Setting goals and appraising performance against the goals is a key part of a manager’s contribution to an organisation. When it is done well, it boosts organisational performance, assists with delegation, and promotes team cohesion. It is also a great way to identify training requirements.

The organisational strategy

You as the manager will understand how the organisational strategy and the goal for the next period devolve into your area of responsibility.  The achievement of many of your goals will rely on contributions from specific members of your team. 

Identify performance requirements

So, the next step is to identify what you wish a specific team member to contribute in a general sense, and then specifically in the form of goals, achievements, or outputs. The manager should clarify the unambiguous details of what is required according to the classic performance criteria: quality, quantity, cost, and speed.

  • Quality – what are the standards to which the finished product or service must adhere?
  • Quantity – how much of the product or service must be delivered?
  • Cost – what are the cost parameters to which the product or service must adhere?
  • Speed – how quickly must it be done, or by what date must it be done?

Discuss performance requirements

The next step is to discuss these performance requirements with team members. It is important to elicit their feedback and understand their constraints and limitations. Sometimes feedback received from the team member may mean adjusting some of the performance criteria, or training may be required. In some cases, additional resources – such as equipment or software may be required to set the team member up to be capable of success. Both the manager and the team member must walk away from this conversation with a shared, clear understanding of what is required. The team member’s job description may need adjustment after this kind of conversation.

Set dates for interim appraisals

Furthermore, the manager will confirm set dates for structured performance appraisal sessions over the year. In many organisations, it is common practice to do so quarterly.

Feedback on the go

In between the formally structured performance appraisal conversations, it is important to have consistent performance feedback. These may range from general comments in a meeting to a regular weekly meeting. The manager must give the team member regular feedback on performance, and the team member must apprise the manager of changes in the operating context. In this way, the performance partners can maintain open, honest two-way conversation which avoids mixed messages, confusion, and unwelcome surprises.

Maintaining the system

Keep a record of feedback sessions, achievement of goals as well as instances where performance targets were not met. It is essential to keep these records as human memory becomes notoriously unreliable over the course of a year. The manager will want to maintain perspective – a recent poor performance should not blot out previous months of excellent delivery.

Formal interim reviews

Regular formal structured appraisals are essential to maintaining the performance of the individual and the consequent contribution to the goals of the organisation. Review your own performance records, as well as monthly reports and project closeout reports. These contain important substantive evidence which will form part of the conversation with your team member. 

Preparing for the reviews

Check the goal setting document and the job description. Review relevant documentation, such as reports or client feedback items. Identify which performance factors have changed or are no longer relevant.

Write, in point form, a provisional assessment. This will help you to get your thinking straight. Use hard evidence to support your position. Consider both the future of the organisation and the future of the individual. A strong performer may be groomed for a promotion. A poor performer may require training, redeployment, or departure from the organisation.

Conducting the review or appraisal

The quarterly reviews and the year-end appraisal run on similar lines. Set aside enough time for the meeting and ensure that there are no interruptions. Create a comfortable but business-like atmosphere. After welcoming the team member and the usual pleasantries, spell out your agenda for the meeting. You will set out your view of the team member’s performance, supported by the evidence you have gathered. 

The team member then has a chance to respond. If the team member has a large, complex job, you may want to split this and review each goal fully before moving on to the next. Listen carefully and empathetically to the team member’s response, regardless of whether the performance has been good or poor. Encourage a two-way conversation where you find out more about the team member’s approach to the job and the attendant’s performance criteria (quality, quantity cost and speed).

Developmental opportunities

Once the details of the performance review have been concluded, it is necessary to look at future plans for the team member. For a top performer, these may include increased responsibility training, secondment to projects, or lateral moves to gain wider experience. 

An average performer should be clear about what performance and attitudinal changes are necessary to secure an excellent appraisal. A poor performer must be dealt with, failure to do so will limit the organisation’s ability to meet its strategic goals. Disciplinary action on grounds of incapacity or termination must be undertaken in full compliance with any applicable laws. End the review on a high note if it is seemly to do so.

After the review

Capture all your notes, decisions, and actions after the interview. Adjust the team member’s performance documentation and send copies of all documents to the human resource department for safekeeping.

Closing thoughts

Here are some closing thoughts about performance management:

  • Good performance management is all about clear and focused conversations. Frequent performance conversations, either formally or on the go, result in better communication, a better understanding of what must be done and better achievement of the goals of the organisation.
  • Never delay in giving performance feedback, regardless of whether the performance has been excellent or poor. The closer in time the feedback is to the event, the stronger the message.
  • Focus on the behaviour of the team member and don’t ventilate your personal prejudices about the person. 
  • Treat all your team members firmly, and with respect and kindness.

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