Performance Appraisal: Partnering with Your Team

It’s annual performance appraisal time for the management team at my agency. Time to think about rating scales and SMART goals. And time to try to remember what everybody did all year. Many managers dread this time of year. In the past I have felt that way, too. Over time I have found a few strategies that help make the task less daunting and more effective.

Performance Appraisal is a Partnership

The thing I used to find most challenging was creating goals for the next performance period. Then a new supervisor asked me to create my own goals for the next year. Mind blown. After I submitted them she helped me tailor them to align to agency work. Not only was I able to work on things that interested me more, but I was also able to have greater impact in my work. I have implemented this strategy with my own team at performance appraisal time. It takes some of the pressure off when writing performance appraisals and I know my team will be doing work that engages them throughout the year.

  • Ask them to create two to three SMART goals geared towards their individual professional development goals and needs. If they provide goals that are “too easy” challenge them to choose at least one stretch goal.
  • Negotiate the goals to align to agency mission. Invariably I have one person whose goal is to be promoted in the next year. I help them devise a project goal that may lead to promotion.

Open Communication Improves Performance Appraisal

Keep up the spirit of partnership all year. Schedule a regular one on one meeting with everyone on your team. Even when schedules get crazy and projects overwhelming do your best to keep them or reschedule if necessary. Discuss more than just ongoing work tasks at these meetings.

  • Provide positive feedback as well as specific improvements that can be made.
  • Ask the person how they think they are performing in their role. If there are gaps in their perception fill them in and work through how to improve together.
  • Address issues when they arise. Too often we shy away from difficult conversations only to have issues blow up later. Keep these conversations specific and timely.
  • Check in on annual goals on whatever regular basis makes sense. Depending on the goal and the timeframe, anywhere from weekly to quarterly.
  • Ask the person if there is anything they need from you. Listen. If you can provide the support then make sure you follow through. If you can’t provide the request, then explain why.

Tracking Performance: Keep it Simple

My final strategy for easing the process of writing a performance appraisal took some time to develop. I’ve tried spreadsheets, notebooks, hard files, regular reports. (Find what works for you!) In the end what has worked best for me is a simple one-page front and back document. SMART goals are listed for the year and then there is a small space for each month. I jot down simple notes when someone completes an assigned project, when someone knocks a presentation out of the park, and when someone receives negative feedback on work product.

I try to do this in real-time, but of course life sometimes has other plans. The key to making this strategy work is to set aside time each month to look back to make sure to document anything that may have gotten lost in the moment. It may sound time-consuming. However, the return on your investment of time will amaze you when you sit down to write someone’s performance appraisal. You will no longer have to agonize about what has happened in the past year because you already have a road map for your evaluation.

A Beginning, Not an End

All too often we look at performance appraisal as the end of a year, a summary. However, when we flip our mindset to view them as a tool to improve communication with our teams, they become a beginning. They begin a new year with clear goals and a roadmap for ongoing communication and success.

Gabrielle Wonnell is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Nya Jackson

Great tips Gabrielle. My manager also typically ask me to create 2-3 SMART goals for myself and when we meet for my performance review we flush them out together. I like it because it makes me think about the areas where I’m interested in growing more and not just have goals assigned to me.

Avatar photo Blake Martin

Seconding Nya, its awesome to have your manager to regularly bounce ideas off of and discuss your goals together every so often. After all, it is a partnership! Thanks for sharing this, Gabrielle – this is a great resource to brush up for review season.