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Appraisal System


This year appraisals will be launched in the company I work for (a little behind everyone else I know).
Last week, one of the managers gathered together all the Heads of Dept (who will be delivering the appraisal) to tell them of the forthcoming change.
It was met with extreme negativity, with comments like 'I've got enough to do without doing appraisals as well' and 'why should we have to change, we've never had to do them before, why now?'. Although the meeting ended with 'they're coming in, whether you like it or not'I have been tasked with training said HoD's and staff on appraisals.
I want to really put over the benefits and attempt to get their buy in, but faced with all the negativity - what would you do?
Lisa Birch

12 Responses

  1. Been here before!
    I’ve faced this on several occasions with different organisations and received comments along the lines of “another form filling exercise” and others like those you are experiencing. I have to say that the directive-style way it’s usually communicated does little to help matters. This year I approached appraisal skills training from a different angle. First of all I changed my attitude towards the training. In the past I trained this as if I was on a personal crusade to turn around negative attitudes! This year I decided to concentrate on the surrounding management skills that make appraisals effective rather than the process itself. I ensured that managers who I anticipated would be negative were sandwiched with ones I knew to be more positive. During my opening I acknowledged the negative feelings towards appraisals and how this was common in many organisations. This started getting some heads nodding in aggreement (my first hurdle jumped!). Then I asked them why they felt appraisals had such a poor image and listed them on a flipchart (that way I managed to control the discussion without getting too involved in negativity). This eventually provoked comments about their own bad experiences of being appraised and things that their managers had done wrong.

    Before the course I had gathered some ‘inspirational’ management quotations which I posted around the room. In pairs I got them to circulate around the room, read the quotes and come up with at least 5 key management responsibilities. The pairs then presented their thoughts which included things like “Reviewing” or “giving feedback”(another hurdle jumped!). I then built some activities which focused on what the manager needed to do to ensure that “Reviewing” happened, was objective and meaningful. They came out with some really useful Action Plans.

    These short exercises helped get attitudes on the right track so that we could move on and concentrate on the surrounding management skills. I can honestly say that this approach to appraisal training went much better than what I’d done previously (and more fun!). The quality and quantity of appraisals completed was higher than in previous years.

    If you want to give me a call on 07957 472279 or email [email protected] I’d be happy to share some more detail with you.

    Good luck!

  2. Appraisal System Buy-in
    I led a team to design a performance management system for 6,500 staff. Part of this buy-in process was designed into the project by inviting a range of people from the various functions and levels to contribute to a Core Design Group. This group was responsible for defining the principles that we wanted the new system to help deliver. I made sure that this group had some well know dissenters (I always find that there is a lot of good nuggets in critical comments, if it is listened to with respect). These principles, for example, the process had to be participative and two-way, it had to have several independent planning and review periods throughout the year, it had to be a combination of task objectives and competencies, it had to be evidence based etc. We then established a series of functional design groups. They had to recruit additional members to take the key principles and to translate them into a process and design that reflected their context and profession. When I led these workshops for Managers and another one for medical Consultants, I introduced a 2×2 window to them. I drew this on a flipchart. I got them into four mixed sub-groups, and I invited them to come up with a number of observations or opinions about the existing practices of planning and giving feedback (The Status Quo). One sub-group was invited to discuss and list the advantages of the existing formal and informal systems. Another sub-group, the disadvantages of the status quo. The next sub-group discussed and listed the potential advantages of the new draft system. The final sub-group focused on the potential disadvantages of the new system. We then shared this information and then added additional comments. In the facilitation and debrief, it was quite common that people often found it easier to see the disadvantages of the new system, but yet be a bit blind to the disadvantages of existing systems. This process helped the participants to see the limitations of their reactions and assumptions. Ultimately, we invited them to work with us so that we could establish a new system that kept the best features of the existing system and also promoted the benefits of the new aproach as well. We also set agreed targets for the implementation of the system and we rolled out training and awareness sessions for managers and for staff on a just in time basis. For example, the planning skills were trained first,then as the initial review periods emerged, we trained in review and feedback skills. It took about two years, but there was a high level of ownership of the new system. It was not done exactly as planned by all staff, but the majority used it conscientiously. If you want to chat further, please call me on 01224 705326.

    Dr Norrie W Silvestro
    NWS Assessment & Development

  3. Appraisals – Supervision – Delegation – Transformation
    I have trained various managers who were reluctant or antagonistic about appraisals.
    Apart from their own previous bad experiences, they were often anxious about a lack of competence in assessing or giving feedback – especially if they, in turn, would be appraised as appraisers!
    After all, it is more difficult to hide behind or bully the people they manage when compelled to keep records of (in)competence!

