Objectives section in a performance appraisal

Share Button

In my last post I asked that you at least question whether you need an objective section within your annual performance appraisal.  It is though the most common section, so let's look at it in some detail.

The basic tenet of objectives is that they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). While, this is a useful place to start it is worth recognising that SMART tended to be used in project management or marketing circles first. We recommend that you set your objective questions with SMART in mind but you are not restricted to it – for example, the subtlety of achievable versus realistic is often unnecessary.

So, you want managers or individuals to set objectives that are specific and difficult (remember you goal theory). But, here is where the problems lie. It is not necessarily in the individual's interest to set difficult objectives. Not from an inherent laziness (I firmly believe that employees are not inherently lazy) but if the performance appraisal process has consequences then it requires a particularly brave  person who sets themselves a challenging target. We suggest that you follow the steps below to ensure objectives are well-set and that you generally have managers set  objectives rather than the individual themself.

This is not cast in stone, and we are not advocating this process happens without a  dialogue but in the end, the manager sets the objective.

Our general recommendation is that you reduce the time-period for goals. An annual goal is subject to a large number of external influences that make it unlikely to lead to sustained  effort. It is likely to be affected by influences outside of the appraisee's control, it is difficult to remain motivated to the goal should you start to over- or under- perform against it, and it  may need to change over the course of a year.

An attractive but elusive goal of objective setting is to allow the organisational objectives to cascade through the company. The theory is deceptively simple – we set the organisational strategy and the senior team set their objectives based upon it. The next level down set their objectives in order to achieve their manager's objectives – cascading down a set of  well aligned objectives.

Our experience of cascaded objectives in performance appraisals is less positive. First, you should consider the practical problems of the time taken to allow the cascading to take place. Most organisations struggle to let it happen. Second, it relies on objectives to be clearer and somewhat simpler than they tend to be. Third, it assumes omnipotence on behalf of the senior team – they need to get the strategy so right and their own objectives so accurate that others beneath them don't need to create objectives outside that are actually needed.

There is a simpler and we believe better way of achieving alignment without prescription in this way.  Our suggestion is that all objectives should be allocated against broad themes set by the organisation. Frankly, there are times when people set objectives that have little to  do with the business or focus of the organisation and the theming brings this in line.

In summary – keep this section simple: what am I going to do, when am I going to do it (not too far away), what do I need to help me do it and what measures am I putting in place.

Excerpt from our performance appraisal white paper.

Brendan

Share Button

Do you need objectives in your annual appraisals?

Share Button

Continuing my extracts from our performance appraisal white paper, let me turn to objective setting.

Objective setting derives from goal setting theory. Goal setting theory states that people working to specific, difficult goals consistently outperform those without goals or those who are simply urged “to do their best”. This is important. If you believe in goal theory then you have to consider how best to bring this into the objective section of your appraisal process.

In my next post/extract I will give our views on how to set objectives but  I would encourage everyone to ensure that they do want objectives within their performance appraisal form.  Too often they appear by default and it is not clear that this theory is subscribed to.  It is perfectly possible that yours is an organisation that does not need personal objectives to get people to work harder or better.  At least think it through before getting everyone in the organisation to try to complete them within their annual performance appraisal.

Brendan

Share Button

The purpose of performance appraisals

Share Button

An oft-missed step. For many organisations, performance appraisals are a given – often written into the company’s procedures manual. Because we rarely decide whether to do
performance appraisals we sometimes forgot to ask “why are we doing this?”.

First, we recommend that you explicitly separate the organisational objectives from the personal development objectives. While they overlap and of course it could be argued that they are the same, this split allows you to meet the two stakeholders needs openly.

Organisational objectives for performance appraisals

  • Clarifying and defining performance expectations
  • Facilitating communication and involvement
  • Allocating financial rewards
  • Determining promotion
  • Motivating employees
  • Controlling employees actions
  • Succession planning
  • Cultural change initiatives
  • Training needs analysis

Individual objectives for performance appraisals

  • Identify training needs
  • Identify development requirements
  • Gain feedback on performance
  • Promote own capabilities to organisation
  • Understand expectations

It may be that you do not agree with these lists and almost certainly you would have other objectives to add. Our point is that the building of this list is crucial for it is the yardstick against which you can evaluate your current processes, any changes you design and the final implementation.

