Taking the Year into Account for an Employee Appraisal

In order for your performance appraisals to be effective, you need to maintain regular communication, contact, and coaching with your employees throughout the entire evaluation period (typically, one year). Your employees shouldn’t have any doubt about how they’re doing. If they run into performance glitches, issues, or problems, they should feel confident that you’ll identify and address these situations quickly.

Think of it this way: You’re conducting mini-appraisals and feedback sessions all year.

Basing annual performance evaluations on selected chunks of time and individual incidents during the evaluation period short-circuits the evaluation process — and your employees.

Managers offer many excuses for gathering limited data, but all are dubious at best:

  • There’s not enough information. With limited data, their evaluations suffer from a lack of thoroughness, specificity, and meaningful examples. Employees typically react to this type of feedback with denial, defensiveness, and disappointment.

  • There’s not enough time. This pronouncement comes from managers who may be aware of the various sources of performance data, but who lack a true sense of interest, involvement, and commitment to the evaluation process itself.

  • There’s enough information already. For these managers, the rationalization is that people don’t change very much, so it makes just as much sense to do a cut-and-paste and provide the employees with essentially the same evaluation as last year.

  • The most recent behavior is most important. Instead of taking the time to look at an entire year’s worth of performance, these managers rely heavily on recent events, whether positive or negative. They then justify their stance by claiming that these events are more important than events from months long gone by.

  • Only a few incidents really matter. Managers who rely on this excuse believe that there’s no need for a year’s worth of data because it only takes a few critical incidents to really understand employee performance.

  • I already know these are strong employees. These are the conflict-avoidance managers, the ones who view the appraisal process as a time to praise rather than appraise. Providing employees with recognition and building a strong working relationship with them is important, but that’s not appraisal.

    I already know these are weak employees. The twisted idea behind this approach is that the employees need to be tougher, and those who can take this heat will stand out and stand up for themselves.

Regardless of explanations or rationalizations, appraisals that fail to look at the full range of employee performance and competencies throughout the entire year are destined to fail.

There are four additional advantages associated with performance evaluations that cover a full year:

  • They put the employees on a level playing field.

  • They’re accurate.

  • They’re motivational.

  • They lead to better documentation.

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