Prepping for Performance Appraisals with Inclusive Leadership

/ September 20, 2021 September 20, 2021


If your organization participates in year-end (YE) performance reviews, you’re probably expecting an email that kicks off the process in early Q4. In the past, I’ve worked with leaders on a just-in-time training we called Prepping for Performance Appraisals. The goal was to set employees and people leaders up for success with transparency around expectations. The goal was also to be proactive by conducting this training in Q3. The rationale was that YE reviews are summarizing discussions that have already happened. This training was a great way for leaders to plan out conversations they may still be needed to have.

Right now, other than Return to Workplace policies/practices, there probably aren’t many other employee experience moments that drive engagement, productivity, and should I stay or should I go moments than YE reviews and merit increases. Organizations look for individuals to be committed to driving performance. Those actions stem from what people believe. At Exude, we believe we are all people first, and employees second. There’s a deep connection between what leaders believe and how teammates feel about their work. Combined that deeply impacts employee engagement and discretionary effort.

Here are a few tips to consider as you begin the performance appraisal journey, whether it’s working with your team or with your manager.

  1. Inclusion and Equity: Providing employees opportunities to write self-assessments gives them an opportunity to tell their story, and for the manager to listen to how it aligns with previous conversations. Having team members ask others to submit feedback directly to a manager also provides other voices to be heard in the process. Finally, calibration meetings across people leaders creates alignment across teams plus a critical mass to analyze any biases or inequities based on race, gender, tenure, etc. that could be influencing the logic for performance ratings or merit increases.
  2. Courage and Compassion: This year has been hard. Some of that is visible, and some is hidden. People are doing ok, and others are quietly struggling and doing their best to show up with a smile. Business unit leaders will set the tone (or not) of what is the same versus different in this YE discussion. This starts with a leadership moment to be courageous and compassionate. There’s no one algorithm that defines how to do this; it’s a choice. The key is will you make the choice, and if so to do what. In many cases, deferring to business as usual could backfire.
  3. Setting Expectations and Developing Skills: In this labor market, it’s a risky proposition to hope that all your people leaders get this right. Be intentional with defining process, tone, and expectations…your teammates will thank you. Call out expectations in a transparent manner so employees and managers all hear the focus and rationale. Provide access to leadership training for giving and receiving feedback plus ensure all are up to date with your compensation strategy so they are prepared for questions.

The label new normal can be a scape goat for difficult decisions being avoided or delayed. We all have our own definition of normal; it’s always been that way. The new normal just calls out the institutional view of driving sameness is not inclusive in many cases. Leadership will be evaluated on if they show up differently so having a plan and taking proactive steps will absolutely create a better employee experience for all involved.