Our suggested approach is that you hold workshops that discuss with the various stakeholders what their objectives are.  This often gives your project focus and it allows you to introduce performance appraisals later with the benefits that people are seeking.

This is an extract from our performance appraisal white paper.

Brendan

Share Button

360 Degree Feedback Debriefers are from Mars, Women are from Venus..

Share Button

I thought of this phrase again recently after another of our one-day 360 degree feedback debrief training sessions.

In this instance I was delivering the training to a number of managers who were going to conduct the debriefs with their own team members; as their 'Line Manager', they had contributed to the 360 degree feedback report itself, and so their ratings and comments were on show accordingly.

What I noticed this time and before, is the way 'Line Managers' can find it more difficult to do a debrief more so than say a HR person, or a Coach, or any independent person who doesn't have a direct supervisory relationship with the 360 feedback recipient.

The challenge they often face is that they want to 'solve the problem' for the recipient (and themselves in the process); in doing so, they will often move very quickly from exploring the feedback to simply asking 'So what are you going to do about this issue?'.

Whilst this may be a vaild question when the recipient comes to put an action plan together, it is far too early to move to solution mode before understanding the feedback in greater depth.

For much of the debrief, in fact pretty much all of it we would advocate, the focus should be on raising the self-awareness of the recipient and having them accept there is something to be done.

Perhaps the title should read, 'Line Managers are from Mars, Skilled debriefers are from Venus'…comments on a postcard please….

John

Share Button

Too busy for a performance appraisal?

Share Button

After a slow start to the year due to the weather, the pace at Bowland has picked right back up to where we left off in 2009.  The last 3 months have been very busy for us as we picked up a range of both performance appraisal and 360 degree feedback clients.  I’m not complaining of course and we’re always interested in working with people who are looking at 360 or their annual review.

The point of this post was to acknowledge how difficult it is to work on the people side when tasks are rushing in at us.  Taking the time out to talk with team members, give feedback, listen to their requirements is counterintuitive when times are busy.  My recommendation is "put it in the diary".  Make it another part of the day, make it part of the important list of items you absolutely have to get to and don’t, just don’t, miss that appointment.  Over any period of time, the time invested in meeting with, talking to, and listening to the team brings its rewards.

Am I good at this?  Not great – but getting better.  

Brendan

Share Button

How to successfully implement a performance appraisal process in your organisation

Share Button

Following on from the series of blog posts on how to implement a 360 degree feedback process, I now turn to implementing performance appraisals.

As before, this series of posts is taken from our performance appraisal white paper.  This can be downloaded by clicking here.  If however, you prefer to read/subscribe to blog posts then over the coming days, I will post various sections of the white paper with a final concluding post that brings it all together.

Performance appraisals are often very different to 360 feedback initiatives and we certainly approach them differently.

Brendan

Share Button

360 degree feedback – the series

Share Button

I have just completed a series of posts on 360 degree feedback.  You can get those posts through our white paper which brings the content together in an orderly fashion.  Click here if you want that white paper.

Alternatively, I have collated the posts below so that you can read a particular one at your leisure – just bookmark this page and pick the one of interest.

Planning a 360 degree appraisal process
360 degree feedback checklist
Designing your 360 degree feedback solution
Checklist for a 360 degree appraisal report
Competency framework design for 360 degree feedback
Competency framework rules of thumb
How to write a competency framework
Checklist for creating a 360 degree appraisal questionnaire
360 degree feedback rating scale
Choosing an online 360 degree feedback system
Communication as part of a 360 degree appraisal project
The 360 degree feedback debrief session

Brendan

Share Button

360 degree feedback; telling your boss what you think of them is good for your health

Share Button

Many of you may have seen this research which touches on the benefits of 360 degree feedback covered by BBC Breakfast last week.

It referenced a new report co-funded by the Health & Safety Executive, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Investors in People.

The essence of it was to highlight that managers who received upwards feedback, with regard to certain management behaviours that are believed to help prevent and reduce stress amongst their staff, were more likely to modify their behaviour in these areas for the better,  compared to the test group of managers who didn’t receive such feedback.

A good example of the need for people, managers or otherwise, to use 360 degree feedback to improve their behaviour in the workplace.

