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Sheridan Webb

Keystone Development

Training Design Consultant

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Brain friendly performance appraisal


The neurobusiness conference in Manchester is throwing up a lot of questions about why we do things the way we do. In particular, a session by Roger Longdon and Charlotte Gallagher questioned why we continue to do appraisals the way we do, when the majority of companies said they don't contribute to business goals and are generally disliked by staff.

During group discussion it was suggested that one of the reasons that appraisals are often less than effective is that fear underpins them: the individual is fearful of saying the wrong thing, and the manager is fearful of doing the wrong thing. So they do as little as possible, and it becomes a tick-box exercise.
It was agreed that appraisals done well and (crucially) at the right time can be very valuable to individuals and organisations alike. This is nothing new. The question of HOW to make these conversations meaningful is still being addressed.
Roger suggested that e SCARF model (David Rock) could be a useful structure (other useful approaches are also available!). An appraisal that provides positive stimulus in each of the 5 'social' needs would be a good step forward. For those unfamiliar with SCARF, it stands for:
- Status
- Certainty
- Autonomy
- Relatedness
- Fairness
So if we had appraisals that:
- Focussed on what was important to the individual 
- Were consistent
- Allowed the individual to take more control over it (and the outcomes)
- Encouraged collaboration and recognised contribution to the whole
- Were transparent
They may be more liked, and (more importantly) more useful.
Of course, some organisations already manage this, and typically many of these organisations appear in the Best Companies to Work For list.
The trouble is, after years of less than inspiring appraisals, people expect the worst. In another session, Robin Hills explained how our brains like patterns, predictability and (via a fabulous card trick video) how much we DON'T see, even when nothing is hidden... And then you need to throw in the fact that our brain's number one function is to protect us (and appraisals are scary right?), AND our need to be accepted socially, getting performance management right in any organisation is a very difficult task.
So it seems that even when we do things right, it won't always be seen this way. We need to forge new pathways, make new patterns and have new 'norms' before we will really see the benefit.

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Sheridan Webb

Training Design Consultant

Read more from Sheridan Webb

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