In many regions of the country, folks are enjoying the changing of seasons. Cooler temperatures, colorful leaves (on trees or in piles on the ground), pumpkin carving, cider and donuts, early holiday music (if you’re into that), and other evidence of late autumn abound. At work, there are other markers of fall that may not be so relaxing and enjoyable, including budget planning, open enrollment and benefits review (for HR), and performance appraisals. There may not be much that can be done to make all of these things easier but at least when it comes to performance appraisals, it does not have to be a feared task at the end of the year. Just as regular maintenance to one’s yard, home, or automobile makes the change of seasons less troublesome, ongoing performance management can make the year- end appraisal both simple and more meaningful.
As performance management consultants and experts, we have been through every possible challenge associated with performance. Through decades of experience across many industries, we have learned how to coach managers to get the most out of their employees. Performance management should not be something that only occurs at year-end, as a means of planning salary/wage increases. We propose that managers and employees meet monthly or weekly to review performance informally. If such frequency is not practical in your organization, then at least consider checking on performance measurements with the change of seasons. This article provides some suggestions of some actions that can be conducted seasonally as part of a more comprehensive approach to performance management.
Performance Management in Winter
This is the season for most organizations to complete annual performance appraisals for employees. The most impactful thing that can be done during this period is for a manager and his/her employee to sit down for a discussion about performance. It is important that this discussion have a positive tone, which will help keep the employee engaged. Evaluation criteria should be applied consistently and objectively to all employees (ideally, employees with the same role/job should be evaluated on the same criteria). Such criteria should be defined and should have clear distinctions between performance levels, with specific behaviors, characteristics, and measurements in order to avoid bias. New goals should be developed with the employees’ buy-in and should be linked to organizational strategies for alignment.
Performance Management in Spring
As the ground thaws and flowers bloom, it is a good time to renew and revisit the goals that were established as the new year began. Re-calibration may be justified in light of changes to projects and priorities during the first quarter. Managers should meet with employees for a 30-minute discussion about goal progress and about action steps for focus during the coming weeks and months. Even more ideal than a quarterly meeting with the employee would be a monthly or bi-weekly check-in. This should be an informal conversation about goal progress and could focus on quick praise of the employee’s short-term successes.
Performance Management in Summer
As vacations are planned and kids get out of school, this is a good time evaluate budgets and annual initiatives. As should be done whenever the manager and employee meets, goals are reviewed and revised. There should be a plan for addressing PTO/vacation absences to ensure that goals are still
within focus. This is a great time to conduct stay interviews with employees to identify what they like about their jobs and what they need to be more engaged.
Performance Management in Autumn
This a the perfect season for infusing staff with a renewed focus, as normalcy at home is re-established with the kids back in school and eyes turning back to those goals that were aligned with strategies at the beginning of the year. Indeed, this is something that should have been occurring throughout the year. Yet, late third quarter and early fourth quarter are times when there is greater analysis of results in order to effectively plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Managers need to be careful not to give employees the impression that they are a secondary focus, behind that actual planning. As the fourth quarter progresses, plans should include ample time for meaningful discussions about the employees’ performance.
Seasonal performance management is more effective than only an annual appraisal. In fact, the most employee-centric organizations practice employee performance management as something that should occur monthly, weekly, and daily to keep employees engaged. Start where you are and let employees know what you appreciate about them.