'Appraisals don't work' - Our response to Lucy Adams

'Appraisals don't work' - Our response to Lucy Adams

Lucy Adams bod
Lucy Adams, former HR Director at the BBC spoke to HR Magazine after her recent resignation, claiming that their annual appraisal system ‘is not fit for purpose’.

A brave article to write, Adams makes some valid points about where appraisals can fall down, failing to provide benefits to the organisation, or even worse, leading to negative effects like fear and disengagement.

Adams’ states ‘there are three main reasons the appraisal process doesn’t work: employees are “terrified of them”, they only happen once a year and managers are bad at them.’

These problems naturally result in appraisals having little or no positive effect.  However, each of these problems is avoidable. A well-prepared, comprehensive Performance Management program can make excellent use of appraisals, both to the individual and the organisations’ benefit.

The first problem to tackle is introducing a company culture of accepting feedback. Adam’s describes the prospect of feedback as having the same effect on the brain ‘as someone running up behind you in a dark alley wearing a hoody’.

A pretty strong, but not unfamiliar opinion.

We’ve all worked in places where the concept of feedback is being berated with a list of negatives about your work.  In an atmosphere like this, fear is an understandable response. Feedback should be a positive experience, and a chance for employees to take ownership of their performance and development.

Staff, managers and reviewers need to understand the reasons for collating feedback (both personal and company-wide) and must be reassured that ALL feedback, not just the negative, will be taken into account, focussing just as much on success as areas for development.

It is also worth taking time to educate reviewers on how to give feedback, stressing the importance of their involvement in the whole process. You must make clear that answers are completely anonymous to ensure accurate, honest feedback from your reviewers.

Adams proposes that there should be more focus on ‘managers really getting to know their teams’ and that annual feedback is not enough.  At Carbon360 we completely agree. That is why you should ensure that feedback is ongoing throughout the year.

Consider your organisational culture and devise a Performance Management program that will support your company aims. For some organisations a monthly goal review between a manager and employee will be most welcome, but for others a quarterly review is more relevant.

Another complaint Adams’ puts forward is that ‘managers aren’t good at appraisals’ and that she would like to see people promoted to management positions because of their ‘leadership capabilities, not their technical skills’. This, she admits, is a complicated skill-set.

If you expect your managers to be capable of instructing, managing and leading a successful team you have to provide them with the tools for the job. At Carbon360 all managers are offered supporting sessions in the run-up to appraisals to ensure they are fully-prepared and confident in delivering a productive and enjoyable appraisal to each member in their team.

If leadership skills are something that your organisation wishes to identify or cultivate, appraisals are a great way to recognise and hone the right qualities if conducted correctly. Just because someone is great at their job, it does not follow that they will make a great manager. You need to ensure you are gathering feedback that assesses the skills you are looking for, and use that feedback to set individual goals throughout the year.

You must get staff on board and explain to them why the process is valuable and useful. Without this understanding and clarity, the feedback you gain will not give the insight necessary to make real behavioural improvements.

So with all these points in mind, a great performance management program can be put in place that avoids the problems Adams highlighted, and will ensure that appraisals drive real improvement in your organisation.

If you have any comments or would like more advice about implementing 360 appraisals effectively, contact the team.

Articles by date

Just so you know...

We use cookies to help create this site's interactive features and a better experience for our users - Learn more about cookies.