Should we be moving away from appraisals?

In our latest blog, Russell Higgins, Human Resources Learning Partner at the Wales Audit Office, looks at the appraisal process and shares his experiences from the CIPD learning and development show back in May…

Over the last few of years a growing number of employers have been moving away from the formal annual appraisals in favour of holding dialogue with employees. Leaders everywhere are realising their people are their organisation’s greatest asset, and traditional performance management processes don’t influence employees’ skills and abilities. Research has suggested that rather than motivating and supporting people to do better, the appraisal is often dreaded because of the time and energy it was taking.

Should we be moving away from appraisals?

In May, I attended the CIPD learning and development show, where I attended a session on moving from appraisal to coaching and continuous feedback. Both organisations have moved away from traditional annual performance appraisals, to regular check-ins and ongoing feedback and development. Speakers from both River Island and General Electric shared their reasons of moving away from appraisals in order to increase productivity and organisational performance. The aim of the session was to explain the reasons why the organisations had moved away from the appraisal

What struck me at the very beginning was just how well attended this session was!

The speaker from River Island shared that previously only 7% of annual appraisals were being completed as required and therefore the traditional approach to performance management was not working. Many staff in the family owned River Island felt disengaged with the whole appraisal process, when they researched the performance management they realised that what was important to them was:

  • Individuals knowing what is expected of them;
  • Individuals knowing what the department goals are; and,
  • Individuals knowing what the business priorities are.

With this in mind they moved from a traditional performance management scheme to one that focuses on having 1-2-1 feedback quickly (in the moment), instead of at the end of the year. Within River Island, 1-2-1 discussions need to be appropriate and conversations do not need to be an overly complicated drawn out formal discussion. What struck me about career development is that the responsibility is owned firmly with the individual and not the manager, therefore personal responsibility and accountability is the key.

General Electric shared with the audience that they have rebranded feedback and now call it insights, as they suggest that the word feedback has negative undertones for people. If staff within GE observe a behaviour that is impactful and effective then they share that insight with the person straight away, this is known as continuous 360 degree feedback. In addition, if staff observe behaviours that have an negative impact then this insight can be shared.

These examples show just how organisations are moving away from the traditional methods of performance management. However there was recently a case where an “overly promoted” medical practice manager won a constructive dismissal case against her former employer, where the employment tribunal said that if employers fail to properly conduct performance management procedures for employees they consider to be underperforming, “issues and resentments [will be] stored up for the future”.

The Wales Audit Office have been working on ensuring that the appraisal system isn’t a burden and really adds value.

As we look at what performance management looks like in the future, instead of looking backwards, an enhanced conversation with the employee that looks forward may be helpful in ensuring that the organisation is forward thinking and looking at what the future holds. For me, we need to be thinking about what support, development and management the employee needs in order to reach their true potential. The importance of on-going feedback is key and should not be left until the end of the year, it should be discussed on an on-going basis. Employees should take ownership for their individual personal development plan (PDP).

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