Leadership For The Future


The end of the Annual Appraisal?

It is surprising to see how many organisations are abandoning their annual appraisal schemes – or is it?   People love to complain about the annual appraisal meeting – I have done it myself. Line managers struggle to think through what they should say, individuals being appraised don’t enjoy the process and the HR team get frustrated with line managers and individuals not completing the appraisal meetings and write- ups on time.

There have been too many stories of individuals, who thought they were doing a good job, and their line manager telling them they are doing a good job and then they get a low rating at the end of the year.

Corporations such as Google, Facebook and Netflix have bypassed annual appraisal altogether. In their thinking the young generation entering the workforce want to have immediate feedback. By pointing out excellent performance and problems as they arise, employees have an opportunity to change behaviour that makes an immediate difference. Why wait until the end of the year?

One of the problems is defining the purpose of appraisal because people need three types of feedback; they need

  • appreciation – knowing they are making a valid contribution
  • coaching – support in doing an even better job and
  • evaluation – a critical and objective review of their work

Appraisal tends to muddle these together according to Sheila Heen and Doug Stone in their book “Thanks for the Feedback “. They also discovered from their research that organisations tend to focus on helping managers to give better feedback – a “push” model of learning that is helping line managers have a set of different tools to help deliver the key feedback messages to staff.   However, they soon realised that it is the “receiver” that chooses “what they let in” so as well as helping line managers it is equally important to support staff receiving feedback to make to most of learning from the feedback – even if delivered in a poor way!

So should your organisation abandon the annual appraisal process? Probably not! However, it would be worth making sure line managers and staff are equipped to give and receive regularly feedback, have opportunities to meet regularly (every four to eight weeks) and that line managers and staff are encouraged to have the conversation in the moment rather than waiting for any formal process so that the organisation has a more trusting environment.