R.I.P. Appraisal Systems

Has the “Death” card finally been dealt for our trusted friends, our appraisal schemes?  This is a tough one. You know that your managers need to be reminded to set clear objectives; they often need training to set them well, to rate competencies and they also need to be reminded to ask about useful stuff like career thoughts and potential. They also need pressuring to complete their annual reviews and ratings so that you can start the tricky, but critical, time-pressured job of calibrating salary reviews. Of course, you need the appraisal process to guide, encourage and force this! But maybe you actually don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that setting clear objectives is very important, as is having 1-1 conversations about progress and barriers to success. It can be transformational in fact, to have empowering completion and acknowledgement of accomplishments at the end of a year. It can shift a working relationship from “jogging along” to true mutual respect and gratitude, or instead it can lead you to think the time has come to move on…but none of this means your system should be about dictating this compliance.

The truth is that employees’ needs for structure and support differ hugely, as does the style of your managers. By setting the structure for everyone (like a parent or teacher does) you may be unwittingly driving a child-like reliance and resistance. Let’s instead imagine for a moment that your managers can be trusted to manage, direct and coach appropriately and skilfully. Build a system with the focus on motivating and enabling, on giving the managers the ability and freedom to manage their people their way and the employees the space and tools to drive feedback and development as and when they have the appetite. There may be pieces you need to manage for salaries but, if you pare it down, there may not be much.

It is time to accept that, if your managers don’t love your system, if they need cajoling to complete it on time, if your employees raise their eyes at the very idea of their annual review meeting, then now is the time to declare it is simply not working. The good news is that the “Death” card symbolises rebirth of new life and transformation.  So now is the opportunity to declare that appraisals as we have known them have served us well, but are now done, and start co-creating a new process afresh with and for your people.

Elva Ainsworth
June 2017

2 thoughts on “R.I.P. Appraisal Systems

  1. This discussion is like “repeal and replace,” including having no viable replace part. Likewise, we have been talking about the “replace” part for more than seven years with little progress. Crowd-sourced feedback is not the answer. It is a problem with a solution, but few organizations of any size are willing to invest in it because it involves planning, training, and accountability. When you find that organization, then some of us have some suggestions.

  2. I share your concerns re crowd sourcing David though I disagree on the lack of solutions. There are some interesting new processes emerging in the more innovative organisations. It is an exciting time!

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