PERFORMANCE APPRAISALS and the PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT PHILOSOPHY
What is Performance Management?
Performance Management is a systematic process by which Florida Atlantic University involves all of its employees as members of a team/department, in improving organizational effectiveness in the accomplishment of the University’s mission and goals as outlined in our Strategic Plan.
The performance appraisal is the final step in an effective Performance Management process. It is a formal, written means of providing performance feedback, assessing how well the employee met established performance standards, and how effectively the employee accomplished stated goals. The performance appraisal is a permanent document kept in the employee’s personnel file.
Why do a Performance Appraisal?
Florida Atlantic University’s Personnel Policies state that all AMP and SP employees will receive an annual performance appraisal. But that alone might not encourage you to spend the time participating in this very effective process. So let’s look at the impact that Performance Management and the Performance Appraisal Process will have on both you and the employee.
It should be every employee’s goal to do a great job and be recognized for the work that was done. Every supervisor has a goal of a strong, highly effective and positive work team. Throughout the year, both the employees and supervisors are working towards accomplishing these goals. Performance Management is the roadmap that helps to create success, and the Performance Appraisal is the annual evaluation of how well each employee has contributed to that success. A thoughtful, well documented appraisal gives you the opportunity to:
- Review established expectations and goals
- Emphasize, through specific examples, ways in which the employee contributed to the goals and missions of the department
- Discuss performance strengths
- Offer positive reinforcement with specific examples
- Discuss opportunities for training and development
- Offer an honest, and well documented assessment of performance
- Develop a “plan of action”, if necessary, for improving performance
- Look ahead to the coming year and develop goals, success strategies and growth opportunities
- Engage in a constructive, positive dialogue with the employee, requesting and encouraging employee feedback
Planning the Appraisal
The preparation for the performance appraisal begins at the start of the appraisal period and is a continuous and on-going process. The most important aspect of this process is Communication:
- Performance Standards and Expectations - these are the performance requirements established by the supervisor. It would be very difficult to expect any employee to meet expectations that haven’t been clearly explained and discussed. This does not have to involve a formalized, written process; it does involve effective communication. Ask yourself, “would a reasonable person understand what is expected?”
- Goals and Objectives - This is a two part process. First, look back at the goals and objectives that were established on the last performance appraisal, and thoughtfully evaluate how well they have been accomplished. Involving the employee in this process is an effective and meaningful way to insure that you have all of the necessary information. Second, establish the goals and objectives that are to be part of the next appraisal period. It is critical that you discuss the formulation of goals with the employee so that the employee has a clear understanding of how those goals support the overall mission of the department.
- Feedback - Feedback should be given throughout the appraisal period. It involves both formal, scheduled meetings, and informal discussions to specifically reinforce positive performance and offer constructive criticism for areas that need improvement. Remember, the performance appraisal should not be a surprise.
- Another way that supervisors can prepare for the appraisal is to document examples of both excellent and/or poor performance throughout the appraisal period. Make notes of your observations and any significant information that impacts the employee’s performance. It is often difficult to remember clearly what happened many months before, and the appraisal should be a reflection of the entireappraisal period, and not just the last two or three months.
Writing the Appraisal
The actual written performance appraisal is a tool to document and finalize the observations, discussions and communications that have occurred during the appraisal period. It is suggested that you get feedback and insight from the employee before finalizing the process. The performance appraisal should cover the entire appraisal period, so the supervisor should review the notes and examples that serve as documentation. Don’t focus on isolated incidents, but rather on a consistent pattern of behavior. Performance appraisals are subjective, because the supervisor is determining how effectively the employee met the established standards and expectations of the position. However, the supervisor must make every effort to be fair and equitable; accurate and unbiased. The best way to do this is to give specific examples and clear explanations throughout the appraisal.
These are some common errors that supervisors should try to avoid:
- “halo effect”: the supervisor is extremely impressed with one or two factors in the employee’s performance and therefore tends to over-rate all other factors.
- “leniency”: this is the most common error. It is much easier to give a good appraisal than an unfavorable one and many supervisors take the “easy way out” rather than facing the unpleasant task of discussing performance problems.
- “central tendency”: this often happens when the supervisor is not well informed about the employee’s actual performance. Therefore, the supervisor gives a “middle of the road” appraisal which is not an accurate reflection of the employee’s performance.
- “recent behavior” : we all tend to remember the recent past more vividly than what happened many months ago. This can influence how a supervisor evaluates an employee. The best way to alleviate this problem is to take notes and document behavior throughout the appraisal period.
many managers look at past performance appraisals and are overly influenced by the ratings and comments given in prior years. This is unfortunate because it does not accurately reflect the performance during the past appraisal period.
Conducting the Appraisal Interview
The appraisal interview is the most important and, in some cases, the most difficult part of the appraisal process. The tone that is set by the supervisor is critical to the overall effectiveness of the meeting. The ultimate goal is to reinforce and praise all of the positive performance, and to provide constructive criticism and guidance on the performance that needs improvement.
Following are some tips for a successful appraisal meeting:
- Provide the employee with advance notice of the appraisal interview. Select a time that is convenient for both of you and allow sufficient time so that you are not rushed.
- Choose a location that is private and free from interruptions.
- Be prepared. Review the completed appraisal form and all relevant material. Think through what you want to emphasize and what specific points you should make.
- Develop a friendly, constructive and supportive atmosphere to relieve tension and put the employee at ease. Make sure that outside interruptions are avoided.
- Discuss the appraisal. Recognize the employee’s strengths and how they benefit FAU and the Department.
- Involve the employee in the appraisal discussion. Encourage two-way conversation and LISTEN to what the employee has to say.
- Use feedback that is clear and to the point. Be specific and cite examples where appropriate. This is very important when reinforcing positive performance and offering constructive criticism.
- Explain how the employee needs to improve, and ensure that the employee understands how and why there is a need for improvement.
- Provide guidelines for further training and development.
- Be sensitive to the impact you have on the employee. Everyone needs to maintain self-respect. Keep the discussion job-centered and avoid comments on the employee’s personality. So not compare the employee to other, specific employees.
- If necessary, plan for a follow-up meeting.
- Summarize your discussions.
- End the meeting on a positive note. Be supportive and show that you are committed to the employee’s success.
- Allow the employee an opportunity to add comments to the end of the performance appraisal.
Remember - performance appraisals are only one step in the on-going, year round partnership between supervisors and employees which constitutes the Performance Management process.