    I give them a longer term context and purpose for the appraisals.

    There should be NO surprises at an annual appraisal meeting and I encourage them to relate the weekly / monthly appraisals to the appraisee’s aspirations and values. I focus on these regular meetings and the requisite skills and attitude.

    I also reccommend that they use Delegation as a developmental tool, directly related to planning in supervision sessions.

    Good Managers recognise that delegation (not dumping) can motivate staff, and reduce stress for everyone. It clears space for them to address the bigger picture, rather than get bogged down in detail.

    Lastly, your message hints at a ‘top-down’ command and control organisation? If so, there is a danger that appraisals become another weapon in the war against transformational leadership – which can elevate supervision and appraisals to a creative and empowering process.


  4. Get your Heads of Departments to take ownership of the scheme
    We have had the same issue as you and are still implemeting our scheme at the moment. We found that getting the managers involved by asking them how they felt it would run best by a short questionnaire, asking for example would it be better run annually or on rolling employee start dates. We then gave full feedback on the questionnaires recieved and explained why we couldn’t work with their suggestions if they were not suitable.

    As for the training we are to get a consultant in to adminster their training programme which will run over two days. This will include why appraisal systems are positive and the benefits it will bring to the organisation and how it will impact on them as individuals both as the appraisee and appraiser. It will also include a basic train the trainer content to prepare them to train their staff in the system. This will hopefully give them some ownership of the scheme and give their employees the trust in them required to create fair and productive appraisal interviews. The HR team together with the consultant we are bringing on board will design a standard pack to be given to each of the managers to enable them to carry out the training and ensure consistancy.

    I hope this helps and if you would like to discuss content or anything further I would be happy to talk to you.

    Good luck!

  5. Appraisal Help
    You have had some good replies to this predicament and I am sure there are many other people in the same situation as you!
    There are a number of issues that are causing the H0D’s to resist. First though, you need to focus on one issue: Fact: the appraisals have to happen, what will it take to make it happen?
    You can discuss this with the HoD’s- ask them “I understand that you are busy but I am sure you understand the importance of managing the performance of your team. What can we do TOGETHER to make this work for you?”
    Can you give them more time?
    Can we make the form more user friendly- some of the feedback you have had extols the virtue of designing forms with the end-users!

    And lastly there is the issue of competence. Are you HoD’s competent to be able to complete the feedback themselves? Are they in the habit of regularly monitoring performance and do they promote the culture of “learning”? If not, they will find form filling and feedback stressful. Perhaps you can help them. Sit down with the form, ask them questions about the staff member and then get them to summerize on to the form. Sit with them for the first appraisal then give them feedback..

    An excellent “HoD’s” video and training programme is VideoArts “The Dreaded Appraisal”. It covers the issues you have mentioned and more. Contact me directly if you need more help- or indeed to run the programme for you!

    Remember- stay focused. Work with them to find a solution to their concerns, but make the feedback happen!

  6. Manager resistance to appraisal
    this already seems to have got off on the wrong foot with the hammer coming down by saying it’s going to happen whether you like it or not. It is difficult to help you without knowing all the background. If the system itself is cumbersome and unwieldy it will be difficult to convince managers that the benefits outweigh the time cost. The crucial question to build your training and workshops around is “WHY is the company introducing it. What BENEFITS does the company hope to get out of it – in turn these should translate into benefits for the managers. You may find it useful to use a lot of analagies relating to the mess-ups that happen when people don’t get good timely feedback. If managers don’t go along with trying to achieve what the company wants from the system, you may well have any number of different and more fundamental problems that cannot simply be addressed by introducing an appraisal system. Be happy talk this through with you – no charge.

  7. The hard work never stops!!!
    We introduced a formal appraisal system 3 years ago and experienced a great deal of negativity. Many saw it as yet another initiative that will disappear like many before it, whilst others saw it as extra work. At it’s birth, the process was very detailed and long winded and it has taken until now to streamline the system, although it is still quite complex as it covers the assessment of both competencies and objectives. One thing we did do, which I consider a turning point, was use high achievers, some of whom were still negative about the process, to re-write our Competency Framework, which was initially designed using Consultants. You could consider using some of the negative people to design an appraisal framework, possibly through a workshop. I would also suggest that for a time you constantly review progress and take notice of constructive feedback in order to improve and move the process forward. It can be difficult for managers to see beyond the “additional work” and not consider the real benefits. This may be something that you could home in on through training as the appraisals develop, using issues and difficulties as a basis for review. It certainly isn’t easy and we still have difficulties with negativity, but by constantly reviewing the way we appraise and addressing any issues which do arise, we are making progress.

    Good luck!!!

