Appraisals vs 121s: Performance in a Commercial Business
Career Moves HR Senior Account Manager Alexandra Biagioni debates the use of formal appraisals and informal one-to-ones as part of ongoing employee communication.
People Management recently reported on the death of the appraisal and it got me thinking about one-to-ones, feedback, and generally how important it is to know how you’re doing and what’s on the horizon.
At Career Moves we carry out 360° appraisals twice a year, but more importantly we are encouraged to talk about our performance regularly, rather than storing up good (and sometimes not-so-good) feedback for the official appraisal. Appraisals are still an integral part of staff communication, but they should be seamless, quick and simple. They should add value and be engaging, rather than monotonous meetings based solely on figures, or objectives which are never discussed outside the formal appraisals process. Recruitment is typically a target based environment, but our appraisals cover so much more than this. We make sure that our line-managers, rather than our HR Manager, chair appraisals. It’s important that the person you work most closely with is your appraiser – after all, they know you best.
Our 360° Approach
We start by talking about what we enjoy most and least about working at Career Moves – we’re not afraid to hear if one of the team doesn’t like doing something, or is unhappy in any aspect of their role. If we don’t know about it, how can we fix it? It’s really important not to shy away from being told something is wrong – no company is perfect. Our managers will talk through both good and bad feedback, and begin to put into action a plan to develop the positives, and talk about processes we could implement, or ways to turn the negatives around, with immediate effect!
We then talk about our objectives and if they have been met or not, and if not what the challenges were. We bring feedback from other managers or the MD, which provides both parties with a more holistic view of performance, and can shed light on any points that arise.
It’s really important to assess the strength of our relationships, and why they work. We cover an individual’s relationship with their manager, the wider team and entire Career Moves family as well as the incredibly important relationships we hold with our candidates and clients – no one relationship is more important than another. Line-managers will often come to appraisals with examples of candidate and client feedback, which strengthens the points covered.
4. SMART Objectives
The end of the meeting is our opportunity to discuss support needs, training requests and set new SMART objectives.
We like to think of our appraisals as a working document, or partial business plan that are brought into play during weekly one to one’s as necessary.
Staff Communication: More than just the Appraisal
While we appreciate appraisals (our approach has certainly proven to be useful) the pace at which our industry operates means we need regular and open methods of communication within our teams. It’s essential for our culture of personal and business development that we have weekly one-to-ones.
“In something as reactive as recruitment, it’s sometimes difficult to take a step back from the work to look at what’s worked and what hasn’t. One-to-ones or the idea of continuous feedback encourages a coaching environment and gives more of an opportunity to mentor someone,” George Martin, Head of Career Moves Broadcast.
We approach performance management honestly and have always encouraged our line-managers to talk with their team regularly.
“(Our 121s) provide a relaxed and friendly environment to discuss what is going well and what can be improved on, meaning I always feel like I am on track and know what I need to do to improve,” Junior Account Manager Olivia Stuart who joined the Career Moves Marketing & PR team six months ago.
These regular catch ups also allow our managers to become true leaders – really taking a coaching approach to the way we develop our staff. All managers in the business have been through leadership training, and this training has proved our one-to-ones to be the best forum through which to facilitate the healthy and timely progression of our staff. It allows us to continually develop people, rather than pile on the pressure in the weeks leading up to appraisals, giving us a more real-life view of performance.
Junior Account Manager Jess Twist, who joined Career Moves Broadcast in June said,
“They (121s) highlight any success and allow us to feel valued and that our progress is important to the company.”
This continual approach can also be seen in Career Moves history of promoting employees based on success and ability, rather than when the formal processes deem their promotions to be timely.
In a time of growth and change for our organisation it’s never been more essential to have transparency, so that our staff know what’s on the Career Moves agenda, they understand that they are valued and that their development and happiness is still being thought about.
Career Moves Managing Director Caroline Foote said, “A strong appraisals process is based upon having an ongoing dialogue about a company’s objectives and how an individual’s KPIs fit in with these business aims. As we move through a period of positive change, regular one-to-one’s continue to be an integral part of this ongoing conversation and offer an avenue for informal feedback, which can enable staff and line-managers the chance to identify and rectify any problems before the more formal appraisals process. In terms of the actual appraisal process, it is smart to work with HR to develop effective methodology to keep the process on track and ensure that they achieve the desired outcomes.”
So, do I think that appraisals are dead? No. There will always be a place for annual/bi-annual appraisals, where SMART goals can be assessed against a structured period of time, but it is ever more important to have regular one-to-ones in order to keep an open and continuous dialogue. These are part of the reason our consultants are motivated and successful in their roles, as they’re fully aware of their objectives, and the wider goals of the business.