It’s that time of the year again when managers begin to fret about conducting performance appraisals and giving feedback to their employees. In my experience, technical managers find it particularly difficult. As an engineer I’ve always liked formulae and the practical application of simple tools.
The key to giving constructive feedback is to prepare properly and to accurately diagnose an employee’s performance. A useful diagnostic tool is the performance formula: P = E + A + A + O
Performance is a function of: Clarity of expectations, the ability of employees to deliver on these expectations, their attitude and the opportunities they have to perform effectively. The evidence for an employee’s good or not so good performance is almost always contained within this formula. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before going into that feedback conversation:
1. Expectations: Unless an employee is clear on what’s expected of them it’s almost impossible for them to perform effectively. More often than not this is the manager’s responsibility. How sure are you that your expectations are clearly understood?
2. Ability: The employee needs to have the right skills, resources and aptitude to deliver on agreed expectations. What have you done to support the development of competences through coaching and experiential learning? Does your employee have all the necessary resources, tools and time to meet expectations? Is he suited to the role with the right ‘gifts’?
3. Attitude: No matter how clear an employee is on expectations or how skilled he is to deliver on them if he doesn’t want to then he won’t perform effectively. What have you done to build commitment and self-confidence? Have you tackled the inappropriate behaviours you’ve witnessed throughout the year?
4. Opportunity: Employees can be clear on what’s expected, with all the ability and attitude in the world but if you don’t give them the opportunity to prove themselves they will never perform. Have you given your employee responsibility for outcomes rather than tasks? Have you offered constructive feedback when things have gone wrong? Could it be that you’ve held on to the reins of power?
An employee’s level of performance is often dictated by how well a manager has applied the performance formula. Before holding your performance appraisals make sure you’ve carried out the proper diagnostics!