April 14, 2015

Do Your Employees Have a Case of the Quits?

Even the best of the best and the high performing employees are subject to the hazards of the workplace that can lead them towards another employer. Those hazards? Disengagement, poor communication and a lack of goal alignment can drive employees to find another company who will provide solutions to these problems. There are common causes of the “quits” and some recurrent behavior of those team members who are on the verge of giving you their two weeks’ notice. Don’t worry… there is a solution. Continue reading Do Your Employees Have a Case of the Quits?

April 8, 2015

6 Surefire Ways to Conduct the Worst Performance Appraisal Ever

Everyone makes mistakes, including during performance reviews. Despite the fact they are supposed to help solve issues in the workplace, individually and team-oriented on a grander scale, managers sometimes make these 6 mistakes during the appraisal.

Unfortunately, these erroneous habits can make for the worst performance appraisal ever. Don’t worry though, there is a bright side… we’ve given you ways to correct these blunders and turn them into your own performance appraisal best practices. Continue reading 6 Surefire Ways to Conduct the Worst Performance Appraisal Ever

March 24, 2015

How to Improve Employee Performance in 4 Steps

The performance appraisal. Love it? Hate it? Honestly, when it comes to employee performance there really isn’t any other way to improve the quality of their work. However,there are ways to botch the process if you don’t conduct these vital performance methods correctly. Whether your organization likes formal performance appraisals or prefers a casual, real-time approach, there are ways to make sure your team gets the most out of your feedback. Thorough communication and preparation lay the groundwork to improve employee performance. Here are four ways to get started: Continue reading How to Improve Employee Performance in 4 Steps

March 17, 2015

Should Employee Performance be Judged on a Bell Curve?

The common practice of professional “grading on the Bell Curve” does little to improve employee performance. In fact, it does quite the opposite – employee performance (and happiness) plummets. So, to answer the question, “Should employee performance be judged on a Bell Curve?” the answer is no. A performance appraisal shouldn’t be conducted on a group level with individual performance expectations… they should be performed on an individual basis for group improvement. Here’s why (with a couple of examples to drive our point home).

Reason #1: Forced Rankings and Collaboration Don’t Mesh

The workforce has changed. It’s not always a 9-5 day, and the way we work is changing. Despite the dissonance between old-school style ranking and the evolved workforce, in some cases, performance management hasn’t caught up yet. Flatter organizational structures and the growing desire for a collaborative workforce negate the effectiveness of the Bell Curve performance appraisal system. Why? Say an employee scores higher on the curve than their co-worker. That can place a superiority position in what’s supposed to be a collaborative team.
Computer Sciences Corp., for example, recently started grading performance on a Bell Curve at an astonishing 40% employee failure rate. Well over one-fourth of their employees will fall under what is considered company standards, no matter how well they performed, simply because their coworker [1] did better. 
Reason #2: Inaccurate Assessments

When your team hits all of their performance goals – not only reaches them, but knocks them out of the park – employee performance can’t effectively be judged on a Bell Curve. Charlotte A. Donaldson, Senior Learning Strategist at Booz Allen Hamilton, said:

“On those occasions when managers lead truly high-performing teams, someone still must be ranked low, despite meeting performance plan goals. To replace that person with an unknown is expensive.” [2]

So, each performance appraisal, you would then either replace the poor performers or place them on a probationary period while they fought for a place at least in the middle. Bell Curves mathematically can lead to higher turnover rates and an unnecessarily high recruitment budget.
Reason #3: Your Employees Hate Them

Bottom line, forced rankings diminish the value of your top performers, raises middle performers, and ignores the efforts of the under performers. Josh Bersin explained the basic faults of the system [3] and the damages to employee morale in three concise and poignant phrases:
  • Grading on a Bell Curve rations high performers, regardless of those who perform well. These are (typically) the top 10% of the workforce.
  • Forced rankings set a “losers” group at the bottom of the employee food chain. These are (typically) the bottom 10% of your team.
  • Then there’s everyone else, the middle of the herd. Because they make up 80% of the employees you just scaled, that’s where your budget for employee growth goes. 

