One of the key performance management trends of 2020 has seen businesses increasingly move from annual performance reviews to ongoing appraisals which emphasize regular feedback and employee development. Automated appraisals, encompassing everything from gathering performance-related data and reports to customizable templates and schedules, are crucial for leaders looking to ensure these processes are effective.
Read on to find out how the benefits of automating employee performance reviews can improve the employee experience, delivering appraisals that set employees up for future success while negotiating the challenges faced through remote working.
Rethink annual appraisals with continuous feedback
As any business leader understands, times of uncertainty make long-term planning difficult, increasing the demand for regular appraisals to ensure that employees get feedback and recognition. 80% of employees report being unhappy with their current performance system, with 64% unhappy that this process isn’t a continuous exercise. Future trends point towards a greater emphasis on coaching and mentorship to meet these challenges.
Concerns about the short-term future are particularly pronounced in Millennials. Julia Carpenter’s Wall Street Journal article, How Covid-19 Derailed My Financial Goals, explains how a lack of certainty can lead to frustration and despondency:
“We can attribute a lot of this to the “what the hell” effect, says Marissa A. Sharif, professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The “what the hell” effect pops up when people feel they’ve failed at their goals or violated some rules they set to attain those objectives. Instead of pivoting, reassessing or trying again, they throw their hands up in the air and say, “What the hell!” This leads to people backsliding into bad habits or spiralling into negativity, a familiar feeling for myself and lots of friends struggling with our financial goals right now.”
How can businesses adapt to meet the demand for regular feedback? What processes can they put in place to automate the appraisals process? Perhaps most importantly, how can these systems be adapted to make employee success a focal point of the process?
Let’s examine how performance management and HR admin tools can be combined to create an employee success platform centred around valuable time-saving automated appraisals. With a focus on continuous feedback, these processes can help ensure a positive attitude prevails through uncertain times through a development-focused employee experience.
Analyse employee performance with data analytics and reports
Whether you’re conducting monthly, quarterly or annual reviews, using performance management tools to monitor progress towards Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and automating reports allow managers and leaders to prepare for appraisals with data-driven insights.
These reports make tracking the progress and development of employees simple, affording managers oversight of performance which can be understood at a glance via customizable dashboards. Successes and failures can be understood in terms of how they correlate to the company’s broader goals so that any issues with alignment can be addressed.
Understand absence patterns with HR analytics
Employees’ performance-related successes and failures are often intimately tied with attendance, so the ability to generate HR reports for absence and sickness – as well as any overtime which might demonstrate extra commitment to the role – adds another layer of data-driven context to the appraisals process.
Identifying issues that might be difficult to spot due to remote working can be achieved through regular reporting, highlighting recent developments in teams and departments which may impact the wider workforce, understanding the circumstances of the individuals currently under appraisal, and tracking potential problems such as high turnover rates so that leaders can drive improvements in employee retention.
Gather peer feedback using 360 review templates
Gathering 360 feedback allows managers conducting appraisals to add meat to the bones of HR and performance reporting. Feedback from employees’ colleagues, line managers and other members of staff they regularly work with improves understanding of any performance shortcomings and obstacles to success an employee may have faced. This feedback also gives leaders a greater understanding of the broader impact an employee’s performance is having on the company which otherwise wouldn’t be represented in the data analytics.
Creating templates allows for a segmented approach to 360 feedback which can be scheduled prior to any upcoming appraisals. Managers and other colleagues can use these templates to provide a score rating along with any other pertinent information, circumventing the challenges posed by remote working and delivering notifications so that managers conducting appraisals are able to review the completed results in a timely manner.
General surveys can also enhance data-driven decisions, allowing for anonymous feedback and improving the overall quality of understanding of the challenges faced by an organization. Some performance management tools allow for automated Employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS), generating quantitative data on employee sentiment which can offer valuable insights into levels of satisfaction and engagement of a company’s workforce.
Automate planning of appraisals
With the relevant data and peer feedback gathered, it’s time to conduct the appraisal itself. Managers can save time creating appraisal templates to deal with a variety of scenarios, whether dealing with probation reviews, or regular weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual performance reviews. By viewing these in a performance management suite’s dashboard to simplify these processes, managers can see the status of any current review, including the status of expected feedback and any score given relating to performance.
The appraisal meetings can also be scheduled in advance using performance management tools, with advance notifications to give employees time to prepare for the meeting and produce any supporting documentation relevant to the review. Defining the digital venue (for instance a Zoom video call) and the time and date for the appraisal meeting allows for clear scheduling of regular automated reviews, sending calendar invitations to managers and employees.
Appraisals and employee development
Performance appraisals should be intimately tied to the development of an employee, understanding their experiences and motivations and how their success factors into the overall success of the company. By linking feedback to an employee’s Personal Development Plan and other development objectives, managers are better positioned to offer targeted feedback and provide access to appropriate training materials to facilitate learning. Failure can often offer an opportunity for personal growth, so managers who face delivering negative feedback at an appraisal should come prepared with potential solutions which set the employee back on the right track.
By the same token, individuals looking to better understand how to be a successful remote employee should engage in regular self-evaluation, including prior to any upcoming appraisals. This could be in the form of scheduled templates sent out automatically to employees in the days prior to appraisals and giving managers an additional layer of context on which to base their feedback. Employees working remotely are more likely to experience problems that could fly under the radar, and self-evaluations give them an opportunity to flag these issues before the appraisals meeting.
By allowing for regular multi-directional feedback as part of the automated performance management and review processes, managers and leaders can be sure that they have a holistic overview of the various dynamics affecting employees’ performance records. Most importantly, this feedback should be meaningful. A Gallup survey showed that “87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job”, so managers who demonstrate consideration for this desire to evolve are positioned for greater employee success.
Following on from the appraisal meeting, managers can update any objectives in performance management software with easy to track KPIs, while ensuring these goals are aligned both to the individual’s Personal Development Plan and the wider aims of the company.
Celebrate employee success
Finally, if an employee has exceeded expectations and delivered outstanding performance, celebrate it! Boosting the signal of great work achieved both in the performance appraisal session and to other remote workers encourages more of the same behaviours which lead to employee success.
Messaging these achievements across the company can be managed through recognition and reward mechanisms which are built into the performance management process. Not only do these rewards help employees feel valued for their hard work, they can be made more effective with the addition of peer-to-peer awards which offer all members of a team or department an opportunity to virtually pat their colleagues on the back.
An effective strategy for ending an appraisal is to embrace the Pygmalion Effect. While the ancient Greek myth on which this principle is based might seem far removed from the workplace of the 21st century, the principle of establishing high-performance expectations can help create a positive feedback loop moving forwards from the appraisals.