Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How Often Should Performance Appraisals Be Done?

I love it when I get a question from a reader.  So, please keep them coming.

Below is my most recent question:

Are there advantages of going to an 18 month cycle versus 12 month cycle for evaluations of employees?

I love this question because it is a topic that I think is really changing...performance management.

I believe that the trend in performance management regarding feedback is more, more, more feedback and do it more often.  Many things are driving this trend.  First of all, we have The Millennials that are both entering the workforce and being promoted.  We all have witnessed and read about their need for feedback.  I believe this is a great thing by the way, so no need to comment on my knocking Millenials.  I get it, and I have one at home that works for Home Depot.

Next, I think technology enables us as managers to give feedback instantaneously almost as the behavior is happening.  Yes, there is an APP for that!

So, I promise to get to the answer to the question soon...

As far as appraisals go I think most companies are at least completing appraisals on an annual cycle with  "check ins" during the performance period.  These touch points can be formal or informal.  Feedback, however is constant and continuous.  So, the old adage is true, "catch someone doing something great and tell them, RIGHT THEN!"  You also have to think about behavior that needs improvement, that also has to be addressed RIGHT THEN.

Of course we also must tie our reward and recognition programs to all of this as LINKAGE to corporate goals is a critical success factor in making all this work.  Remember the end result of a GREAT performance management system is increased performance.  It's not a paperwork or a disciplinary exercise.

It's coming...the answer:

So are there advantages to an 18 month cycle versus a 12 month cycle?

I can't think of any advantages except it would be technically less work for HR departments.  Managers may THINK it benefits them by not having to do appraisals as often but it doesn't.  Employees NEED performance feedback, they need to know how they are doing compared to goals.  It's just how we re wired.  Also, think about this, if there is an issue with an employee in attaining his goals, waiting 18 months to address that is a huge fail for all concerned.

I also posed this question to Sean Conrad (@SeanPConrad), from Halogen Software.  I hope he weighs in on this question as well.  (hint, hint Sean!!!)  I hear this is a topic near and dear to his heart.

Let's hear from you, what works in your organizations.  What technology are you using?  What trends are you seeing?

1 comment:

Sean P. Conrad said...

Hi Cathy,

Thanks for the great thought-provoking question and your thoughts on it as well. I am very passionate about this topic so thank you for asking me to chime in!

On the the question - or my version of it - what is the right frequency for performance reviews?

Our most successful customers conduct reviews at least annually and provide regular, ongoing feedback to employees throughout the year.

It’s worth noting the performance review is exactly that – a review of performance feedback already given. Providing feedback throughout the year ensures nothing comes as a surprise to the employee during the performance review. The focus of the annual review then becomes much more about development and learning to help employees cultivate competencies that drive the desired performance outcomes.

If you conduct the review on an 18-month cycle you delay your ability to measure the results of these development plans and you take the risk of losing employee buy-in to the process. Here’s what I mean...

The annual review should be used to discuss competencies and performance results with the intention of honing in on the areas your employees need to either improve or “stretch” themselves. The goal is to discuss ways to improve performance in their current role as well as (potentially) prepare them for future roles in the organization. This development focus during the annual review process becomes the value proposition for the employee – the “What’s In It for Me” – that helps get them get engaged in the process.

With development in mind we find many customers move to a 12-month review process and add a much simpler check-in at the 6-month point. The intent of the 6-month review is to monitor and discuss the progress of development plans and learning paths, put new plans in place or make adjustments as needed to help the employee progress.

For most organizations we find it is a multi-year process to evolve their talent management processes towards these best practices. The first step is usually to simplify and automate the existing process while providing greater emphasis on employee development throughout. Moving to frequent feedback and regular check-ins are common next steps.

Just some of my thoughts on this topic - I'd love to hear some more opinions.