Even the Masters Have to Change Sometimes

This isn’t the same workforce as it was 10 or even 20 years ago. Even the corporate giants like Microsoft and Adobe [4] have realized this calls for a change. Despite their mass popularity (and resume fodder), these companies realized the need to rid their organizational performance standards of the dreaded Bell Curve. It was a sharp realization when these behemoths began to change their performance management practices that grading on a Bell Curve actually discourages collaboration and damages productivity.
Forced rankings can cause more problems with performance than they actually solve. They invalidate any kind of teamwork atmosphere and greatly disrupt productivity. Grading on a Bell Curve effectively becomes an avenue for expensive employee replacement and training. Not to mention, your employees hate the practice. Replace the faulty system with a more human appraisal that ranks an employee’s performance against their own work, versus the work of their teammates. The Bell Curve may have been effective once upon a corporate era, but the inconsistencies with modern workplace characteristics have rendered the system ineffective.
Ready to change what you believed about performance appraisals yet? We thought so. Take a demo of Reviewsnap to strengthen your employee feedback.

Photo Credit: c r i s via Compfight cc
March 10, 2015

Why Performance Management Requires Leadership

You can’t have a performance management system without someone that oversees the everyday happenings around the office. However, just because the organization’s management has a hand in the performance of their employees doesn’t mean that’s where the buck stops. Organizational leadership has to be involved in the performance management system as well, as they ultimately dictate the performance culture of the organization. Performance reviews give leaders the information they need to analyze the data and help improve their team’s performance. They promote high-performance standards through regular performance feedback and goal-setting through coaching. Organizational leadership has to set these changes in motion.

1.  Leadership needs to focus the team

There are many moving parts to performance management that need oversight including aspects like performance reviews to make sure employees stay on track. As a leader, your responsibility in any given performance appraisal is to motivate, coach, and mentor through effective means of communication and recognition. SHRM defines performance reviews and performance improvement as a standard for performance management [1]:

“The most comprehensive application of a dynamic performance management system occurs when the cause and effect connections of current performance are used to define and align future performance. In the field of human resources, the latter connection can be achieved by incorporating the concepts of goal setting and performance improvement plans into the feedback processes of a performance management system.” 

2.  The team needs leadership to create a performance strategy

Your employees need to understand where their team is headed. That means as a leader, you have to be the one that gets them to that end point. Unfortunately, however, 55% of organizations say that the business leadership is not entirely engrossed in performance management as they should be [2]. Employee alignment, goal coordination, and subsequently strategy suffer when leadership takes a step back from performance management integration. 
When leadership has an active role in performance management and creates a strategy for their system, employees are more likely to stay on track with their personal goals as well as organization goals. Not to mention, their managers take accountability for their team’s overall alignment and correct performance issues as they arise. A strategic performance plan keeps the entire team focused on one end goal. 
3.  Leaders track and analyze performance data

Even though leaders may not aggregate these numbers themselves, they are responsible for understanding what these numbers mean for the performance of their team and the overall success of the organization. With the plethora of talent management systems, 56.3% leadership has begun to recognize the need to integrate their performance management and plan to do so in the next 12 months [3].
Aspects of the performance management system like employee performance reviews can shed light onto practices that need to be altered or areas where employees need training across the board. Unfortunately, the performance appraisal process isn’t approved by everyone; 58% of employees said it wasn’t an effective use of anyone’s time [4]. With communication and collaboration as a part of the company culture however, you can ensure this data and the changes that are made thereafter stick and actually improve the performance standards throughout your organization. 
Leadership needs a heavy hand in performance management. Organizational leadership sets the standards for employee performance standards and company culture quality. Your employees look to you to set examples and to keep them focused on achieving company goals. You can’t do this without an effective performance management strategy and the information to track from that performance management system. Through a strategic performance management system, leaders can identify developmental and training needs throughout the organization and adjust their programs accordingly.

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March 3, 2015

How Should I Prepare My Team for a 360 Degree Feedback Session?

Effective performance reviews include everyone, especially the evaluated employee. A 360 degree feedback looks at an employee from all angles (as the name would suggest), from managers, coworkers, and even the employee. The up-and-coming trend isn’t familiar to many people, considering 69% of companies still assess their team’s performance with outdated tools. That means they will need a little bit of preparation to gear up for their 360 degree feedback. So, take these 5 steps to get your team ready for their performance appraisal.

Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photo

1. Define the goals of the 360 degree feedback

All too often organizations view their performance reviews as routine documentation of their team’s performance at work. 360 degree feedback sessions can have honest results, but only if you take the time to think about what you actually want as an outcome. Defining objectives is crucial to measuring and tracking performance thereafter. Decide:

  • What is important to organizational success and how does my team work towards those accomplishments?
  • How will I measure my employees’ performance?
  • Who will be involved in the 360 degree feedback?

Share this information with your team. The more they know about the performance appraisal ahead of time, the less apprehensive they will be during the review. Because it is a 360 degree feedback, you want employees to be involved in the assessment of their performance. We said in a previous post:

“Performance reviews are not one-sided, or at least they shouldn’t be. The dialogue between a supervisor and their employee is invaluable to the successful outcome of a performance appraisal.” 

That is the very essence of a 360 degree feedback. The point is to include the employee so the process becomes more qualitative than quantitative.  

2. Communicate what the feedback will cover

Whether you conduct performance appraisals annually or bi-monthly, it is important to tell your employee exactly what it will cover. The success of the last project? Overall performance? All of the above? Employees don’t want ambiguity in their review, they want real constructive feedback. Over 90% of people would rather have properly delivered negative feedback during their review. Employees need to know if their performance matches company standards, and they want to live up to those expectations. While it can be stressful to give employees this news, it will also turnout better results after the 360 degree feedback. 

3. State expectations for those who’ve never participated in a 360 degree feedback

If you’ve never conducted a 360 degree feedback, it will be a learning curve for everyone. Establish how the process works and what it will look like when the time comes. In the United States and Canada alone, 47% of companies use this form of review to garner and deliver information about employee performance. What’s left is a surprisingly large number of organizations that don’t participate in 360 degree feedback sessions for performance evaluation purposes. It stands to reason then that a majority of your team won’t know what the process entails from the outset.

4. Disclose Anonymity

Some companies disclose which co-workers participate in the 360 degree feedback, others allow for anonymity. Reviewsnap gives users the ability to use as many anonymous participants as they please. The use of nameless input allows employees to feel they can participate without being chastised for their opinion and it eliminates unneeded bias.

5. Leave room for open discussion and questions

Before, during, and after the review, employees may still have questions regarding their 360 degree feedback. It is important to be open and responsive to the queries as to eliminate any anxiety towards the review. During the performance appraisal, your team may bring up questions or points you might have overlooked. When you establish an open environment for discussion, you give participants a voice, which in turn makes them more receptive to the feedback they receive. 

These 5 steps will help you to prepare your team for their next performance appraisal. 360 degree feedback sessions give managers a well-rounded and full-perspective evaluation of their employees’ performance. Performance reviews can be nerve wracking for some employees, but when you create an open environment for discussion, your team will be more receptive to feedback. 

Prepare your team for 360 degree feedback sessions by getting employees involved and engaged in the performance appraisal process. Take a demo of Reviewsnap to get started.


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February 24, 2015

Change Your Thinking Re: Performance Management

Employers have a large foothold in the employee development process. Performance reviews are a must for the health of your workforce, but what you do with the results of the performance appraisal makes a bigger impact on employee development. To see positive outcomes from employee performance appraisals, employers have to adjust the way they view the process in the first place. Organizations have to create relationships between the performance reviews and employee development.


Our whitepaper, “Bridge the Gap Between Your Performance Reviews and Employee Development – or Both Are Primed To Fail,” discusses the importance of building that bridge:

“The question becomes even more perplexing when you consider how important performance reviews are to effective employee development. Done correctly, performance reviews inspire greater and greater levels of success. They motivate our people to contribute toward critical business goals to develop their skill sets, and to reach their full potential.”

Let’s delve into this further…

Change Your Performance Appraisal Process

Performance reviews are just a fraction of your performance management system’s capabilities. Many employees expect a performance appraisal, but it doesn’t excite them for the growth that will happen as a result: but for the standard 3% base salary raise [1].

Rather than allowing performance reviews to generate a formulaic stigma, change the way your team thinks about performance appraisals. An astonishing 58% of companies say their current performance management isn’t an effective use of time. That needs to change.

