Performance appraisals that will help your firm succeed

Performance appraisals that will help your firm succeed

A performance appraisal process gives you a valuable opportunity to have meaningful conversations with staff about their job performance, and relate this to your firm’s broader goals. Alisdair Barr from Grad Mentor outlines his best practice process.

Cast aside any traditional views you have of performance appraisal—this is not just about rating staff performance or a one-way communication process. Nor is this about ambiguous goals or general benchmark measures.

You want any performance appraisal to provide real benefit to your employee and your firm. The only way to ensure this is to design a process that can be tailored to each individual—based on a good job description that includes a clear job purpose, behavioral competencies and values, and key result areas.

Who should complete the performance appraisal?

In most cases, an employee’s direct supervisor or manager should carry out the performance appraisal process. I’ve seen supervisor assessment and employee self-evaluation both work well together.

You may also wish to look more broadly and involve clients, coworkers, subordinates, suppliers, computers (electronic review systems) and self-evaluation during the process.

How should a performance appraisal run?

A performance appraisal should run every six to twelve months. Frequent reviews provide greater opportunity for discussion and control. You want your staff to know exactly what is expected of them and work towards meeting their goals through meaningful work.

Nothing should come as a surprise to anyone involved, and the focus should remain around helping your firm more effectively reach business goals.

Here are some general steps to follow:

  • Select a mutually convenient time to meet

  • Allow a reasonable amount of time for discussion, remembering that this is a two-way conversation.

  • Start with a focus on meeting your firm goals and outlining how key staff are to meeting goals

  • Share some stated firm goals and progress towards them

  • Continue with something positive about the overall business performance and how the individual’s performance relates to this

  • Ask open-ended questions, allowing staff to open up and talk freely

  • Listen

  • Be very specific if you have concerns about staff performance

  • Seek to understand what is causing a particular performance outcome 

  • Identify roadblocks or challenges the staff member has that is stopping them from meeting certain goals

  • Rate behavior and outcomes, not personality

  • Review the staff member’s self-assessment with them (if offered to them)

  • Complete a performance appraisal form which includes re-setting mutually agreeable objectives and adjustments as required

  • Provide some solutions for overcoming their concerns and take note of their feedback for management meeting resolution

  • Set an additional follow up time if required for outstanding issues where a resolution or roadblock can’t be solved immediately

  • Adjust job descriptions if required with the staff member

  • End on a positive note

Performance appraisal templates

Both managers and employees need the opportunity to prepare for a review meeting. We’ve prepared some templates to help you manage the meeting and keep focused on what is important. Without structure, a performance review meeting might yield information, but is less likely to achieve agreed outcomes.

The first performance template is for managers and supervisors. This outlines steps to review:

  • Training/CPE point requirements

  • The purpose of the job

  • Whether the staff member displays the right behavioral competencies/values

  • Whether the staff member is meeting the key result areas

Additionally, the template provides:

  • An opportunity to have a discussion about how the business is going

  • Uncover issues, challenges or roadblocks the staff member is experiencing

  • Uncover any client issues or concerns not yet discussed

  • Re-set goals and key performance measures.

The second template is a self-assessment to help staff members prepare. This provides a useful approach that helps staff members ‘self-manage’ and take responsibility for their performance.

Remember it’s not about measuring personalities. It’s all about reviewing behaviors and outcomes that help you work collectively together to reach your business goals. With this approach, you can really have meaningful conversations with your staff and managers.