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10 Ways To Overcome Challenges with Automated Appraisals

Performance appraisals are intimately linked to a wide range of employee behaviours. From the way they interact with their peers, managers and supervisors, to the successful completion of goals and objectives and the challenges they overcome, appraisals require a holistic view of an employee’s role within your company.

With companies delivering appraisals for remote workforces on an unprecedented scale, automated and transparent processes run through performance management systems can help overcome a series of challenges faced by management and HR professionals. Read on to find out how.

1. Streamline core performance management and HR functions

The first – and most important – step you need to take towards creating transparent and automated appraisals is to pool your digital resources under one umbrella system, giving you access to all the data you need without having to switch between various tools and software. Inefficient digital point solutions drain bandwidth as well as time, which your HR leaders and managers could be spending on more important matters.

The best performance management tools come with the benefits of a comprehensive HR suite, allowing managers and HR leaders to collate all the relevant data they require for a performance appraisal in one place and review it with ease. Performance management software offers a wide range of data to draw upon for the appraisal, such as an employee’s ability to complete their tasks, as measured in their performance relating to objectives and key results, any feedback or input they have given to their projects (including any issues raised by colleagues or line managers), as well as details on development objectives and other achievements.

Similarly, automated HR features can be accessed easily to deliver crucial data on work and absence rates, with this data available in the form of detailed analytics and reports to give a comprehensive overview of any trends which may have impacted an employee’s ability to perform (for example, they may be part of a struggling department or team).

2. Switch from annual to quarterly appraisals

Over the past decade some of the most successful companies have been steadily moving away from traditional annual performance reviews and appraisals, instead adopting quarterly – or even monthly – employee appraisals in an effort to build a more robust and consistent understanding of how their staff are performing and where changes need to be made. With large-scale remote working creating a wide variety of unfamiliar stresses, problems and other variables, making the transition to more regular appraisals is essential now more than ever.

Whether you choose to adopt the quarterly or monthly appraisals process, you can use your performance management tools to schedule these reviews as well as access data from previous appraisals to gain a clearer insight into the progress made by your employees. Having an organized structure also means that you will be able to prepare the pertinent questions when carrying out the appraisal, as well as setting up templates which can be reused to save time.

3. Reconsider your metrics – and expectations – for performance

The way in which HR leaders and managers define performance expectations is likely to be radically different than before COVID-19, with each business possessing its own unique set of characteristics which will impact how these expectations are understood. At the same time, the metrics you’ll be using to measure performance is likely to require adjustment in light of any changes to expectations, and these changes should be reflected clearly and consistently throughout your performance management processes.

These expectations should be tied to any career development conversations managers plan on having with employees as part of the appraisals process, with any relevant information employees might require in order to adjust to be communicated clearly via a multi-channel communications platform.

4. Automate communications across a multi-channel platform

It is through the use of a multi-channel communications platform that managers and HR leaders are able to build upon individual and team contributions to the OKRs and key performance indicators by measuring their contributions to the company’s short- and long-term goals. A consistent communications strategy which allows for the sharing of information via desktop/laptop as well as SMS and in-app push notifications for mobile devices, ensures individuals, teams and departments are all up to date on any important changes.

Some performance management tools allow you to create structured and auditable communication tasks featuring digital sign-off, which can be used for a wide range of communications such as any updates to the company’s health and safety policies – particularly relevant in light of the continuing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic – changes to employee agreements, or simply as a way to ensure that a new project-related document has been read and understood. With automated communication of goals and progress, appraisals can be conducted with greater transparency and accuracy.

5. Adapt to recognize new behaviours as a result of the crisis

A study from Deloitte titled COVID-19: Workforce strategies for a post-COVID-19 recovery highlights the importance of adapting to the new challenges and pressures faced by companies with large numbers of employees working from home. The study poses the following questions you should address as a part of your appraisals process:

  •         Are there different types of behaviours we now want to recognize as part of our recovery efforts (e.g. finding new and effective ways to drive collaboration across virtual teams, supporting colleagues struggling with mental health concerns)?

  •         Are there examples of teams [or individuals] that have delivered high performance during the crisis? How do we celebrate behaviour and replicate it in other areas?

  •         Are there new opportunities to engage our top performers (e.g. stretch roles, team leadership, hack-a-thons)?

  •         Are we actively engaging our people in the appropriate career development conversations?

Reviewing performance data and your employees’ contributions to the development of projects and other objectives may offer some insight into the changing nature of their roles, which can in turn be verified and better understood by gathering 360 degree feedback.

6. Consolidate 360 degree feedback processes

A thorough appraisal often takes into account feedback from an employee’s peers and team leaders in order to give management and HR a clearer insight into their performance. And with most if not all of the workforce working from home, this feedback is additionally important for filling in any gaps of understanding. Being able to consolidate multiple viewpoints allows management and HR to gain an insight into their effectiveness from a wide range of perspectives.

Use your performance management tools to save time by setting up 360 feedback templates which you can then share with the employee’s colleagues, team leader, manager or supervisor. This can help you to identify unexpected behaviours and other performance-related actions an employee has taken which you might otherwise overlook if relying solely on goal-driven metrics.

7. Understand your employees’ work-life balance …

There are a multitude of ways in which working remotely can affect the stress and general well-being of a given employee. An employee living with a large family – or even extended family – is likely to face a great deal more in the way of distractions and calls for their time than an employee living alone. Conversely, the employee living alone may be experiencing feelings of loneliness or isolation which may not register with managers and HR leaders conducting appraisals.

The difficulties posed by remote working and striking the best work-life balance can be revealed to managers in a number of ways, not least by ensuring the appraisals process itself is held regularly. In addition, one-2-ones and regular check-ins with employees can help you to gain a greater insight into their ability to work effectively from home, and whether or not you can make adjustments to their schedules to give them additional leeway to cope with any external issues they have.

8. … And adopt a light touch with poor performers

Given the many new and unusual challenges faced by employees working remotely, it makes sense to adopt a light touch when it comes to dealing with poor performance, especially if your review of their performance uncovers specific concerns about their ability to work effectively from home.

Treat it as an opportunity to work with the employee to address any problems they may be experiencing, offering corrective feedback, the chance to adapt their schedule, as well as access to training material and other resources which they might be in need of to bring their performance up to speed. 

9. Raise the praise for great performance

Just as you might want to adopt a lighter touch when dealing with poor performers, when it comes to the A-players it might be appropriate to sing their praises loudly and clearly. Without the face-to-face interaction found in the workplace, star performers are more likely to feel that their efforts have gone unnoticed, so being extra clear that you appreciate their efforts will make it clear that you value their contributions.

10. Don’t forget the basics

When you’re finally ready to schedule the appraisal virtual meeting, make sure you cover the basics. Give the employee plenty of notice so that they have time to prepare any documents and other material supporting their work, and ask them to fill out a self-assessment form before the meeting begins (you can use your performance management tools to automate these forms for ease of use.

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