Organizations need to update the way they perpetuate sentiments regarding performance appraisals. Simply stated, employees want to grow. Nearly three-quarters of employees would rather receive corrective feedback [2] than positive affirmation. The problem is that managers are reluctant to give the feedback employees need in order to develop professionally. How can you change this? By making the performance appraisal mean something again. Use the information you have to your employees’ best advantage. Lead them! 

Change Your Performance Management

Employers understand the need to change their performance management systems. Currently, 70% of organizations [3] are evaluating or have recently reviewed and updated their systems. That’s a good start, but the evolution has to be more than systematic. More than 90% of managers aren’t satisfied with their current review systems [4]. Leadership has the ability to turn the thought process around, however.  Supervisors need to be trained on how to give feedback, both negative and positive. Managers want education in how to give feedback; in fact 46% of them want guidance in these sometimes stressful conversations.

A key driver to employee growth after the results of a performance appraisal is how the manager delivers the feedback. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, CEO and President of Zenger/Folkman respectively, said: 

“…We find it telling that the people who find it difficult and stressful to deliver negative feedback also were significantly less willing to receive it themselves. On the other hand, those who rated their managers as highly effective at providing them with honest, straightforward feedback tended to score significantly higher on their preference for receiving corrective feedback.” 

See Results in Your Team

Both manager and employee need to have a hand in career development. Although employee development is largely in their own hands, they can only do so if they have the right tools… feedback is one of these tools. Effective performance management starts with thorough performance appraisals and delivers the direction and support employees need to grow. To see performance results in your employees, BLR recommends managers be trained to [5]:

      Develop a close working relationship with employees
      Create continuous opportunities for constructive feedback
      Be proactive about addressing marginal performance
      Ensure employees understand company performance standards

While 90% don’t feel performance appraisals actually boost performance [6], they can if they are conducted differently. Start by training managers to give meaningful and regular feedback. Companies that take performance reviews as more than a formality and conduct them more frequently see a 15% lower turnover rate.

Performance appraisals are key to healing your workforce. In order to see a change in the way your employees work, you have to change the stigma attached to performance management in your organization. A large percentage of companies are currently dissatisfied with their performance management systems; to restructure this takes some managerial training and employee performance appraisals that include constructive (not just positive) points. 

Employee feedback should be more than a corporate formality, it should be a route to develop workers. Take a demo of Reviewsnap to see how you can restructure your performance management with the right solution.


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February 17, 2015

How Starting a 360 Degree Feedback Process Improves Performance

Nearly 90% of organizations conduct formal performance reviews [1] as an attempt to improve their performance management. That is the vast majority of organizations, but the real question isn’t if they conduct performance reviews, it is how they evaluate their team members. What they don’t know could hurt them. The way you conduct a performance appraisal has a direct impact on employee performance. Typically, managers only see a 3-5% performance improvement [2] after a traditional performance appraisal. How then, can organizations assess the performance of their employees whilst improving the team’s work? 

360 degree feedback, if conducted correctly, can have better results than the traditional performance appraisal. Because there are multiple individuals involved in the appraisal, each person has a specific role. Let’s take a look…

Roles of the Participants
Unlike the traditional performance appraisal, the 360 degree feedback process is a very involved process. A standard performance appraisal only necessitates the presence of the manager and the employee. 360 degree feedback sessions involve the input of about 7 people (depending on the size of the company): the employee, manager, administrator, and several reviewers. This provides a well-rounded performance appraisal with room for the employee to evaluate their own work and see how it affects the team around them. Jacob Shriar, Director of Customer Happiness at Officevibe, said:

“Most of the time, the annual performance review is one-sided in the sense that it’s the manager who is telling the employee how they did and what they should do better, when it would be great if the employee could tell the manager what they’ve been doing wrong, or what the company could improve on.”

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way; 360 degree feedback gives employees and those around them a voice in performance reviews. The evaluation of the entire team illuminates the employee’s performance from all angles, including their own. 

      Employee - 360-feedback is the perfect opportunity for employees to become involved in their development process. The administrator works with the employees to design a plan to improve their performance, rather than the managers simply providing lists of successes and areas for improvement.

      Manager – While a manager’s role in the 360 degree feedback is similar to that of the reviewer, the information gathered from the manager is significantly different. The administrator assesses this input differently because it is qualitatively divergent due to the contact with the employee.

