Appraising Appraisals!

My wife (yes my only fan)  prompted me to write this postscript to my last blog! Her reflection on the piece was that while the word ‘appraisal’ is ubiquitous, there are as many variations of it as there are organisations. She suggested that it would useful for me to explain what I mean by the term! Here goes.

In HR and OD terminology, “appraisal” is used in the context of performance management. There are at least 5 strands to this:

  1. A procedure designed to tackle under performance. This is also referred to as a ‘capability’ process.  For some, this a process aimed at helping employees to be aware that they are under performing and to put in place ways for helping them improve. The end game is improvement. For others, its a process for legally exiting people who, in their view, “do not make the cut”.
  2. Day to day learning or coaching conversations that help people make better  decisions in the moment.
  3. Annual Appraisals consisting of 3 meetings a year. The first to agree objectives, the one in the middle of the year to check progress, and a year end conversation to review how well the objectives were met.
  4. An evaluation process for assigning (or withholding) performance related pay
  5. An ‘intentional’ conversation about how to move people from good to great – using strength-based methods.

I’m all for ditching or re-framing Annual Appraisals. For me, its not worth the time and effort involved, nor the angst and anxiety it causes. What should be a simple process of agreeing a few SMART, strategic goals and reviewing these at the end of the year are often overly bureaucratic and fraught with office politics. I’m also dubious about any statistically based evaluation systems that claim to be objective. When humans are involved, such processes are always value ladened.

To reiterate the point of my original blog on this subject, work is co-constructed through social interaction, in particular through dialogue.  There is therefore no substitute for having meaningful and impactful conversations daily.

When Susan Scott was asked how success happens, she replied: “Slowly, then quickly”, one conversation at a time”. The same with failure. Slowly, then quickly”, one conversation at a time”.

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