Do the managers in your business struggle with writing performance appraisal forms? Are they often stuck for something to say? Do they find themselves writing the same (sometime pretty meaningless) comments again and again?
Of all the list of things that annoy, frustrate and irritate the managers I work with about performance appraisal, what to write on the form comes pretty much at the top. If the managers in your business feel the same, here are some tips you might want to share with them for making writing the appraisal form much, much easier
Performance Appraisal – Basic Principles
Clearly if managers agree clear performance objectives at the beginning of the appraisal period, if they (and the staff member) monitor performance against those objectives on an ongoing basis and if they hold regular performance review meetings, then writing the appraisal form is relatively straight forward. It’s then simply a summary of the review meeting discussions written in clear, evidenced – based, objective language.
Let me break that last statement down a little
Effective performance appraisal comments and how to write them
The key to writing performance appraisal comments that are both useful to the staff member and useful to the business is:
It’s crucial that managers have the ability to explain clearly and concisely what the staff member has done (or not done) in the performance appraisal period which has been particularly effective (or not)
As I’m sure you noticed, the key word in the above paragraph is ‘done’. When managers are appraising performance they are appraising what the staff member has done to meet their objectives and, subsequently, contribute to the success of the business or organisation. So they need to write about actions, which means their comments will be…
In the same way that verbal feedback is only effective when we can provide samples and examples (i.e. ‘evidence’) comments on the performance appraisal form are the same.
‘Overall a good effort’ and ‘Takes pride in her work’ are not evidenced-based examples. Which means they are not …
Very little upsets staff members more than ‘gut reaction’ or ‘feelings based’ comments on a performance appraisal form. Comments that the manager cannot show are objective and subsequently fair. Making evidence-based comments ensures objectivity. If the manager cannot provide evidence for a comment they make, then they should avoid using that comment
‘Always willing to go the extra mile’ and ‘Needs to adopt a more positive attitude’ are not objective comments – they are the managers opinion and unless they have evidence to support that opinion then they are asking for trouble (or, at the least, a very frustrated or confused staff member)
Performance Appraisal Form Comment – An Example
Let’s take a look at an example. The manager wants to make a comment about how the staff member has adapted to a recent change
They could write ‘Adapts well to change’. The problem?
This is one of those essentially meaningless statements. What does ‘adapts well’ actually mean?
Instead they could write:
Demonstrated an ability to adapt to change (e.g. the AYZ Implementation Project) by
• Seeking the information needed in order to understand the AYZ implementation
• Planning to incorporate the new working methods into his working practices
• Actively seeking to experiment with the new working methods
• Evaluating the new methods and giving feedback on his evaluation
• Taking action to overcome any difficulties implementing the new methods
• Helping others to understand and apply the changes
Or, for a shorter version, something like
‘Demonstrated the ability to adapt to change (AYZ Project) by; seeking information, planning, experimenting, evaluating, giving feedback, taking action to overcome difficulties and helping others’
I’m guessing you can you see the difference?
What managers write on performance appraisal forms is so important
I’m sure you know that what managers write on performance appraisal forms really matters to their staff members. They want and need to see detailed, unbiased, fair comments that accurately describe their performance during the appraisal period. If managers use clear, evidence-based, objective language they will both meet those staff member needs and provide accurate information for the business
In my view by far the easiest way to write clear, evidence-based, objective performance appraisal comments is to agree clear, evidence-based, performance objectives. BUT even if managers haven’t agreed those objectives prior to undertaking the performance appraisal meeting they can still use detailed performance objectives to write their comments. They simply select from the objectives the behaviours that the staff member has demonstrated in the performance appraisal period and then use those descriptions to write the comments (in case you didn’t notice the descriptions above on ‘adapting to change’ are performance objectives – taken from my e-book ‘The Managers Toolkit: 176 Behavioural Performance Objectives – And How to Use Them).