Appraising the right way

Jul 02 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

In the current economic climate motivating high-flyers and retaining the right staff is crucial and the recruitment industry is no exception.

Recruitment companies that invest in developing the full potential of their people will remain highly competitive in a challenging marketplace and will be best placed to meet the demand once the market improves.

Appraisals are a crucial part of career development. They provide an opportunity to focus on activities and goals, to identify and correct existing problems and to encourage better performance in the future.

An appraisal is a rare opportunity for the manager and staff member to have "time out" for a one-on-one discussion of important work issues that might not otherwise be addressed.

These sessions should not be purely performance focused in the sense of fee earning. Targets should be beyond number of placements and should examine the individual's total contribution to the business.

At Courtenay, for example, we recognise and reward consultants for sharing good candidates, team working, caretaking others' assignments, cross-training and managing additional projects, such as PR or IT.

By recognising, praising and rewarding ‘total contribution’ of a consultant the company is more likely to retain valued employees. And there is an additional commercial benefit; clients feel confident that they are getting better service overall, because recognising consultants for achievements outside of the hard sell means they are motivated by providing the best service rather than by the commission in their pay packet.

Two-way process
Nothing in the appraisal should come as a shock. An appraisal should be clarifying not illuminating. This can only happen if there is an open culture of no-blame within the business. People cannot learn unless they are allowed to make mistakes.

An appraisal needs to be a two-way process and the consultant should have a real opportunity to say what is on their minds, while the person giving the appraisal listens.

In this way employees can be empowered to take ownership of their career development and can also to a certain extent be responsible for identifying a solution, such as extra training or a request for a mentor.

Inevitably, the need will arise during an appraisal to provide an employee with negative feedback. Skill and sensitivity must be used to handle these sessions, or this could have a damaging effect on their morale and performance may deteriorate further.

One tactic is not to confront an employee directly with criticism. Instead, open-ended questioning techniques that encourage the employee to identify his or her performance problems can be used.

For example, one option is to say to the person being appraised, "Why do you think you weren't able to complete your assignment on time?" Instead of blunt statements or accusations, the person giving the appraisal should always encourage an employee to talk freely about his or her performance.

Follow-up is essential if long-term benefits are to be gained from the appraisal process. An appraisal is more than a date in the diary. It is an essential part of every employee's career development programme.

A key element of the appraisal is recognising and agreeing upon individual objectives and development needs and putting in place the necessary structures to ensure they are met over the next months.

One of the most common mistakes is to perceive appraisal as an isolated event instead of an ongoing process. Regular feedback should be given alongside quarterly reviews.

Appraisals can have a strong positive influence on an employee’s sense of worth, commitment and belonging.

However, realistically the prospect of a salary increase is an important motivational factor, although textbooks state that the two should not be linked.

As with any developmental programme `buy-in` from senior management is crucial. Senior decision makers must show that they believe in the value of the appraisal process if it is to be integrated within the culture of a business.

Prepare and give the staff member time to prepare

Ensure you have enough time

Ensure you have enough privacy

Assess 'total contribution' rather than solely fee earning capacity

Continuously postpone the appraisal

Tolerate interruptions during it