate.  When identifying areas for improvement, there should be a two-way input into what your employee needs to do in order to meet future goals and how you can support them in doing so.

Provide regular feedback – not just at performance appraisal time!

In general, employees like to receive feedback; they want to know how they are doing! They want to know if their efforts are meeting the needs of colleagues, customers and the company, and where they could do better. Surprisingly though, many companies only conduct an annual performance appraisal with no in-between feedback sessions; nor do they measure or track outcomes along the way.

As such, employees walk into the performance review meeting without having any idea on their performance and this is where the fear kicks in. Since they have not received feedback from their managers throughout the year, they have not had any opportunities to improve. Employee surveys consistently show that employees desire more frequent, specific and timely feedback than the typical manager provides.

In fact, 71% prefer to receive feedback as soon as possible, compared to 17% who prefer feedback on an annual or quarterly basis, according to figures released by Forbes. With this in mind, you should aim to provide your employees with regular feedback regarding their performance. That way, when performance appraisal time rolls around, there are no surprises in store for your employee since they are already aware of how well they have been performing.

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Paula Maidens

Paula Maidens

Paula Maidens is Managing Director of <a href="http://www.recruitmentcoach.com.au/">Recruitment Coach,</a> a unique HR coaching and consulting firm for small-medium businesses.

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