Performance appraisal seems to be a daunting prospect for some managers. It doesn’t need to be that way. Appraisal should be simple, practical, motivational and valuable. Just two questions will achieve that.
We’ve turned performance appraisal into a complicated, time consuming, bureaucratic process that not only lacks focus but also creates all sorts of avoidance behaviour from all concerned. We add to the complexity by tagging a salary review on the end of it. What nonsense. Let’s get back to basics.
The purpose of performance appraisal is to review how well an employee has done his or her job and to set goals and performance standards for the next six-twelve months. That’s all: nothing fancy or elaborate.
The performance appraisal is not concerned with measuring behavior – unless that behavior has seriously damaging effects on performance. Managers get all hung up about personal style, demeanor, interpersonal relationship, timekeeping, neatness, attitude: a whole lot of behavioral issues that generally have little to do with performance. Let’s measure the performance, not the performer.
The Two Questions
The key issues in performance appraisal can be addressed in just two questions.
- “What is the job designed to achieve: the job goals?”
- “How will you know that the goals have been achieved?”
The first question establishes the goals of the job. The second established the performance standards. And if your records and systems are spot on and comprehensive, you – and the employee – can measure performance without conversation or discussion. The answers will be on a computer screen.
Answering these questions will complete the appraisal.
If You Need A Third Question…
You can help the performance appraisal process by asking a third question.
- “How can we review progress towards goals and standards?”
In some jobs you may need a scoreboard: a way of knowing “how you’re going” on the way to achieving the overall goals. This enables you to review progress at various stages during the period involved.
Of course, there’s a catch. Manager and employee must have agreed on the goals and standards to measure. In other words, if the goals and standards aren’t clearly established, it’s a waste of time asking the questions.
The two – or three if you prefer – questions make performance measurement a fairly straightforward process. They also enable the manager or the employee or both to monitor progress towards the goals. You don’t have to wait until “performance review time”. You can review, revise, restructure or whatever so that the employee has the best possible chance to achieve the job goals in the period specified. That’s not a bad result from two or three questions.
Performance appraisal doesn’t need to be the threatening, difficult, unpleasant, bureaucratic process it seems to have become in some companies. But to gain full value from this simple approach you must have clearly defined performance goals and performance standards. The two questions will work like a charm then. But remember, you’re assessing the performance not the performer.