Performance appraisal ı Assessing and monitoring the competencies of your marketing and sales teams is a critical management skill in today’s challenging business environment. There are a number of ways in which we can do this, but today I thought we’d have a conversation around performance appraisals and their role as a tool in establishing and developing the competency levels of your team members.
The performance appraisal is all about the annual chat with your boss, right?
Partly, yes, but if this is all you do from a performance appraisal perspective, you are missing a trick and certainly not being as effective in assessing the competencies of your team as you could be. Performance appraisals should be built on a solid platform of analysis, planning and on-going coaching that culminates in the final, formal performance review before moving into the action phase.
1. What do you mean by analysis for performance appraisal?
The analysis stage is where you seek to identify exactly what it takes for employees to be successful in the role to which they are assigned. There is no point whatsoever in trying to assess skills that are not relevant to the employee’s role (or career).
It is absolutely critical that you therefore understand exactly what skills are required of an incumbent in order to excel. If, for instance, we are talking about a brand manager, what do they need to know and demonstrate in order to deliver an effective and appropriate marketing strategy & brand plan? In the same vein, what does a sales person need to know and demonstrate to be successful?
It is only by clearly understanding which skills and competencies make for successful marketers or sales people that you can begin to develop an appropriate appraisal system. Much of this information will be anecdotal and can be derived from job descriptions and job specifications, as well as brand strategy but you will certainly want to analyse successful incumbents from outside the firm, if you can, to see what they are doing right.
The second element of analysis relates to establishing the appropriate standard to which the employee should be expected to perform. This is always a contentious one for the simple reason, how do you set it? Do you as the management team set it anecdotally? Do you establish the baseline by comparing results across internal incumbents, and, if so, how do you know that they aren’t all underperforming? Do you use industry averages, and, if so, how do you establish them?
The answer to this is not always easy because benchmarking, particularly for companies new to the appraisal process, is time-consuming and often costly to do properly. Ideally, you need a combination of internal and external data, using as large a sample size as possible.
2. And the assessment planning phase?
Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day and this is also the case with performance appraisals. You need to clearly plan how you are going to assess the chosen competencies, develop any target skills areas and finally monitor them over time. Simply listing a group of desired skills and then assessing each employee’s performance against them at an annual meeting will deliver few, if any, positive results. A clear plan of goal-setting, on-going coaching and assessment therefore needs to be set out and agreed.
3. What did you mean by the action phase ending the performance appraisal process?
Assessing competencies and performance is a complete waste of everyone’s’ time if you aren’t going to do anything with it. Whether you term it a career development plan, personal improvement plan or action plan is irrelevant. What is essential is that you have an intervention plan, by employee to develop their competencies and skills where there are gaps.
There must be clear integration between the skills identified in the analysis phase, the assessment programme and the learning and development programme in order to build the desired skillset. By the action phase, I therefore mean the steps taken to build competency levels that have been identified as needing development. This can take the guise of formal individual study, possibly through a university, company-led learning and development interventions and, finally, on-going coaching by managers within the firm or independent executive coaches.
Now that we have discovered the various steps of the performance appraisal process, we still need to discuss how to use these assessment results within your company. This subject will be covered in the second part of this guide on performance appraisal.