Is your performance management like the “Elf on a Shelf”?

© Cindy Robbins Photography
Special thanks to Cindy Robbins Photography for our Elf. Click on the photo to see more of her work!

Do you have an elf on a shelf?  Love it?  Hate it?  I see a mix of reactions from fellow parents ranging from the hilarity of posing the elf in some new and original place every night in the days before Christmas, to the desperate FB posts asking for advice on what to say on the mornings when the Elf forgot to move.

As we move into performance appraisal ‘season’, I am struck by some of the similarities between this little bit of elfin torture and some of the more traditional performance management processes that I see.

Both the elf and the traditional appraisal…

  • Have to happen at the end of the year… along with absolutely everything else
  • Make a sudden appearance for 1 month after having been absent for 11
  • Include something new and a little nuts each year
  • Surprise us when really they shouldn’t

So, would you like a better option?  Here are some simple but effective tips to get you started:

  1. Avoid recency error by having short 30 minute conversations on performance every month.  The conversation can be casual, but it should be structured and documented.  Having more frequent conversations with your employees or team members helps keep everyone on point and gives you a chance to address small performance issues before they become big ones.  The monthly meeting minutes provide all the data that you will need for the annual review summary and avoid year end surprises.
  2. Avoid halo effect by making employees responsible for most of the process themselves.  I like an 80/20 rule when it comes to performance appraisals.  80% of the writeup should be done by the individual – both in terms of achievements and development areas. 20% of the work, essentially the summary of performance, should be done by the manager.  This achieves two goals: the most knowledgeable person is doing the writeup and the work is spread out more equitably across the organization.
  3. Eliminate the honeymoon appraisal by skipping the annual review summary for employees who have been with the company less than 3 months.  Instead, let them know when they are hired that their salary will be up for review after one full year of employment and account for it in the initial salary offer.
  4. Avoid bias in favor of employees or team members who are more ‘like you‘ by inviting your manager or one of your peers for input on the summary appraisals.  This is great way to get another perspective on performance without doing a full-blown 360.
  5. Avoid calibration errors (when you rate members of your team too high or too low as compared to the company overall) by reviewing the summary ratings with HR and a group of management peers.   You should see a fairly normal distribution curve across all employees.

Do you need some help setting of a performance management process for your organization that reflects your culture, drives business success, and improves employee engagement?  We would love to hear from you!



This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be human resources consulting advice or specific advice for your business needs.

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