By Sharon Armstrong
The Essential Performance Review Handbook
I explain in the introduction to the book, that although performance reviews are actually less popular than a trip to the dentist for most supervisors (see that study below), it’s not supposed to be this way. The good news is that with this book, I try to take the pain out of the process.
Been There, Done That
I do my best to provide advice on how to make the process productive, painless, and effective. The reason is simple. I have been there.
I know from firsthand experience that performance appraisals can be one of the most anxiety-provoking aspects of work life—for both supervisors and employees. Appraisals are meant to clarify and reward, and to be interactive and fair. They take real time, real dialogue, and a real focus on the future, rather than just the previous few months. They need to work successfully for all employees—not just the terrific ones.
Why Supervisors and Employees Fear Performance Reviews
The reality is that too often, performance reviews don’t work.
Supervisors often complain they are required to focus on tedious written forms, but don’t have enough training in how to use them. They also worry about getting hit with complaints or lawsuits when there’s even a hint of discussion in the review about “improvement opportunities.” There’s also the frustration of measuring intangibles.
What’s more, employees often aren’t any happier about the performance review process.
Anyone who is in the HR business knows that employees just plain dread appraisals, citing feelings of trepidation from one error that dragged on through 10 categories of the performance review, and frustration with perfunctory appraisals that neither acknowledge nor foster growth. As one employee told me, “The perception of the individual or relationship often dictates how critical or complimentary a supervisor can be.”
Why Does One of the Most Vital Workplace Responsibilities Show a Shabby Face?
Let’s consider some statistics and surveys to understand the problem.
• A 2006 survey by the Council of Communications Management confirmed what almost every employee knows—that positive feedback related to their efforts, and recognition for a job well done, are the top motivators of employee performance.
Through formal evaluations and regular informal routes, performance appraisals yield excellent opportunities to motivate. Yet the process is frequently counterproductive or viewed merely as perfunctory.
• According to the United Kingdom’s Institute of Personnel and Development, one in eight managers would prefer to visit the dentist than carry out a performance appraisal.
It’s not supposed to be this way. Rather than a painful yearly event, performance evaluation can be viewed as a culmination of small meetings, formal and informal, held throughout the evaluation period.
The Good News
Happily, the elements involved — goal setting, effective observation, practical documentation, and ongoing communications — can all be learned.
Inside The Essential Performance Review Handbook you’ll find:
• Sound guidelines
• Sample evaluation forms
• Helpful insights for use on both sides of the desk
• Do’s and don’ts
• Tips for “owning” the appraisal
• Ways to leverage the review
The book is divided into nine chapters:
Chapter 1: The Roots of Anxiety
Chapter 2: Forget Winging It!
Chapter 3: Appraisals That Don’t Bite
Chapter 4: Mission: Possible
Chapter 5: The Many Facets of Compensation
Chapter 6: Rating Error Traps
Chapter 7: When Appraisals Derail
Chapter 8: Keep It Legal
Chapter 9: Performance Reviews in a Changing World
The Appendix includes the Employee Performance Review and Performance Appraisal forms from 10 organizations and associations:
• Atlantic Human Resource Advisors, LLC
• National Council of La Raza
• The Special Olympics
• Folcomer Equipment Corporation
• National Association of Federal Credit Unions
• A DC-based trade association
• Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
• Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind
• Farmington Country Club
The book is also peppered with quotes and ideas from top leaders. In Chapter 9, entitled, “Performance Reviews in a Changing World,” Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates shares with us this thought. “What I do best is spread my enthusiasm,” he says.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer added, “The end point must be exciting enough to stir thousands to uncommon effort.”
I added sidebars throughout the book to impart additional knowledge and information, including one in Chapter 7, “When Appraisals Derail,” which offers a blueprint for positive feedback. Consider this:
• Give feedback that is specific and behavioral
• Describe the behavior’s impact on the team or the attainment of the person’s goals
• Express your observations calmly
The Future of Performance Reviews
In one form or another, performance reviews will continue to be a fact of our work life. This book is designed to cut through the anxiety and make the process more productive and less unpleasant.
The book is also designed to bring performance appraisals into the 21st century, increase future-focused areas including: job sharing, telecommuting, shared supervision, team evaluations, legal concerns, and accommodating particular employee challenges.
The chapters tap into the actual feelings of employees and their bosses. You’ll find good examples and painful ones, real-life performance review problems, and guidelines on how to handle them.
Praise for Sharon Armstrong’s The Essential Performance Review Handbook
Below you’ll find some of the wonderful things my colleagues have said about this book. I couldn’t be happier, and hope you find this new book useful and effective for your team.
“Sharon Armstrong’s recent book about Performance Appraisals provides valuable information to managers and employees who support high organizational performance and top-notch individual and team development. The book’s format makes it easy to come away with quick tips and great ideas, which make a sometimes-stressful process much less so.” — Jacqueline Basile, Vice President, Human Resources, WETA
“Contrary to what the song says: Time is not on our side. The Essential Performance Review Handbook paves the road with useful information that managers can use immediately. The book is easy to read. I love the format, especially the side bar inserts. Sharon Armstrong writes clearly and with impact. Read it and use it, for this book will improve your management effectiveness.” — Michel P. Mathieu, Senior HR Consultant, INOVA Fairfax Hospital
“Sharon has written a straight forward, concise handbook that gets at the heart of performance reviews. The tips, techniques, management principles, and common sense she provides will help managers and employees make performance reviews more effective.” — Vern Schellenger, VP of Human Resources and Organizational Development, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administration
• List Price: $14.99
• Paperback: 224 pages
• Publisher: Career Press
• Language: English
• ISBN-13: 978-1-60163-113-8
• Product Dimensions: 8.3 × 5.5 × 0.7 inches
• Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
About Sharon Armstrong
Sharon Armstrong has over 20 years of experience as a Human Resources consultant, trainer and career counselor. Since launching her own consulting business in 1998, Sharon Armstrong and Associates, she has consulted with many large corporations and small businesses. She has facilitated training, completed HR projects and provided career transition services for a wide variety of clients in the profit and non-profit sectors.
Sharon received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern Maine and her Masters Degree in Counseling from George Washington University. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR).
Sharon is the co-author of a humor book, published by Random House entitled Heeling the Canine Within: The Dog’s Self-Help Companion in 1998. Career Press published her first business book, Stress-free Performance Appraisals: Turn Your Most Painful Management Duty into a Powerful Motivational Tool in July 2003. The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional was published in August 2008. Her next book, The Essential Performance Review Handbook was published in the Spring of 2010.