For managers and business owners, performance appraisals can be a source of some discomfort. This discomfort may stem from a dislike of confrontation or a dread about dealing with an employee who hates criticism.
If this sounds like you or if you are just curious about the best way to craft a performance appraisal, this article contains the information you need. First of all, let us define what exactly a performance appraisal is and what it is not.
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What Is A Performance Appraisal?
A performance appraisal (also known as a “performance review” or “employee appraisal”) is an evaluation and documentation of an employee’s contributions. Performance appraisals are supposed to be done regularly in order to review overall job performance and assess the employee’s contributions to the organisation. The manager, team-lead, or business-owner usually carries it out.
During a performance appraisal, managers draw on real-time praise or criticism and give feedback (written feedback, in this case) to their employees. They also check on any progress on goals set during the last review. This is a great time for managers to help set new goals for employees to increase productivity. Note, however, that done improperly they could drive away great talent from your company.
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What Do You Include In a Performance Appraisal?
Though it might vary from company to company, it is useful to discuss each of these aspects in an employee’s review:
- Punctuality and reliability
- Effective, appropriate communication
- Attendance and punctuality
- Time-management skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Quality of work produced and
- Troubleshooting ability
- Company or position-specific accomplishments
After weighing each area, it’s time to give a grade on the employee’s overall performance. What this grading system looks like is up to you as the manager. You could employ an “A to F” system (A being the best), a percentage system (100% being the best) or even written descriptions (e.g. “strongly disagree”, “strongly agree”; “most of the time”, “some of the time”).
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What A Performance Appraisal Is Not
Contrary to popular belief, a performance appraisal is not an annual review. While these appraisals can be done once a year, you will probably find that more frequent performance reviews are better for your business. Some organisations have even done away with the formal appraisal process entirely and replaced it with frequent, casual one-on-one discussions.
The more regularly you check in with your employees, the greater their skill advancement and career growth. The frequency of these appraisals depends on manager-to-employee ratio, business culture, how long an employee has been with your company, and so on.
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Tips for Writing A Meaningful Performance Appraisal
Delicate as they may be, performance appraisals are a useful way to monitor the progress of your team. Employees find out what they are doing well and what they can improve upon. Managers, too, get the opportunity to share their expectations, troubleshoot potential conflict and motivate.
So now, it’s time for one of your scheduled performance appraisals with an employee. What should you keep in mind while writing it? Here are some valuable tips on how to write an appraisal that will empower your employees and profit your business in the long run.
1. Get Real-Time Information
Getting real-time information is the only way to know exactly how a worker is performing. This information needs to be through direct observation by yourself or a manager. The real-time feedback should be written down so that it can be referenced when you start to craft your review.
Real-time assessments are best gained from regular, casual check-ins. During check-in, you make sure everything is on track and that employees know what is required of them. You can also take note of more complex concerns you want to raise in the formal performance appraisal.
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2. Be Honest
While it might be uncomfortable to bring up someone else’s flaws, nobody is perfect. Decide what needs to be improved and put it down in your written review. Hesitation leads nowhere, especially if a particular worker is negatively impacting your team.
In the same way, clarity is important. You must use objective language that will be easy to understand by anyone who reads it. Your expectations need to be well explained and not sugar-coated. You are basically setting an example of the clarity you expect from your employees. Without honesty and clarity, nothing really changes.
It’s also worth mentioning that while honesty is very important, brutal honesty is not useful. It is better to give criticism as you yourself would want to receive it!
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3. Give Examples
When giving criticism or highlighting great performance, make sure to give specific examples. For example, if an employee needs to improve their communication skills, mention a specific email that was not well worded. In the same vein, when giving positive feedback do the same. For instance: “Ms. Doe handled the Lagos building project well. She showed leadership and provided the team with support by making a guide that all our contractors could understand well.”
To be able to provide specific examples like these, it is very important to take notes over a long period of time. The examples show your employees that your concerns are valid and that you pay attention.
4. Use Careful Wording To Recognise Accomplishments
A lot of appraisals have zero effect because of poor wording. Since you want to encourage an employee’s good behaviour you need to be very clear when giving positive feedback so they understand what they must maintain. The following are a few words and phrases that you can use in your performance review. They are based on the content in James Neal’s book Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals.
When you include some of these, you pass the message across and effectively highlight their performance:
- Creativity: Recognising an employee’s out-of-the-box thinking can be very motivating. In a performance appraisal, try phrases like “clever and seeks creative alternatives,” or “experiments to find a more innovative way to solve the problem.” You then follow with specific examples.
- Improvement: Noticing growth is also encouraging for an employee: “continues to grow and improve.”
- Problem-Solving: “tackles problems rather than symptoms efficiently”, “constantly identifies several great solutions.”
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5. After Writing The Review, Meet One-on-One
It is an absolute necessity to have a face-to-face meeting with the worker being appraised. This is necessary, first of all, because you get to clarify any issues or questions they might have with their appraisal. During the meeting, it is best to have copies of the written review on hand while you discuss it.
Also, during this meeting, you can schedule enough time for the employee to give feedback as well. This feedback would include comments on the company culture, their motivation as individuals and suggestions, or concerns to the management. This part is very important. In fact, their comments might even cause you to reconsider aspects of your performance appraisals.
At this point, an employee who has been performing very well might request a raise and ask to take on more responsibilities. As a manager or business-owner, you should be open-minded and transparent. You also have the freedom to take the time you need, whether an hour or several days, to think about this new proposal before coming to a decision.
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What do you think of these tips? Have you ever struggled with writing a performance appraisal in the past? Drop a comment and tell us about your experience.
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