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Ingrid Cliff

Linking Performance Appraisals to Business Plans

Performance appraisals should never be conducted in isolation of the overall business direction. It is important to link each person's goals and objectives back to the business overall goals and objectives.

Unless each person can clearly see how their job contributes to at least one part of the business success, then they begin to wonder if their job really needs to exist and if they are adding value to the organisation.

The way to do this by starting with the overall list of goals and objectives for the company - each person in a company is either directly contributing to a goal or supporting someone who is directly contributing to a goal.

You can ask both yourself and each employee two questions:

  1. How does your position contribute to the overall goals of the business?
  2. How will you know when you are successful?
These two questions are deceptively simple, but taking the time to really dig for the answers will start to create a stronger alignment between each person and the overall success of the business.

Until next time

Ingrid Cliff

We put your business into words

Heart Harmony Communications - Employee performance appraisals

Start easy for your first employee performance review

When scheduling your employee performance reviews, the temptation is to start with the person you have been itching to tell exactly what you think of them. This is the absolute worst thing you can do!

Always start your employee performance reviews with the easiest person to review. That way you will reduce your nerves, get comfortable with the process and build your skills during the review. Generally if you get on really well with the person, at the end of the review you can ask for feedback on your own performance as a reviewer. This will further help you build your skills.

Work up to the harder reviews - especially the ones that give you sweaty palms just thinking about them.

For the sweaty palm reviews spend time working out possible scenarios as to how they may play out and what you may say. Practice with a trusted colleague or your human resource manager - do a few dummy runs. You want to create a reflex reaction so if a particular response arises then you can deal with it quickly and efficiently.

If you have any reason to believe the person has the potential for violence, your safety is paramount. This doesn't mean ignore the review, it means take steps to minimise any potential risk to yourself and other people. We will talk more about this in a future post.

Until next time

Ingrid Cliff

Heart Harmony Communications - Human Resource Copywriters

Spend more time planning than reviewing

Managers often ask how much time should they spend appraising compared to planning for the future.

I have a strong view that there should be no surprises during performance reviews. With that viewpoint I recommend managers spend more time planning for the future rather than focusing on the past at performance review time. If you spend all your time wading back over already covered ground you won't have the chance to build a great foundation for the future.

One-on-one time with an employee is precious - use it to set boundaries, clear up delegations for upcoming projects, work out what needs to be delivered and how the employee can best achieve those goals.

If you haven't had the ongoing communication with your employee throughout the year and you have decided to give feedback all in one hit - then split your meeting into two separate meetings. The first meeting should be the appraisal and the second meeting a few days later should be focused on the future. That way you won't contaminate the planning meeting with the appraisal process.

Until next time

Ingrid Cliff

Heart Harmony Communications

It's Performance Review Season Again

It’s that time of year when many businesses start doing their employee performance reviews.
There was an interesting study done by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Ethics Resource Centre (ERC). Only 23% of HR professionals surveyed had any form of comprehensive ethics or codes of conduct in place in their organisation and only 43% assessed ethical conduct as part of their employee performance reviews. Since ethical conduct is and should be a "given" in all workplaces this is a bit of a concern.

When you do your employee performance reviews you need to look at not only WHAT a person does but HOW they do it. The most common problems with employees performance are in the HOW category.

I would be so bold as to suggest that most employees who are fired are only fired for how they do their job (their attitude, approach, interactions with others) and not what they actually do.

If you don’t address the how in your performance reviews, if ever you need to discipline or terminate an employee you have no leg to stand on legally before the courts in case of appeal. They rightly can argue they have not been given the opportunity to address these issues.

If you are looking for a simple yet thorough Employee Performance review process - check out our Employee Performance Reviews: Tips, Templates & Tactics.

It has all of the processes, templates and forms as well as info on dealing with the "hard issues" such as an employee bursting into tears during your review or getting angry. It is a great resource for all managers about to head into Performance Review season!

Until Next Time

Ingrid Cliff
Heart Harmony Communications

Dealing with rater over-confidence

With good performance review processes, you have the employee complete a self rating before you meet. Generally many employees rate themselves quite hard, or on par with your views of their performance. But what do you do if the person has rated themselves as exceptional on many areas and you think they are borderline competent (at best)?

This is much trickier to deal with than the person who is too hard on themselves.

Before you meet first double check your facts - are you 100% confident that your assessment is accurate. Have you been too hard on them with your assessment.

When you meet ask them to explain why they believe they deserve that rating. Dig a bit to see if there are complexities in their job you were not aware of, or if there is any justification for their assessment. Assume they are right with their assessment until proven otherwise.

So - what if you do that and there is still a significant difference in your views? Start by commenting that you and your employee have significantly different ratings. Ask the person why they think that may be the case (and be willing to accept some hard personal feedback if necessary).

