There are many modern mantra emerging from ‘people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers’ to the statistic that when asked 80% of companies said they were changing or thinking of changing their employee appraisal system. The internet abounds with satirical takes on this but why do so many people readily identify with the manager who defines objectives once every year, puts them in a draw and then ignores them until it comes to bonus time. Would reviewing the objectives more regularly help people achieve their aims or merely frustrate them? Do we even need and appraisals process.
Formal appraisal provide lots of data, records and targets and people of that ilk love them specifically because of that; you can measure and quantify everything on a lovely shiny dashboard. Or can you? What we often fail to take into account is that a sizable number of the people in the process will not be invested in it so the metrics you obtain from it are verging on meaninglesss.
I believe we are measuring the reviewing the wrong things and in a long winded way. We’ve all been there; you sit down with your manager and you have *the* one to one. And this is where the problems start. Since when, in the history or all business history, was an HR department required to both mandate and structure the one-to-one that is the yearly, six monthly or quarterly, appraisal. Any and every good manager will have had a catch up with his or her staff within the last week or two anyway.
POINT ONE: Special HR
Appraisal meeting should not be required
Then we move to the contents of the ‘special’ appraisal meeting. The appraising and objective setting. Now I’m going to borrow an analogy I heard here from Octavius Black. Imagine just for a moment you’re sitting down to Christmas dinner and having just cooked it your mum sits opposite you but instead of eating dinner you’re set to discuss, rank and analyse your mums performance over the last year. Cooking – 7, Cleaning – 8, Performance at work – 7 and so. That’s going to be a disaster. And similarly so with a manager and employee. If a manager hasn’t got a clue what an employee has been up to or the employee has no idea what they are supposed to have been doing then something is seriously wrong. Spending an hour once bi-annually scoring some criteria that have long since been forgotten is at best pointless, at worst damn destructive.
POINT TWO: Good managers know what their team members are doing and their team members know what they should be doing.
This all leads on to what I’m really driving at and that is the appraisal process isn’t a distinct thing; it is something that a good manager is doing all the time. It is not a system of spreadsheets, forms, objective setting once or twice a year – it *is* management. Which leads me to my final point, scrap your appraisal system, it’s probably useless at best and at worst it is divisive. Instead hire good managers and ensure that those you promote to management know how to manage: train them remorselessly. By all means ensure there is a mechanism to understand where a manager is failing, when a team consistently misses deliveries or Business As Usual targets thats a good indication to start looking but please don’t subject managers and team members to the yearly meeting, it just frustrates all involved.