180 Degree Appraisals – How to make them positive, meaningful and worthwhile
Staff appraisal can be a challenge at the best of times. These handy appraisal tips should help managers to make 180 Degree Appraisals effective, meaningful and worthwhile.
180 Degree Appraisals are performance reviews which involve an employee being appraised by one other person. The appraiser would normally be the staff member’s manager or boss.
1. Prepare super-well for every performance appraisal
It’s essential to prepare thoroughly before starting any performance appraisal meeting. Make notes on what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it as the appraisal meeting moves on. You might find it helpful to use your appraisal form as a template to make notes on.
Have facts at hand to back up your comments. This is the only way to make sure you are objective and fair. Use evidence that relates directly to the employee’s performance. This makes it less likely that the person will take offence or get argumentative. A great appraisal tip is to make notes during the year so that you can keep track of the employee’s performance each month. You’ll struggle to remember the details of their performance all those months ago if you don’t have a record. Don’t forget to record evidence of good performance on the appraisal form as well as the areas of poor performance.
Download this essential Performance Appraisal Guide. A handy list of the key actions to take when preparing for the appraisal, during the appraisal meeting and throughout the year.
2. Brief your employees about the appraisal process
If your employees haven’t had training or briefings on the performance appraisal process, it’s your job as the appraiser to explain their role to them. To get maximum benefit from their performance appraisals, staff members need to know how to use the appraisal form, what part they should play in appraisal reviews and the time-frame for completing the appraisals process. If you’re using an online 180 degree appraisals system, employees will need to be briefed on how to use this too.
3. Be positive and upbeat whenever you mention performance appraisals
This can be a challenge, particularly when you’re busy or under pressure. Do your best to be positive and enthusiastic about the 180 degree appraisals process whenever you talk about it, even when you’re addressing poor performance. Try not to use words like ‘weakness’ or ‘bad’, perhaps ‘area for improvement’ or ‘area for development’ would be a better and more positive phrase to use.
Try to show a genuine interest in the development of the employee. Use the appraisal process to make a point of telling the person how much you value their contributions to your team (only if warranted of course … if not you’ll need to deal with this issue).
4. Give the 180 appraisal meeting the priority it deserves
The performance appraisal meeting is a significant event for an employee. As a manager it can sometimes be easy to forget this, particularly when the pressure is on and you’re busy. Try to treat employees with the respect they deserve. Performance appraisals should be a high priority, not meetings that get continually shifted in your diary because other supposedly more important events keep coming up. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes – how would you feel if your appraiser kept putting back your performance appraisal meeting?
5. Be fair throughout the appraisals process
Treat all your employees consistently and fairly during every 180 Degree Appraisal. Give each of them the same amount of your time and effort. Mention good performance as well as poor performance. Some appraisers have a tendency to focus on poor performance during appraisals because this needs action; poor performance means the employee must change in order to improve.
Often, high performance is not mentioned at all during the appraisal process because it’s already good and doesn’t need action to improve it. Be careful here – if you forget to mention good performance, you could well end up with a demotivated employee. How would you feel if you thought you’d done well at something and your appraiser failed to acknowledge it? As well as being congratulated (and rewarded if appropriate), think also about encouraging and helping a high performer to get even better.
6. Using 180 Degree Appraisals to set SMART objectives with employees
Invite your employees to get involved in the SMART objective setting process. Don’t ‘set’ personal objectives on your own; have a discussion and ‘agree’ them with the employee. Use the SMART objectives criteria (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based) to ensure each appraisal objective really is a meaningful work goal.
Give the employee a chance to think about their own personal objectives prior to the discussion at the performance appraisal meeting. Encourage your employees to think about their personal objectives for the coming year as part of their preparation for their performance appraisal.
7. Encourage an open and honest discussion
To be effective, 180 Degree Appraisals should be two-way discussions. Although you should lead it as the appraiser, the employee should feel comfortable and free to present their thoughts and opinions on their performance at any time during the performance discussion.
Try to ask open, not closed questions so that a conversation starts to flow. This should help the employee to feel that you care, you’re listening and that you really do value their input. Employees should also feel free to share their concerns. Remember to be an active listener and to be aware of the employee’s verbal and nonverbal cues.
8. Performance appraisals should focus on personal development
Give your employees the chance to discuss their career progression during the performance appraisal. Invite them to discuss their ambitions and their training and development needs. This discussion should help you to develop a plan for each employee’s career progression. Some will be more ambitious than others but don’t make any assumptions – be sure to give everyone the same opportunities during the performance appraisal process.
9. Regular informal performance reviews
Although the formal 180 Degree Performance Appraisal is normally an annual event, you should also organise regular informal performance ‘reviews’ with your employees throughout the year. This helps to make sure performance management is a continuous process. Use these performance reviews to monitor the progress of personal objectives, to discuss performance generally, to monitor and review personal objectives and to hear any issues or concerns employees may have.
Successful 180 Degree Appraisals leave employees feeling motivated and clear about what they’re planning to achieve over the coming year. An employee should leave the 180 Appraisal meeting feeling motivated and excited about his or her job, not demotivated and worried about all the criticism they’ve received. This really is the key to excellent performance management.
I hope these appraisal tips help to make your 180 Degree Appraisal process a success.