  8. Appraisal convertee
    I have been in the position of being the person who was against appraisals due to the fact that I didn’t really understand what people were actually asking me to do, my experience of appraisals was tainted as I suffered under the annual appraisal system with no interim reviews. The annual appraisal seemed to be based around the last 3 months as people couldn’t remember anything that I was doing THAT LONG AGO…

    I then joined an organisation as a manager and was introduced to a system were interim reviews were held through the year – I can see your people groaning at the thought of that.

    I always use the concept of activity curves with appraisals, i.e. for a short period of time after the appraisal there is a certain amount of activity towards the objectives this tapers off to zero activity until a short period before the appraisal.

    Interim appraisals takes advantage of these activity curves by reviewing progress early and thus increasing the activity.

    Another thing to sell to the managers is the concept of accountability and that an appraisal is a two way process with the appraisee and the appraiser agreeing the objectives a) in the short term b) medium term and c) an annual objective. By having objectives that can be achieved in a relatively short space of time it gives the appraisee a feeling of accomplishement and a topic to discuss at the interim appraisal where a new objective can be set. Another benefit of interim objectives is that if the business or objectives change, you don’t need to wait a whole year to review things.

    I now find that appraisals almost write themselves as I keep up-to-date with what is going on, on a regular basis and so it takes a lot of effort out of the main annual appraisal.

    I have skirted over a number of areas here but the main selling point is that if done properly appraisals can increase and improve performance, and also helps in retention of staff with obvious motivational benefits. Use some examples to demonstrate how this can be achieved. I have used an interim appraisal as a means to informally discipline someone and in the process set a plan for performance improvement, I then left a clear picture of what was a desirable level of performance and the consequences of not achieving within a short period of time (formal discipline and 1 month), the benefits to me were that I now had all the evidence I needed should it ever get to a formal level, I had an agreement with the member of staff as to where the problems lay and what was an acceptable level, we put a plan in place to help them achieve that level of performance. The onus of responsibility is now on the individual to perform, they have control of their own destiny.

    I am glad to say that all is well now and we are a happy family once more.

    Please contact me if you would like to talk further. (01628 786862)


  9. Oh look, Fun Ahead
    I will agree with the other comment that you’ve been put in a difficult spot because “the hammer came down.” The one thing I would think that you wouldn’t ever want to do is say anything like,”Well, Mr. xxx said we are going to have to do this.” People will find a way to sabotage you.

    What I would do is to have an honest sit down with each department head and do plenty of listening. They will tell you specifically what their objections are. Then, like a good salesperson, talk to them about the kinds of problems they already have that appraisals may assist them in solving–poor performance, unmet quotas, etc.

    Yes, people do have enough to do without having to do more, but what if identifying problems in employees and either fixing those problems or removing them would make them have less to do? Would they be more responsive then? I’d offer to track the time they spend on appraisals, coach them as to how to either train or discipline the employees, then track the time saved. Mind you, it’ll take a good year or two to see results, but it’ll be worth it.

    I know that it is hard to do this, as I am in a similiar situation, but I’ve found that if people believe (then see) that good results are forthcoming, they’ll love you for it in the long run….of course, you’re the bearer of bad news in the short run. Put on your armor.

    Hope this helps.

  10. Appraisals
    You have a fair amount of feedback already so I wont burden you further. My experience has lead me to beleive that managers dislike the idea of appraisals because for the first time they have to sit down in a formal’semi-formal manner and tell the employee what they think of their performance. Also they believe that people will resist appraisals. Make sure they understand that the appraisal system will be received more positively when employees are made aware of the plus side.
    1. Employees have a right to be told how they are doing.
    2. They have a right to put their views to their boss and to have those views noted.
    3.They have a right to be involved in the decisions affecting their daily lives.
    There are other ‘rights’ but I am sure you can sift them out for yourself – the essential thing is to demonstrate to all concerned that this is a two way charter which many employees embrace wholeheartedly when it presented as their right.
    Good luck

  11. Buy in
    This may have been covered before but here are my thoughts.

    Firstly don’t feel as though you’re on your own in this one. As a fall back use the most senior member of staff in the business to open up the course and justify its importance and rationale to the team.

    Secondly. Use the current business performance, goals, visons, competiton, staff turnover etc to justify the need for the continuous improvement of personnel

    Thirdly. Initially rather than running a “training session,” run a workout type event, where the HOD’s can get involved in designing the processess, materials and structures that will be the appraisal system. That way its their baby and there’ll be less resistance to it.

    Good luck

  12. WIFM
    What’s in it for Me? is the question that you have to sell. Appraisals that lead to pay rises, bonus’s etc mean something to everyone, appraisals for the sake of it are a bit nebulous – but it sounds like as a top down directive, you have little influence there!


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