We often talk about how the design of a 360 degree feedback report drives the debrief conversation; if it has norms, it leads to conversation about comparison with others; if it is a bar chart with averages, it may miss important detail which offers greater insight for the recipient and their specific development areas.
The same principles apply in the design of the performance appraisal form; what gets captured, gets talked about and is talked about in the order laid out on the form.
So one form may lead with a review section of all the prior year objectives to be rated, with perhaps an overall rating at the end – this has the appraisal conversation primarily focus from the outset on ratings; naturally one would hope the conversation would work through the detail of what someone did to fail/meet/exceed the objective, but nonetheless visually, the rating is dominant.
Consider an alternative, where the first section is a set of purely narrative questions, such as:
- What has been your proudest achievement this year?
- What worked well?
- How have you developed in the past 12 months?
- What have been the most enjoyable aspects of your role this past year?
Immediately, the appraisal conversation should open up into a more free-flowing discussion; it may still get to some assessment of objectives, but we have taken a different route to get there.
The design of an appraisal form can signal to an employee what the organisation believes is important – is it performance ratings? Is it a genuine desire to explore achievements? Do the open questions have a large text box for my comments? Or am I expected to be brief?
Much like 360 degree feedback, a performance appraisal project can seem relatively straightforward; put a form on-line and capture the information efficiently – but the effectiveness comes through the conversation, and careful appraisal form design can have a significant impact on that.