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The process of performance appraisals can either encourage or discourage employee engagement at your company. Most people don't like their organization's annual employee performance appraisal process. Even the term is scary. “We're going to appraise your performance.”

The question is: Why? For one thing, there are the forms. The documents used for performance appraisals inevitably grow over time, especially as companies add more bureaucratic and legal “stuff” designed to protect the company's interests in the case of employment litigation.

The result? Managers must essentially write a full-length thesis on each employee under their watch. No wonder these managers balk at the mere mention of quarterly or semiannual performance appraisals! It's more than enough to undergo this torture once a year. (Sure, there are some technology solutions on the market, but often, these solutions are just too complicated for your average manager.)

Plus, performance appraisals tend to focus on trailing feedback rather than leading feedback. Giving trailing feedback is a little like looking in the rearview mirror. It involves telling an employee how he has performed against goals in the past.

Trailing feedback is an important thing — but it isn't the only thing! Leading feedback involves projecting forward. It's like looking through the windshield. It has to do with future goals and objectives, with a focus on the employee's ongoing development. Truth be told, most employees are far more interested in the future — in learning how they can grow — than they are in the past.

Offering both trailing and leading feedback during performance appraisals is important because both help drive engagement. Trailing feedback (accomplishment against goals) reinforces achievement, which is a key engagement driver.

And leading feedback tends to be more developmental in nature and, thus, reinforces the line of site between an employee's current job and where that person is going. Helping employees reach their potential through development is essential for engagement to take root.

There are other tools you can look into for employee assessments that will do more to help encourage employee engagement — employee development plans, 360 assessments, and “more of, same as, less of” feedback sessions are some of the best options.

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