The infamous performance appraisal. Like clockwork, it makes its timely appearance, and just as promptly fades into the background. But what if we approached it differently?
As financial professionals, we’re often in the thick of performance evaluations, either directly managing them or advising others. But the process demands reinvention and not just ticking boxes. Instead of letting employees navigate their career paths in darkness, only to be given a spotlight during the quarterly or annual review, why not schedule regular, less formal feedback – maybe even weekly chats – to enlighten their path.
Formal reviews should provide clear insights that make advancements an obvious next step
That said, this isn’t about maintaining a constant critique. These casual catch-ups can uncover workplace stressors or provide a platform to commend good work. Formal reviews shouldn’t surprise but reaffirm perceptions. They should reflect the ongoing feedback and provide clear, documented insights that make professional advancements like promotions or pay rises an obvious next step.
It’s also important to make sure that these reviews are a two-way street. Performance reviews have traditionally been top-down, but it’s crucial to engage employees as active participants. Allowing them to share perspectives, concerns and aspirations fosters a sense of belonging and offers managers a fresh lens.
Performance reviews also shouldn’t evoke dread. By focusing on strengths, they can be engaging, uplifting and encouraging. Dive into what the employee excels at and discuss their potential that’s waiting to be tapped. Everyone enjoys mastering their strengths, so if they’re being sidelined from utilising them, it’s a discussion worth having.
Always concentrate on areas for growth, not as weaknesses but as future strengths. These could be soft skills or specific competencies. What you’re looking for is that the employee leaves the meeting feeling empowered and not overwhelmed. They should be able to envision personal growth pathways and not just new KPIs.
It’s a given that doing business well requires allocating often scarce resources, whether that’s money or time. So whether you’re running a business yourself or advising one, it is essential not to skimp on performance management.
There is a wealth of digital resources and tools that can enhance the appraisal process
Senior leaders with direct reports need to take the time to engage in the process properly – both in the room for the actual review and with the paperwork outside of the meeting. And if you’re advising a company that seems to have no budget for performance management, query that. It is very hard to run a good performance management process with little more than a Word document and a calendar reminder.
Integrating learning and development into the feedback process is also something that requires resource but pays off. Employees should feel that if they have areas they need to work on, they have support to do that, not just an instruction. And that training doesn’t have to be external. The best expertise could well be within an organisation. But it will need some resource.
If all this sounds like hard work, there is a wealth of digital resources and tools that can enhance the appraisal process. From feedback platforms that facilitate regular check-ins to AI-driven analytics that gauge team sentiment, technology can make evaluations more consistent, frequent and insightful.
By incorporating these tools, managers can get a more holistic understanding of performance, going beyond just quantitative metrics to qualitative insights.
Finally, the frequency of appraisals matters. The pace of reviews plays a pivotal role in their effectiveness. While it’s essential to understand employee preferences, don’t shy away from increasing the frequency if situations demand. For example, if there are major organisational shifts happening, ramp up the check-ins. A team’s morale can quickly be gauged by the departure rate of its members.
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all performance review approach. However, with adaptability, continuous feedback and a strength-focused approach, performance appraisals can shift from a procedural necessity to a catalyst for growth.
It’s time to redefine feedback.