      Administrator – This is the person who will be conducting the interviews. They prepare the review and speak with the reviewers and the manager as a third party participant.

      Reviewers - Similar to the manager’s role in this process, reviewers are interviewed about their coworker’s performance. Typically, there are 4-10 reviewers in a 360 degree feedback. 

Why they Work
The goal of a 360 degree feedback isn’t to punish. It is an opportunity to thoroughly examine and improve the performance of your team on an individual level to help the group succeed. These appraisals give employees ownership of their work and review. By working with employees on development plans, organizations hold their workers accountable for their performance. William Taylor, Contributor to PeopleInsight and HR Daily Advisor said:

“A 360 degree performance review has the power to transform a one-way review into a review process, thus guaranteeing end-to-end feedback and accountability. Depending on the setup and hierarchy of your company, making 360 degree reviews may be an excellent way to analyze your employees and keep an eye on the whole department.” 

Each individual involved in a 360 degree feedback plays a specific part. As an organization, it’s important to ensure your teams understand their roles before the review process begins. Unlike traditional performance reviews, the 360 degree feedback process creates a multi-sided conversation about performance from an unbiased third-party administrator. This administrator takes information provided by the employee, manager, and other reviewers to create a holistic image of the employee’s performance. Give your employees the chance to take ownership of their performance and their professional development.

Consider starting a 360 degree feedback program to get employees involved and engaged. Take a demo of Reviewsnap to get fast and easy employee feedback to improve performance.  

[1] NPR – Behold the Entrenched and Reviled Annual Review

[2] Washington Post – The Corporate Kabuki of Performance Reviews

February 10, 2015

6 Ways Great Leaders Conduct an Effective Performance Appraisal

As a supervisor, there are some tasks that are less than enjoyable. More often than not, the employee performance appraisal is one of those responsibilities.  Like all things, practice makes perfect, and the same could be said for conducting an effective and engaging performance appraisal. With a little finesse and some organization, you can conduct better performance reviews for the benefit of you and your employees.

1. Prepare Ahead of Time
In order to provide clear and concise performance feedback, organizing thoughts is key to staying on track. This means you have to understand the employee’s job, the requirements associated with it, as well as how their actual performance rates against the predetermined expectations. Prepare an itinerary ahead of time complete with open-ended questions to prompt conversation with your employee.
2. It’s a Conversation
You’re not the only one in the room so you shouldn’t be the only one talking. While it is a discussion about the employee’s performance, they should have an input as well. Harold M. Messmer, Jr. (@RobertHalfFA), Chairman and CEO of Robert Half said:

“Keep in mind you’re having a two-way discussion. This is not a criticism session, so avoid detailing every mistake an employee has made and don’t dominate the conversation. Make it instead a chance to discuss a team member’s strengths and weaknesses in the context of his or her achievements over the review period.”

3. Don’t be Afraid to Confront
Positive reinforcement is a good practice to uphold, however, not every employee is going to have a performance appraisal that is all shooting stars. Only 35% of high performing employees feel their supervisors speak with them honestly about their performance. Some managers would rather avoid confrontation than explain how exactly an employee can improve performance. Keep in mind these are critiques, so they are meant to aid the employee.

Tweet This: Only 35% of high performing employees feel their supervisors speak with them honestly about their performance.

4. Provide a Takeaway
Unfortunately, 98% of employees see their performance reviews as a waste of time. Give your employees something to learn from the meeting. No one is perfect, so there is always something new to try or practice to change. If you or your employees haven’t gleaned anything from the performance appraisal, was it really worth it? Professionals spend enough time in meetings they don’t need to be in. You can save yourself and your team a lot of time by building the performance review around key takeaways.

5. Change the Orientation
You’ve already noticed a reason for change in your current performance appraisal process. Maybe it’s simply the way you position the meeting in the first place. Depending on the disposition and learning style of your employees, adjust the review accordingly. Try taking these approaches to adjust the performance appraisal for different employees:
  • Learning goal-oriented: These are the employees that enjoy learning for the sake of gaining knowledge and who pursue challenges despite setbacks.
  • Performance-prove goal-oriented: These employees want to perform at their best in order to prove their competence in a position.
  • Performance-avoid goal-oriented: These employees don’t want to look foolish and may not take direct criticism well.