Alas, the media, seeking a more punchy story, reduced it to the headline of ‘standing up to your boss works wonders…assuming you don’t get the sack!’.

John

Share Button

No evidence/not applicable in 360 degree feedback

Share Button

One of the questions on 360 degree feedback rating scales is – should we allow a 'not applicable' option?  It may be phrased as "don't know" or "no evidence" – the question is should we let people not give a full response.

We have always argued that you should and to the fear of some clients' that it will be over used, we have responded – don't worry it just isn't.

As we have a databank of millions of responses to 360 degree feedback, today I checked that out.  Over all of our millions of responses we have a 6% selection of 'n/a' or a similar option.  About what I expected.   And I can now say "don't worry about it" with more confidence.

One thing to point out – don't be too casual about this.  As part of your review of a successful 360 degree feedback process we would always recommend that you checked out how many n/a's you received on each question and from each respondent group.  You may need to remove or reword a question if people are unable to give a response.

Brendan
 

Share Button

The 360 degree feedback debrief session

Share Button

This is the final post in a series from our 360 degree appraisal white paper.  In many ways it is the most important in that it talks about the conversation at the end of the process.

We like to use the term ‘debrief ‘ to refer to the session where a recipient receives their feedback. It is not a coaching session – its focus is simply to ensure that the report is understood and the recipient has the opportunity to ask immediate questions.

Our first principle is that the recipient should not receive the report prior to the debrief session.  The 360 report can be powerful and has the potential to be misunderstood. The ability to place feedback in context, avoid misunderstanding, and spot potential issues is a core skill of the debriefer.

Our second principle is that the debriefer is there to enable understanding not proffer opinion.

During the meeting there is often the opportunity to challenge the recipients interpretation of the feedback but that should come from a standpoint of seeking understanding not of offering solutions

Here is our structure for a debrief session.

  • Introduction and welcome
  • Explain the purpose of the 360 feedback debrief
  • Get the recipient to briefly describe their role
  • Briefly describe how the report is structured
  • Hand over the report and invite the recipient to skim-read it
  • Ask for their overall reaction
  • Review strengths
  • Review potential development areas
  • Identify actions
  • Agree next steps
  • Ask for feedback on the 360 process and the debrief

Brendan

Share Button

Communication as part of a 360 degree feedback project

Share Button

Communicating effectively will reduce anxiety and increase participation.

We believe everyone needs to understand the context of a 360 degree feedback process and so well-written, timely communication at the beginning of the process will make the rest
of the process smooth.

However, when actually in the 360, we believe that you should communicate only when absolutely necessary. Automated emails going out every day will only serve to de-sensitise the recipients to your communication

Your initial communication should cover:

  • Why are we doing a 360?
  • What are the outcomes / what will it be used for?
  • What is the process?

At each phase of communication you can touch these points rather than rely on one lengthy email or information document that may not be read.

How and when to communicate is really dependent on the current knowledge within the company, the abilities of the participants, the culture, and the level of complexity in the process. As a minimum we would recommend:

  • Warm up communications that identify that the 360 is coming, the intention of it and at a high level how it will work
  • With a week to go, we recommend an email that explains the process
  • Within the email invitations to the recipients and/or the respondents of the 360 feedback, again give process information and clarity of purpose

Brendan

Share Button

Choosing an online 360 degree appraisal system

Share Button

I’ve written before on how to choose an online 360 degree feedback system and you can’t help but feeling a bit of a fraud when you are part of an organisation that provides them.  The flipside is that to write about implementing 360 degree feedback without talking about systems is nonsense.  So, here goes:

Choosing an on-line system is much more about ensuring that the system serves you rather than the other way around, than it is working to a checklist.

You are looking for a system that is geared to meet your requirements rather than forcing a way of working upon you.

Here are the principles we would look for.

The system should :

  • make it simple
  • ensure the only time spent by people is on completing or reviewing feedback rather than clicking all over the place
  • make error checking easy
  • remove administration tasks / make them easier
  • improve reporting and make it more timely
  • There should be no need at all for training in the use of the system – a 360 system should be simple, clear, and obvious.

Get references.  I know that most suppliers are going to pick their favourite clients but ask for the last 2-3 projects and that is then harder.

