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How should we redesign a performance appraisal system?

The challenge is not simply to redesign a single form or process. If we do that we are likely to end up with more of the same. The challenge is to reimagine a very different way of engaging with our peers and to rethink the various intentions of the performance appraisal. This means ending up with not just one new process but a collection of fresh ways forward as we reconsider what we’re trying to achieve.

What people need to perform

When reimagining a way forward, we must consistently check that we are abandoning the set of assumptions that underpin the status quo model (see: “What is the primary problem with performance appraisals?”). Instead, we must build from a fresh set of underlying truths - i.e. that people need:

  • Freedom over control
  • Support and encouragement over criticism
  • Authentic relationships over patriarchy
  • Constant and consistent connection over scheduled, structured interactions
  • Shared endeavour and collaboration over individualised performance
  • Purpose and meaning over financial incentive

Rethinking step by step

The rethinking process will always be unique to an organisation, but  here is a guideline way forward that may be useful to kick-off change:

  • Converse - get anyone who cares about this talking about it
  • Charter - build a flexible charter for senior support
  • Co-create - ensure those receiving the new formats will contribute to their design
  • Assess -  examine how things are done now within the version you already have
  • Redeem - reimagine its foundation with trusting, positive assumptions about people
  • Fragment - consider what’s best for each individual intention of the APA
  • Check - revisit with managers and users, asking for flexibility and iteration
  • Pilot - attempt it in parts and in phases
  • Adopt - move beyond piloting to an adoption phase that is invitational, not enforced

Getting Started Today

A full redesign might take time, or may not even be possible. In light of that, here are some individual actions you can take from today that have the potential to make a profound impact on your organisational culture:

  • Eliminate ratings or, at the very least, have a dual/tri-rating option
  • Decouple APAs from other processes like pay structure
  • Make APAs collaborative, shifting responsibility to the recipient
  • Stop placing APAs in the personnel file
  • Require formal documentation only for those on probation or not meeting expectations
  • Enable department by department transition
  • Concentrate, as a manager, on how you are contributing to any performance issues

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  1. John Featherby

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