By BLR Founder and Publisher Bob Brady
Last week’s column about our “perfect” performance appraisal form generated an unprecedented response. As I write this early in the week, I’ve received nearly 500 requests for a copy of the form, and they are still coming in. We have attempted to respond to everyone. If you asked for a copy and didn’t receive it, please email me again. (If you missed last week’s column, click here to access it.)
(Note: Many of you assumed that we are trying to sell you the form. Not so. Creating an interactive form that would be a part of our websites is on our “to do” list, but that is in the future. In the meantime, the form, which—be warned—is an internal BLR document not quite ready for prime time, is yours for the asking. Just email me to get it.)
Summing up the comments:
— Many readers commented unflatteringly about the performance appraisal process at their organizations. This is one of the most basic HR functions, yet organizations are struggling with it. (And my readers are overwhelmingly HR managers. Imagine what the comments would look like if they came from rank-and-file employees!)
— Again and again, writers stressed how important appraisals are from both a developmental and legal point of view.
— Probably 25 percent of you said that you were in the process of developing a new form or a new process.
— Many wrote to say that different organizational cultures require different approaches.
— And many commented on the difficulty of the process. Reader Don Van Riper, from Equity 1 Lenders Group, summed it up: “I think it is virtually impossible to implement such systems with larger groups of managers,” he said.
Van Riper cited, as an example, the experience his company had doing annual refresher trainer for managers on how to do appraisals and provide direct feedback on individual shortcomings. Even after several years of work, a third of the reviews had to be returned for corrections. And only a third were solidly satisfactory. Though he supports the effort, he is pessimistic that any form will ever work with large numbers of people over a long period of time. Many others agreed.
Why is this function so hard?
Over the years, in my interviews with managers, two things keep coming up as “pains”— job descriptions and performance appraisals. In a seeming contradiction, both are viewed as time-wasters yet essential to good management. No one wants to do them; yet, everyone feels that they should.
What all this boils down to is the simple, unavoidable truth that providing people with guidance, positive or negative, is both a manager’s most important job, and one that is hard to do. Few people enjoy delivering bad news (and if they do, you probably don’t want them as managers).
My form won’t make it easier. And it’s really not “perfect.” I know it won’t work in many organizations and that it takes commitment from both the top and the bottom, which is hard to get. And I know that it is your job, as HR manager, to educate and train so that you can begin to get that commitment.
Forms can help. They make it easier for people to see what is required and make it easier for HR to review. A standardized form makes it possible to make interdepartmental comparisons, too.
But the form isn’t the point. Any honest evaluation is better than none. Managers must give their employees regular feedback, and the organization must document that feedback. Whether it is done with a sophisticated form or on the back of an envelope isn’t important. And though some of the people will never get it, I’m sure that even Don Van Riper would agree that you shouldn’t give up trying.
After all, what is the alternative?
What are your thoughts? I’d like to know. Please email me at RBrady@blr.com