Ditching appraisals – Step 1 – Do the groundwork

You’re about to take the first step in the direction of abolishing performance appraisals in your organisation.  Before you go any further, STOP!  Think about this carefully:  is there really a problem with the system that your company uses already?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people believe that they need performance appraisals to let them know where they stand, how well they’re doing and what they need to do better.  Of course, in the absence of real leadership, this may well be true!

Those people that have not read the books by Dan Pink, Coens and Jenkins and Deming, may still be under the illusion that appraisals are the only way that they can give or receive feedback, work on their personal development and career progression.  They also may link appraisal with fair pay and reward discussions.  Yes, we know that this should all be possible by substituting leadership for annual appraisal, but then we are ‘enlightened’!

What you need to do is to assemble a small group of people and consider the following:

  • Do people look forward to their annual appraisal?
  • Are there particular aspects of the current system that people particularly like or dislike, or don’t they really care?
  • Has the current system been revised and changed regularly?  New forms etc every year?
  • What’s the general coffee table chat when it comes to appraisal time?  Enthusiasm, respect and appreciation or fear, sarcasm and indifference?
  • How does the appraisal feature in employee satisfaction surveys
  • How often is the appraisal document or objectives document used throughout the year?
  • Is the appraisal honest on all sides?  Hard to do this when it is linked to pay, reward and progression!

You may not be able to answer all of the questions yourselves.  It may be that you need to do a quick survey of colleagues to get the full picture.  Be careful not to use such leading questions as I have done.

Once you have done this, try to ascertain where the biggest dissatisfactions lie.  You need to build some energy to get your project off the ground.  At this point, if you were to try to start a project aimed at abolishing the whole process, you’re likely to come up against significant resistance.  Break the project down into manageable pieces, deal with the areas of biggest dissatisfaction.  You can always come back to the other areas once you’ve made an impact in this area.

Once you’ve got a focus for your efforts, the next thing is to engage with the senior management, to get their full support.  This is a key step in your program!