Brendan

Share Button

Checklist for 360 degree appraisal questionnaire

Share Button

A 360 degree feedback questionnaire falls out of your competency framework.  Here are our rules of thumb for your questionnaire.

  • Between 20 and 40 questions is about right
  • Usually we see these as groups of 3-5 questions per competency
  • Adding a narrative question for each competency is normally the right way to go.
  • Consider whether every group of people can answer every question. If not, then exclude the questions from that group. So, peers may answer a subset of the overall question set for example (and so reduce the burden upon them).
  • It can be useful to have a question (or even 2 or 3) at the end of the 360 that asks people to give broader feedback or cover points they would like to make
  • Questions should be brief, clear and unambiguous, and describe an observable behaviour
  • If you have people for whom English is not their first language then we would recommend translation of the questions. You probably don’t need to translate the whole system but the nuance of questions matters

Questionnaire design can be a technical area – but if you stick to relatively short, clear questions then you can avoid issues that can flow from having complex overlapping questions which ask about more than one behavior.  As ever, simplicity is crucial in 360 degree feedback.

Brendan

Share Button

How to write a 360 degree feedback competency framework

Share Button

In previous posts I’ve discussed the principles of a 360 degree feedback focused competency framework and I’ve given some rules of thumb.  Here is how I would go about creating a framework in practice.

  • Start with your values and stated strategy – look to existing materials and language (collect any relevant documents/posters etc)
  • Get directors, or senior management to express their desired behaviours – a facilitated workshop around suggested behaviours is an excellent way of drawing this out
  • Seek to identify best practice in each area
  • Involve managers and staff, outside of HR, in design and implementation – a series of workshops works brilliantly in reviewing your first drafts
  • Keep it simple : use straight-forward language
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Train people in how to use, understand, and assess against the competencies which often challenges the core of the organisation.

By involving people through the process you will ensure that when you create a question set for your 360 feedback the respondents and recipients will recognise the language and feel that the questions are highly relevant.

This is an excerpt from our 360 degree appraisal white paper.

Brendan

Share Button

Competency framework rules of thumb

Share Button

These rules of thumb are for a 360 degree feedback focused competency framework.

  • Less than 12 competencies per role
  • 3 or 4 behaviours per competency works well
  • Cluster the framework for ease-of use
  • Contain both definitions and examples to aid understanding
  • Tailor off-the-shelf frameworks where you can. Re-inventing the wheel is highly unnecessary for a lot or roles
  • Create a forward-looking framework. What behaviours does the organisation want/need rather than what do they currently have
  • Seek out best practice in each area

In my next post I will discuss how to take on the task of creating the competency framework for your 360 degree appraisal project.

Brendan

Share Button

Competency framework design for 360 feedback

Share Button

Continuing with our series of posts on implementing a 360 degree appraisal project, let me turn to competency framework design.

Competency frameworks are used by organisations for a variety of tasks – to support recruitment, promotion, career paths, development, training and more; they are clearly a topic in themselves.

For our purposes we are looking for the principles and a checklist for a competency framework that will support a 360 degree appraisal.

A competency framework should cascade from company objectives and values.

Without them you will generate a framework that is full of good intention but would equally apply to every other company and is unlikely to lead to behaviour that improves your organisation.

For 360 degree appraisal, the competency framework should be the simplest, cleanest framework that delivers the strategic intent of your 360.

Completeness is less important than focus. If the framework is only being used for 360 purposes then you only need the competencies and behaviours that you are currently  focusing on.

We firmly believe that the process of generating the framework is valuable in itself – asking managers and directors to consider which behaviours will lead to success is a fascinating exercise

In my next post I’ll add some rules of thumb for the competency framework design.  Please feel free to subscribe to the blog (link in the top right hand corner) or if you want to get the full 360 degree feedback paper then please click here to download it.

Brendan

Share Button

Checklist for a 360 degree appraisal report

Share Button

This checklist should be used to ensure that your 360 degree appraisal report is designed with the correct influences.

  • What is the purpose of the feedback? In particular we are heavily influenced if the 360 is linked to an annual performance appraisal.
  • Who will receive the report : the recipient, their manager, HR ? Does the information provide these stakeholders with the information they require?
  • What experience has there been of 360s within the organisation? A simple 360 report is nearly always best and it is crucially important in the early stages of introducing 360.
  • What is the culture of the organisation? Numbers and statistics can be grabbed and manipulated in hierarchical organisations.
  • What icons, symbols, other literature exists within the organisation that should influence the design of the report.

