Seven Pitfalls of the Staff Appraisal – and How to Avoid Them

<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Seven Pitfalls of the Staff Appraisal – and How to Avoid Them</span>

Medarbetarsamtal mellan två personer Staff Appraisals – both praised and criticized, welcomed and rejected. No matter what you think, the staff appraisal can be a valuable tool to support the development of both the staff and the company – if they are only executed correctly. To hold truly successful staff appraisals, there are a few classic pitfalls that you as a manager should look out for. Let’s have a closer look at which ones! When staff appraisals (sometimes called performance appraisals), are performed accurately they become an effective method for boosting the motivation and commitment of the employees. Despite this, these appraisals can sometimes be perceived as a necessary evil – something that takes time from everything else and doesn’t truly offer any visible results. The reasons for this vary – sometimes the appraisal is too brief and may therefore be experienced as pointless, it can be disorganized, or there is an imbalance where only one of the participants get to speak. However, you can relax – there are things you can do to have staff appraisals that are beneficial for you, your employee, and the company. We look at the most common pitfalls of staff appraisals, and how you can avoid them.

You’re Not Sufficiently Prepared

Is time slipping away during the staff appraisal without you getting anywhere? A classic pitfall is that the manager uses the appraisal to catch up on the employee’s work areas and current work tasks. The key to avoiding this: put some extra effort into the groundwork. Before the appraisal, make sure that you have a clear picture of the employee’s current work tasks, areas of responsibility, and results. If you have had an appraisal before (i.e., it’s not your first appraisal ever), go back to previous notes to review what you agreed upon last time. What has changed since the last appraisal? The results, how do they match your previously set goals? You and your employee will save time and be able to better focus on development areas if you enter the appraisal with a clear overview of these areas. As a result, the appraisal becomes more future-oriented!

You Forget to Follow Up

Unfortunately, all the preparation in the world doesn’t help you much if the staff appraisals aren’t followed up properly – without a follow-up, matters that you agreed upon can be left hanging, and you won't know for sure if you’re headed in the right direction. For the staff appraisal to cultivate authentic and permanent results, you need to follow up on and evaluate the goals not just once, but continuously.

You Forget to Document What Has Been Said

All staff appraisals should end with a summary that you document; in the next appraisal, you may have forgotten what you settled at the previous meeting. What did you agree upon? Which areas of development are there, what is the next step, which new goals have you set, and how are those goals supposed to be met? Document what you have established and save the notes so that both you and the employee have access to them. In this way, you get a good foundation for performing regular follow-ups and tracking the employee’s development. Many companies use a standardized template for staff appraisals. The advantage of templates is that you ensure that the appraisals are equal for all employees and that no important parts are left out. If you don’t have a generic template for staff appraisals, many of the Swedish trade unions have templates and checklists that are available to use. Unionen suggests a structure with five overarching areas to outline the appraisal: Retrospection (tillbakablick), The Future (framtiden), Competency development (kompetensutveckling), General well-being (Allmän trivsel), and Work Environment (Arbetsmiljö).

You Overlook the Importance of Feedback

We all need to feel valued and seen. The staff appraisal is a great platform for giving positive feedback and affirming that you notice and appreciate great performance and behaviour in your employees. At the same time, appraisals are also a great source for development and improvement, where your responsibility as a manager is to inform the employee clearly and honestly about development areas. One efficient approach to delivering feedback is to use “I” messages, such as I have noticed… or I experience… You thereby focus on your experience. This gives room for your employee to deliver his or her opinion on the matter without becoming defensive. Don’t forget to invite the employee to reciprocate, so that you can become more aware of how to improve in your role as a manager. Envision the staff appraisal as part of a bigger workplace culture, where giving and receiving feedback – both positive and constructive – feels natural.

You Forget to Listen

Perhaps you have participated in staff appraisals where the manager rushes in between other meetings, brings out a questionnaire, and starts talking as if on autopilot. Such meetings will hardly fulfill their purpose. Instead, you should strive for an equal dialogue where both parties have space to express themselves. Naturally, it’s your responsibility as a manager to lead the conversation, but this doesn’t mean that you should be micro-managing it. Listen actively, ask follow-up questions – and show that you are genuinely curious to hear the answers.

You Mostly Ask Yes/No questions

Closed questions such as “Do you like working here?”, “Are you pleased with your collaborations?”, or “Are you on track with project X?” only generate yes and no answers. In other words, neither do they give space for the recipient to give comprehensive answers – nor do they explain circumstances, context, or causes. The most rewarding conversations take place when we ask open questions, providing space for the counterpart to elaborate on what he or she means, feels, or thinks. For example, you can ask “What’s it like to work here? “Can you tell me a little bit about your collaboration with X?”, or “Can you give me an update on project X’s progress?”.

You Forget the Main Purpose

Last, but not least: take a moment to consider the point of the staff appraisals. Do they mostly feel like an annual check-in that has to be done, to see how things are going? Essentially, you should regard the staff appraisals as a tool to achieve the operational goals of the company. As a manager, you use the appraisals to communicate the operational goals to your employee, so that you together can look at how the employee can and wants to contribute to the achievement of those goals.

Time to Work Smarter with the Staff Appraisals?

Using system support, such as the support provided in Flex HRM Employee, for example, is a smart way to improve planning, implementing, and following up on your staff appraisals. Create tailor-made templates and let the employee fill in the answers in a user-friendly interface, directly in the system. Save the documentation together with history, course planning, and other relevant documentation that you both have access to, everything gathered in one single place. The advantages are many: you get a perfect overview, save time, and simplify the process for both manager and employee. In addition, you don’t have to deal with paper forms that get lost. Sounds smart, doesn’t it? Read more about staff appraisals in Flex HRM Employee here.

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