Picking up on my last post, emphasizing the importance of setting well-formed objectives, it has been interesting to note through our training programmes, just how difficult this step in the performance appraisal cycle proves to be for many line managers.
Undertaking a training session on how to set well-formed objectives probably wouldn’t feature highly in most line managers priorities, but we are seeing more and more that this module helps unlock some of the difficulties line managers struggle with further down the line; most notably, giving positive and negative feedback, coaching conversations and critically the end-of-year performance review meeting.
One of the key difficulties in setting ‘good’ objectives is a superficial attempt to apply the SMART template; the term is so ubiquitous that the temptation is to run through it without thinking through what it really means.
For example, is it ‘R’ for relevant or realistic? If it is realistic, what is the difference between that and achievable? What measures are appropriate? Is it enough to detail the tasks and activities or should the goal be solely outcome oriented?
Without this clarity (and practice), what results is a murky version of a SMART goal, which is nebulous and has enough ambiguity to make an honest assessment of performance almost impossible and performance appraisals a challenging task.
Love them or loathe them? Performance appraisals seem to engender strong feelings in both camps, with firm advocates for structured performance reviews seeing them as a productive and valuable process both for the individual and organisation, and as many seeing them a necessary evil that could be replaced by a blank sheet of paper and a chat.
Such polarity probably represents the very different experiences people have had both as an appraisee and an appraiser; it can go horribly worng, but it can also go spectularly right.
Setting ones own experience to one side and thinking through the purpose of performance appraisals objectively, one should come to the conclusion that an appraisal process, whether it be highly structured or very loose, is useful if it serves to improve the performance of an individual and by implication the organisation.
What we would see as the first critical step in an appraisal process improving performance would be well-formed objectives; SMART or otherwise, objectives are the key – with them, the whole process of performance management has robust foundations, but without them, all subsequent steps in the process such as coaching conversations, giving feedback, and ultimately the performance review, teeter on a house of cards.
A quick note to announce some new performance appraisal training programmes that we believe will support our online performance review systems.
This programme helps Line Managers become skilled in setting well-formed (or SMART) objectives and outcomes for their team; it covers what objectives seek to do, the different types of objectives which suit different job roles, what a well-formed objective looks like and finally how to write and set these in a performance planning meeting at the beginning of the year.
This programme helps Line Managers become skilled in handling those all important conversations that should happen all year round; setting some great objectives at the performance planning stage is not enough, what is required is the ability to review and modify objectives throughout the year, offer positive and negative feedback and be able to coach individuals to success.
This programme helps Line Managers tackle the end-of-year appraisal; as an event, it needs to be well prepared for, structured and followed up effectively. Delegates will learn how performance appraisals form part of a wider performance management cycle, core skills required in the appraisal and a logical structure to follow.
If any of these programmes are of interest and you would like to know more then just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were very pleased to have been invited last month to present at a ‘HR in Law’ breakfast briefing seminar on how to implement a 360 degree feedback process within a firm.
As well as a high number of attendees, there seemed to be a real appetite for the topic with some great questions being raised about how to introduce the process within a partnership structure.
Not unsurprisingly, the concerns raised were less to do with the technology of an online system to handle the process, and more to do with how the critical face-to-face debrief should be approached.
We have written many times before as to what makes this stage of the process go well, and we re-iterated the points during this seminar; namely, that you quickly establish the boundaries of the debrief which is not to give the feedback but to explore the feedback with the partner.
The dynamic of the debrief changes instantly, as the recipient feels they have the opportunity to discuss the feedback without being judged; it becomes all about helping raise their self-awareness and where appropriate challenge them to accept that there are things worth paying attention to.