However, it is often seen as simply the role of HR to deal with staff issues and to make sure that they are happy and working hard.
With the flow of information about performance management processes working its way down from managers and HR to the staff on the 'shop floor', it is vital that managers and line managers are thoroughly informed and confident about the entire system, and the objectives that they, as well as the staff wish to achieve from it. Each manager needs to inform and update their individual team about the process and keep reviews and goals moving along smoothly. This requires that managers feel informed, supported and in control themselves, and effectively pass that confidence on to their staff. Working from the top down, HR needs to ensure managers are involved and engaged so that they can project the right message to the rest of the work force. If they are confused or hesitant themselves it will be evident, and that will affect the reaction of their employees to the entire process.
Communication, Communication, Communication!
A performance review begins not when the questionnaire is handed out, but months earlier during the lead up to the appraisal.
Managers are an essential part of the information cascade that begins long before a review takes place. They need to make sure that their employees have confidence in the system, and demonstrate that they have confidence in it themselves! It is often worthwhile getting managers involved from the very beginning - during the formation of business objectives and when deciding how those objectives will shape the review process. This will ensure that managers are fully aware of the goals and benefits of the review and are able to champion this through the rest of the company. By informing and training managers concerning the review process and aims, the HR department can make sure that from the top down, managers know what they are doing and are 100% on-board and supportive of the review process.
The more that communication takes place during the review (both indirectly and one-to-one) the better informed and engaged the rest of the company will be.
Putting managers in control
When it’s time to roll out reviews, starting with managers and leaders is the best way to go.
Beginning with a pilot group of managers ensures that they feel confident using the system and overseeing the rest of the reviews. They can then pass this knowledge on to the rest of the workforce. It can also be useful to get feedback from the pilot group in order to highlight any issues that may arise and nip them in the bud before the review goes out to the rest of the company.
Once reviews get underway, managers need to have an element of control in order to push them forward. Ideally managers should be given the power to start, stop, manage and monitor the reviews of those in their team. This includes signing off on a user’s chosen respondents if they agree with them as well as the ability to monitor each user’s progress. By giving them this control, they feel an ownership of the process, and are able to nudge participants along should they be lagging behind on their review. This also means that mangers are in a strong and involved position, enabling them to communicate effectively with their staff in an on-going way throughout the rest of the year.
In some cases a manager might have full control over each user’s raters and the user might simply need to sign off in agreement. In cases where managers do not agree with any given respondent they should be allowed the control to exchange them for a more appropriate respondent before signing off. Allowing managers the access to reports, including historical data, means they can see how individuals are developing. Being able to see each user’s report and compare it with others makes for a useful tool to demonstrate how the team is working as a whole. Managers can then use the information shown to them to focus on both individual and team-based strategies for improvement. It might also be a good idea to ask for feedback at this stage to see how managers feel the review is going.
Creating the right environment
Manager’s need to be as involved as possible with 360 degree reviews. The more they are integrated into the review, the more likely they are to trust the review process and to endorse the whole 360 appraisal. Managers who have sound knowledge of the reviews at their disposal ensure better communication between employees, teams and their managers.
It’s important to encourage face-to-face conversations to take place; establishing trust, honesty and transparency from the very start. This helps to ensure everyone’s experience of the whole review process is a positive one. It is equally important to make sure clearly understood processes are in place when giving review feedback. It should be as open, supportive and positive as the rest of the appraisal process.
In addition, managers must be trained properly about how they should give feedback. Relaying negative feedback is a necessary part of the process, but it should be handled in a positive way; this should also be considered in your appraisal process planning. Staff should be assured from the offset that the appraisals are a chance to discuss their achievements, and to air any problems or issues they may have in a constructive way. They must be assured of anonymity, and also that this is not simply a ‘box ticking’ exercise, but an opportunity for them to be listened to, not just by HR, but by the management also. Good performance management is not an excuse for managers to criticise – quite the opposite. It is a chance to praise employees for their achievements, and to think positively about overcoming any areas of difficulty.
So how should managers use appraisal feedback?
Now that appraisals are over, and you have printed your feedback report what do you do with the information?
When feedback has been gathered, and managers have been trained to give that feedback constructively, the next thing you need to do is ensure you use that feedback to set challenging and achievable goals for each individual. Setting on-going goals which can be reported on by both staff and managers throughout the year ensures that the focus and information gathered at appraisal is not lost. It also ensures that staff are working in line with the aims and visions of the company throughout the year. This means that when appraisal time rolls around again you will be more organised, your insights will be more focused and the whole process will be more efficiently and quickly implemented.
In addition, staff can go over the goals on which they have been working throughout the year, and easily recognise and comment on their achievements, making the whole process more positive.
So HR's role in performance management extends beyond the organisation of appraisals - it is equally important to make sure that everyone in the company is communicating effectively. That is what makes a happy, productive and engaged workforce. Take a look at our goal and appraisal packages for more information.