Performance management: Slow drip trumps the fire hydrant
You all know how it feels to have someone in your personal life tell you about a conflict they’ve been harboring long after it’s happened. You feel ambushed. More importantly, you feel powerless to correct events from the distant past, where any amount of explanation feels like a Herculean effort.
The same can be said of annual performance reviews, if they exist in isolation of any other strategic feedback and coaching expectations or formal reward and recognition processes. If the annual review is your only plan for recognizing or coaching your employees, then authors Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine would like to intervene. In their book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition, the authors weave in what they call MYTH BUSTERS to address common misunderstandings about recognition in the workplace.
Here is Mosley and Irvine’s MYTH BUSTER about performance appraisals:
The annual or biannual performance appraisal process is not the most effective means of conveying praise or constructive feedback to employees due to several limitations, not the least of which are:
1. Because of their infrequency, appraisals are usually a source of anxiety for both the appraiser and the employee.
2. Standard appraisals primarily offer the viewpoint of one person with no real benchmark beyond the immediate team.
3. Appraisals give an imprecise picture of performance.
Strategic recognition dramatically enhances the performance of employees by encouraging peers and managers to frequently and in a timely way acknowledge efforts and achievements that demonstrate the company values and contribute to company objectives. It is critical that the recognition come as soon as possible after the effort or achievement being awarded.
These “recognition assessments” and kudos then can be used during the annual performance review as additional data on an employee’s strengths (John has been recognized repeatedly for innovation) and even weaknesses (but John has been recognized only once for teamwork) and to identify potential areas of improvement. This presents a much more rounded view of an employee’s contributions, some of which may not have been seen directly by the employee’s manager. Moreover, since such a strategic recognition program is deployed company-wide, data can be gathered and used to benchmark and individual’s performance and demonstration of values in their work against direct peers, team members, the division, and even the company as a whole.
Once a year, once a month, or once a week. Which do you think is going to have a greater impact on your daily behavior?
Choose the “slow drip” recognition versus the once-a-year “fire hydrant” of feedback. The consistent, steady strategy recommended by the authors strengthens your annual review with anecdotal and quantitative information about the employee, thus diminishing the need to couch potential surprises. If given the chance, you’ll find that most employees correct their performance behavior long before the annual review and your bottom line will be better for it. Either way, you’ll have the data you need to act on your annual evaluation rather than ramping up to prove your case after the review.