Appraisals versus Feedback. Not the same thing.

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Appraisals vs. Feedback

Performance appraisals require no conversation. That’s why everyone hates them.

If you wanted to appraise the value of your car, you could do that. You would assess it like you would any thing else. Walk around it and kick the tires. It doesn’t need to talk to you for you to see the bumper’s dented, it’s got 200,000 miles on it and could use new suspension. Or that despite its flaws, it’s always been dependable. Appraisals can be used for development, but we HR decided we’d do two good things at the same time. The result? Performance appraisals became performance reviews…really awkward conversations that no one likes.

But, that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. The trick is to use performance appraisals, like stack-ranking, and rating on a bell-curve, in concert with more engaging techniques. One can appraise the value a process or team member by looking at stats and comparing one to another. This how we arrived at “stack ranking” and other similar, yet impersonal measures, of employee evaluation.

They have their place. But they are by no means engaging.

Employee development depends on performance feedback. It’s an ongoing conversation in which two or more parties seek to identify strengths and relative weaknesses. They outline opportunities and challenges and try to detail solutions in a dynamic way.

Both involve the discussion of targets and other metrics. But, performance feedback focuses on performance improvement rather than classification. Once you’re conducting an employee appraisal, you’re probably writing a final report – not a developmental road-map.

So do your appraisals. Compute your ratings. But, do them in private. Focus on feedback to get the most out of employees. For their sake and yours.

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