6. Focus on the Progress
A main component of failed performance appraisal processes is that they are just that, nothing more than a required process. Since you have several employees to take care of in your department, it does not give reason to allow the meaning of the review to slip through the cracks. Get rid of the “good job” and “this needs improvement” statements, and focus on how much the employee has grown and where their development can take them in the company.

Employees typically dread the performance appraisal, but they don’t have to. Supervisors aren’t fond of the practice either. However, if the reviews are conducted in a more discussion-oriented manner with an emphasis on progress and providing a helpful takeaway. As a manager, you can conduct performance reviews better by communicating goals and expectations before the review. Prepare questions to prompt discussion, and target communication with your employees to set the stage for a more productive team and a review that is worth the time of you and your employee.

The performance appraisal is part of your responsibility as a leader.

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February 4, 2015

3 Steps You Should Take Before the Next Round of Performance Reviews

Supervisors need performance appraisals and so do employees, if not for the direct impact to drive business, at least for the professional satisfaction of both parties. In order to better employee performance, they have to know where their shortcomings lay first before they are criticized for underperformance. Performance reviews help to keep this growth system regulated to get the most out of the entire process.

More or less a formality for many organizations, there are clear performance-related indicators that your current method of review doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Fewer than 30% of organizations feel their performance management program drives performance at all. That’s why there are an overabundance of articles telling companies to scrap the idea of a performance appraisal rather than update a highly antiquated process. What these organizations don’t know is that companies who institute regular and frequent performance reviews see a 15% lower turnover rate. The performance appraisal process needs a remodel, but that can’t happen unless there’s a stepping-stone to start from. So, let me be your stepping stone…
Set the Bar
Preparing for an employee evaluation can mean the difference in the success or failure of the review. One out of 5 employees don’t feel their manager is prepared for the performance review. Part of that preparation is making sure your team understands the review process. Before the performance appraisal, give employees an overview of what they are expected to accomplish and what they will be evaluated on during their review. It is important to delineate the following before the performance appraisal so employees are clearly aware of what the process entails:
     What are the expectations between appraisals?
     How will performance be evaluated?
     What are the ramifications of good and poor performance?
Performance reviews are widely misunderstood by employees. Often seen as the dreaded formality, one of the biggest problems is that they don’t know what they are expected to do. It is your job to ensure they understand how not only their work currently affects the organization, but how they will bring value in the future.
Employee Participation
The very basis of a productive work environment and relationship among the team is communication. Performance reviews are not one-sided, or at least they shouldn’t be. The dialogue between a supervisor and their employee is invaluable to the successful outcome of a performance appraisal. All too often, it becomes a situation in which management talks at members of their team versus creating a communication-centric atmosphere.
Today’s workforce is highly collaborative. Yes, that includes performance. Employees want a role in their performance reviews; they want to work towards a common goal of solving performance issues or communicating why they felt they performed well over the past quarter. Karima Mariama-Arthur (@WSRapport), Founder & CEO of WordSmithRapport said:

Performance reviews aren’t only about identifying blind spots. They also offer an opportunity to highlight excellence. If you don’t offer balanced evaluations, you’re not maximizing their potential to inspire your team’s performance.”

Include Technology
While that relationship does form the base of the performance appraisal, that doesn’t mean technology can’t play a role. Just as it can automate processes in the hiring process, it can also take the mundane tasks off of your plate as a supervisor. A performance management system can help to track employee progress from one appraisal to another. In fact, 30% of HR professionals rank performance management as a top priority in their companies.
Many organizations already use a performance management system, and the software they purchased a decade ago doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Companies are beginning to recognize the need to change their current processes in accordance with the changes in the advancing workforce. Larger organizations are especially ready for the change, as a surprising 29% of them have had their performance management system for more than 7 years. With ineffective and outdated systems, it stands to reason that performance reviews would be similarly ineffective and unappreciated.
Tweet This: 29% of large organizations have had their performance management system for more than 7 years.
After all, the goal of the evolving performance appraisal is to have a more meaningful outcome, i.e., better employee performance. For employees to get the most out of their performance appraisal, it’s important they have a role in the discussion. Rather than a flat resolution of mere problems, well-rounded and highly effective performance reviews are multidimensional involving successes, issues and employee goal alignment.

You are responsible for defining what the performance appraisal means for your company.