How to Grow Part 3: Rethink Annual Performance Appraisals

It’s 1:53 pm, which means Adam has 7 minutes to prepare for his annual performance appraisal. He was so busy working on this last major report he lost track of time. As he walks to his supervisor’s office door, the butterflies set in deeper and deeper in his stomach with each passing step. Why?

Because the annual performance appraisal could mean a raise, punishment, or – heaven forbid – be the first step in the long road to being “let go”. He feels like he’s performed well throughout the last year, well above par, but he doesn’t know if his supervisor feels the same way. As Adam quickly conducts a self performance appraisal in his head, he becomes increasingly anxious about his impending performance appraisal. He walks into his supervisors office and…

Let’s be honest. Annual performance appraisals can scare employees. They are expected to understand the ramifications of their performance over the last year and prepare for their performance over the next 365 days. Considering that’s an average of about 2,000 working hours, we can assume that employees won’t remember everything they were told during their annual performance appraisal. Moreover, the infrequency of the review makes it a much more daunting practice. So, how can employers take the uncertainty, anxiety, and ultimate ineffectiveness out of the traditional annual performance appraisal? It’s time to rethink the way companies conduct employee feedback.

Frequency: Maybe lose the annual bit?

Communication is key to a successful team, right? Well, annual performance appraisals limit the dedicated opportunities for employees to have an open discussion with their supervisors about their work. Increasing the frequency of performance appraisals will broaden employee’s goals and actualize where their work fits into organizational objectives. The problem with traditional employee performance appraisals is that they spark a “fight or flight” response in the human brain.
This fight or flight reflex causes colleagues to work against each other. In fact, it can negate the thoughtful and collaborative atmosphere needed to improve performance. Guided conversations during reviews are more effective in getting employees involved in the discussion. The active participation decreases the stress of the event and increases performance improvement thereafter.



How to Grow Part 1: Performance Management in 3… 2… briefly touched on performance appraisals as a key aspect in corporate talent management. To grow on that point, a primary fear facet of appraisals is simply the lack of reviewing the employee’s performance. Part 1 said:

“Is it really a performance appraisal if it doesn’t truly identify performance? The answer is no. In fact, performance appraisals are sometimes wildly erroneous and can lead to more performance problems than they actually solve. For example, two-thirds of employees who receive the highest marks during their performance appraisal are quite frankly not the organization’s top performers.”

In essence, when employees are unaware of specific points of poor or good performance, it can lead to anxiety between reviews. If employees are not given the tools they need to solve – much less identify – problems, they can’t be expected to fix performance issues. As an effort to dismiss fear from the appraisal process, remember this formula:
      Recognize good and poor performance = Objectivity
      Identify problems and offer solutions = Ownership
      Tracking development and maintenance = Growth

The Road Ahead

Organizations, albeit changing slowly, have begun the process of altering their current performance appraisal programs to see better results. Currently, 39% of companies already reviewed and changed their performance management within the last 18 months. Another 31% are in the process of evaluating their system. Companies like Adobe have already changed their appraisal programs, and have seen a development in the effectiveness of the feedback.
Tweet This: 39% of companies have changed their performance management within the last 18 months.
Employee performance appraisals don’t have to be scary. They aren’t meant to be punishment; the goal is to monitor growth and performance of each employee and augment it accordingly. Raise the number of times per year management evaluates employee performance. The results include, but are not limited to: decreased appraisal anxiety, increased effectiveness, and better communication up and down the leadership ladder to successfully reach goals. Help your employees help you. Provide better performance appraisals with guided discussion versus strict guidelines that don’t allow room for open communication. The road ahead looks promising, it’s time to get on the right path.

Watch a demo of Reviewsnap’s performance appraisal software to get started.

Don’t miss out on the rest of this series:

Download: From Dread To Moving Ahead