With these influences in mind, the following structure usually works well.

  • Summary table of who has given feedback (e.g. 3 peers, 4 direct reports)
  • Overall, by competency, tabular summary of feedback (not averages) so you can see the big picture
  • For each competency, a tabular summary of feedback
  • Within each competency, graphical representation of feedback for each behaviour with a summary of the narrative comments received

You will spend the majority of time in a debrief session on the detail.  If you are interested in seeing some examples of how we design reports that do not use averages then please contact us.

Brendan

Share Button

Designing your 360 degree feedback solution

Share Button

Continuing this series of posts on how to get a 360 degree feedback project up and running, let’s look at the design phase.

The design phase covers reports, competencies, and questionnaire design. We try to start with the report – by doing so, you recognise that it is the output of the process that is important. 

The competencies are very important, but if you start with how the report will be structured, it focuses the mind on how these competencies will be used.

One of our key principles is that 360 degree appraisal is a method of consolidating feedback rather than averaging it; consequently, this influences everything we do so let me spend a little time on it.

360 is useful when it describes to you the range of responses that your colleagues give against observable behaviours. That some people think you are a star at delegating while two of your direct reports find your approach troublesome, is the value of 360.
So, only create scores or averages where they give value rather than obscuring information.

Second, we believe that narrative feedback offers the richest information – the rating scales simply tell you where to look. Anyone who has given 360 feedback will tell you that the comments that raters provide give you the evidence and narrative that explains or gives context to the behavioural scoring.

With these principles in mind, in my next post I’ll draw out the detail of how we go about designing the report (competencies and questions will follow later).

(This series of posts are excerpts from our 360 degree appraisal white paper).

Brendan

Share Button

360 degree feedback checklist

Share Button

Here is a checklist for a 360 degree appraisal project.  You’re bound to need to add to it – but its a great starting place.

  • Gain strategic direction on purpose and intent of the 360 feeedback process from senior management and write a short synopsis of this that is agreed by senior management
  • Source any suppliers if required
  • Run a short workshop with all stakeholders who can make key decisions for the project (e.g. anonymity, who picks raters, confidentiality)
  • Identify any technical requirements and alert the I.T. Department to these requirements as they may have lead times (not applicable for our system but may be for others)
  • Develop a communication programme and plan in
  • Determine training requirements and plan in
  • Design competency framework with the strategic intent and eventual reporting in mind
  • Build the questionnaire and reporting that work with the competency framework and strategic purpose
  • Plan any administrative resources that are required and begin to fix the implementation timetable
  • Train raters and recipients directly or through communication plan
  • Start process and send invitations to participants
  • Monitor progress, remind and chase
  • Train ‘De-briefers’ in how to share the 360 degree feedback report with the recipient
  • Debrief recipients in a face-to-face session
  • Run a review of the whole process attended by all parties who have been involved

This checklist is from our 360 degree appraisal white paper.

Brendan

Share Button

Planning a 360 degree feedback process

Share Button

This is an excerpt from our 360 feedback white paper.

A 360 degree appraisal project is often a concerted effort over a reasonable period of time. For organisations introducing 360 degree appraisals for the first time it requires an investment in communication, training, and co-ordination as well as the administration of the 360 process itself.

The diagram provides a simple picture of the key areas that should be considered.

360 degree appraisal process

360 degree feedback is not complicated but if you want the recipients of the feedback to have the best possible experience and to gain the best possible feedback then a careful,  well thought out approach will give you the best results.

A 360 feedback process should not be an isolated piece of work – it should be recognisably part of an overall plan for the individual and for the organisation. It can be a one-off exercise to support one manager's development or it can be a widespread initiative to improve an organisation.

In either case it should be in context and a little planning and consideration will go a long way.

360 degree appraisal initiatives are successful when the key stakeholders understand, believe in, and contribute to the 360 plan.

A 360 should be measuring behaviours that are valued by the organisation, the participants should understand how the 360 fits into their overall development plan, and the 360 report should lead to activity that is planned into the learning and  development plan.

In my next post I'll include a checklist for what you may want to include in your plan.

Brendan
 

Share Button