Then move onto the ratings and why you believe they are an accurate reflection of their current competence level. Be prepared with your strategies to deal with push back and tears - this is generally when you will get an emotional response in a performance review.

Focus on observed behaviour not the person. Give concrete examples of where the behaviour and outcomes were less than exceptional.

If you are still convinced your rating is correct after talking it through, then leave your rating and stands and invite the employee to add their clarifying comments to the review.

These situations are where a 360 review really come into their own. One person highlighting a difference of opinion is easy to dismiss - 10 people all saying the same thing is harder to ignore.

Finally, know that where this happens in most cases the employee won't "get" your rating. They will generally gossip about it with their peers and family talking about how unfair you were. In many cases they will look for another job down the track. Be prepared to manage the fall-out.

So does this mean you shouldn't be 100% honest about your views? No! Be honest - speak your views and hold firm if you genuinely believe you are are right in the face of all evidence before you. It is more important as a manager to remain in your integrity and be honest with all of your employees, than it is to lie just to keep the peace.

I have lost count of the number of unfair dismissal cases I have seen before the Industrial Courts where a manager tried to keep the peace over the years and gave in to the ratings, before finally snapping and sacking the person - or a new manager coming in and being honest. If all of the evidence on file (your performance reviews) says the person was a good performer and you sack them for poor performance - then you can kiss your case good-bye. In the long run you will be better off telling the person the truth.

Until next time

Ingrid Cliff

Heart Harmony Communications

What is a 360?

Here is a copy of an article I published in my newsletter about 360 degree performance review. To subscribe to my weekly newsletters go to

I was talking with a manager the other day about their employee performance review processes. This company had been doing them for some time and wanted to take their reviews to the next level.

What about a 360? I was met with a very stunned look.

"I didn't think you thought of me that way" came the reply. It was my turn to look stunned.

"No – a 360 degree performance review process" was my reply.

A 360 is where a person gets feedback on their performance from their peers, their subordinates, their boss and in some cases even suppliers and clients. That's why it is called 360 – you get feedback from all around you.

A 360 is a very intense tool and not to be messed with. I have seen it create miraculous shifts in previously stuck managers and I have seen it plunge people into a major stress crisis. I have even seen people totally ignore what all the facts are telling them and stay on their track. It is only a tool for a mature organisation willing to take it seriously and implement it correctly.

Why? Imagine you are in a room, having a quiet coffee by yourself. All of a sudden in walk 20 of your employees, peers and your boss. They each proceed to tell you exactly what is right and wrong with your leadership, your knowledge, your teamwork, your technical skills and a host of other things. All you are allowed to do is listen. Now you can see why it is intense!

There are lots of tools on the market to help create a 360 – many just focus on the forms and not the process (or the process to debrief and ensure the person remains stable!).

If you are looking at doing a 360 here are my best tips to help you create one that works for your business (no matter the tool you use).
  • 360 should NEVER be mandatory. It should always be voluntary. If mandatory you will force people who may be having a lot of stress in their personal life to deal with an additional stress load which could push them over the edge.
  • 360 should never be used as a promotion tool. It is designed to help people learn and grow and not punish and reward. If you take it in the positive development approach you are more likely to get honest feedback from participants and more willingness to deal with the results by the person. If it is for reward and punishment, the dynamics change and it is less effective.
  • 360 questions need to be directly related to what matters in your organisation. There is no point doing a 360 if none of the questions relate to areas of importance to your company. Do you want managers to work across information silos – then measure it. Do you want managers to be inspirational leaders – then measure it.
  • The boss goes first and shares their results with the management team. If you are serious about a 360, the boss should be the first person who has one and they should share the results with the management team. If they are not willing to be open and do the process, the company is not ready for a 360 generally.
  • Confidentiality is crucial. Every subordinate, peer, client and supplier who responds should have their results pooled and not be identifiable. This assists in ensuring they will give honest feedback.
  • Feedback is perception not proof. The results of a 360 are just people's perceptions of a person at that point in time. Something about their behaviour is triggering this result. Perceptions are not proof that a person is "bad" – they are just showing something in the behaviour needs to be modified.
  • The process is more important than the forms. You need to ensure everyone is briefed beforehand (participant and raters) as well as ensure that you allow a good 2 hours with each person to debrief their results. The results can't be just mailed or handed to someone, they must be debriefed – taking into account emotional reactions as well as action setting for the future.
  • No witch-hunts. There should be no witch-hunts over negative results. If a person decides to blame the raters and punish them – then you quickly need to deal with it as a case of workplace bullying.
Follow these processes and you will have a powerful tool to make significant change in your company. Miss any of them and you will get a paper exercise or conversely one that damages people for life. It's your choice.

Remember - for a basic employee performance review for small business, check out my

Until next time
Ingrid Cliff