Performing an employee performance appraisal correctly can mean the difference between firing a solid worker -- or worse, keeping on a money sink that drives your customers away -- and not. No other process performed by middle management has as much influence not only on the individual workers but on the performance of the business as a whole. Used properly, employee assessments are the most powerful arrow in your business' quiver in terms of mobilizing the energy and strengths of every employee toward accomplishing your strategic goals. By addressing not only every employee's abilities and talents, but aligning their attention to the company's values and vision, you can get each of them to answer two important questions: "What does my company expect of me?" and "How can I better meet those expectations?".
Fortunately, there is an ideal method for performing an employee performance appraisal. It involves four basic phases of action, two of which we'll cover in this post: defining expectations for the worker, and observing the worker over the course of the appraisal period.
Defining Expectations At the beginning of the appraisal period, a worker's manager sits down with them and discusses exactly what that worker is expected to do over the next period. That includes what the worker's specific responsibilities will be, the general behaviors and competencies the worker will be expected to display, and the potential paths of development the worker might take along the way. This discussion empowers the worker, who learns what they must do to earn whatever benefits or bonuses await them -- and it empowers the manager, who has now earned the right to hold the worker accountable for all of those expectations.
Observation The manager's role over the course of the appraisal period is to continually observe the worker's performance in respect to the previously discussed goals, and address any areas in which the worker is falling behind -- or greatly exceeding -- those goals. Furthermore, the manager is responsible for encouraging the worker to seek out coaching and feedback relative to their goals.
In Part II, we'll take a look at the crucial element of the appraisal process: the review itself.