Many of us in HR who have had some form of responsibility for performance management will have experienced the following scenario at some point:

It’s annual appraisal time. A feeling of dread kicks in. An email is sent out to all staff asking them to have their performance appraisal meetings and complete their forms by x date. A week before said date, most people still haven’t done it. So you chase up line managers, who complain that they don’t see why they should be doing it anyway.

The deadline passes and still lots of people haven’t had their appraisal meetings. So you trawl through the paperwork trying to establish who has and hasn’t returned their forms, then do some more chasing. A couple of months after the deadline most people have now returned their forms, but you’ve spent so much time chasing and managing the admin that you’ve got no time to review the quality of the appraisal discussions or the objectives that have been set. You muster up enough energy to sift through the appraisal paperwork once again to pull out performance ratings and compile the training needs for the year.

Feeling despondent, you wonder why you put yourself through this every year and whether it’s really worth it.

That might sound like a cynical take on appraisals, but it’s still an all too common occurrence. In early 2015, we carried out a survey of HR professionals on LinkedIn to understand if, and why, they were finding performance appraisals painful to manage. The results were clear-cut:

95% of respondents said that they found managing the performance appraisal process a hassle

The 5 most common reasons given were:

  1. Line managers not buying into the process and failing to understand its benefits
  2. The administration involved in running a paper-based process and having to manually compile data
  3. Documentation is too complex / time consuming to complete so it becomes a tick-box exercise
  4. Having to constantly chase people
  5. Anxiety from both employees and line managers about the process

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So what can be done to overcome these problems? Whilst there is no one magic solution, there are a number of things that HR can do to reduce the pain and make performance management a success:

  1. Get buy-in to performance management from top management. Ensure that key communications come from top management rather than HR and coach them to lead by example when it comes to carrying out their own performance appraisals.
  2. Engage line managers by involving them in evaluating and improving your performance management processes and tools. You can do this by running surveys, focus groups and carrying out interviews to seek their feedback and get their ideas on how things can be improved. This will encourage greater ownership of the process amongst managers.
  3. Continually sell the benefits of good performance management in your communications and training. Always emphasise “What’s in it for me?”. Reinforce this with success stories from around the business of those who have embraced performance management and the benefits they have achieved.
  4. Train managers and employees in performance management skills. Ensuring that your people have the necessary skills to engage in effective performance management (objective setting, giving and receiving feedback, coaching, handling difficult conversations, etc.) will reduce anxiety and lead to higher quality performance appraisal discussions.
  5. Use an online performance appraisal system to simplify the documentation, reduce the administration and compile the performance and development data.

We cover all the above concepts in more detail on our free Performance Management Masterclass.

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