Let’s narrow in on performance appraisal forms.
The concept of performance appraisal dates back to the 1940s. Traditionally, performance reviews happened once or twice a year; a meeting with your employee to discuss strengths and weaknesses. As an industry, we quickly realized that employee performance isn’t a checkbox to tick off over coffee twice a year. With this approach, employees wait months to raise an issue with their manager — resulting in higher staff turnover and unnecessary frustration.
Today, we recognise that continuous performance management is more effective. This is a holistic, ongoing process that ensures your employees feel seen and heard at all times throughout the year — with the added bonus of giving you visibility over frustrations before they fester into major issues.
When designing your performance review process, it can be useful to have a guide that keeps the conversation on-track, meaningful and productive. A performance appraisal form lists out key questions for your employees to answer before sitting down for a review.
Getting these questions right will help you retain top talent, deepen trust within your team and improve productivity. You’ll also gain visibility across skills gaps, interpersonal team tensions and desire for new challenges (or a new job).
Below, we’ve curated a list of questions that will equip your managers with effective talking points for their performance appraisals. These questions are anchored in themes that are essential to retaining top talent. We recommend keeping these questions consistent across the organization, this enables you to benchmark how staff are performing and deliver a consistent employee experience.
1. Are you happy at work?
Give people a chance to share how they feel at work. If there’s anything bugging them emotionally at work; tension with a team member, an unproductive system in place, the aircon is too cold, or maybe they always end up doing the dishes in the kitchen,it’s important to be aware of it. Unhappy employees breed discontent (it’s contagious) here’s a great TED talk about contagious emotions at work.
2. Development: In what area/s do you want to upskill over the next 6-12 months?
Knowing where your people want to develop professionally gives you the opportunity to support their learning. You can do this by sending them suggested events, webinars, books, article links and making intros that help them on their way. When your employees have clarity around where they want to upskill, a training budget can empower them to take ownership of their development. Create space for your employees to step up with their ideas and take initiative. Being an active player in their professional development will take you from ‘good’ manager to ‘great’ manager.
3. Engagement: How does your current role align with your bigger picture ambitions?
One of the main reasons people leave their job is because they’re in need of a challenge. Stay one step ahead and get to know where your employees see themselves in the future. This will help to identify what projects to assign them to, assist in developing stretch assignments and gain a better understanding of what motivates them at work.
4. Alignment: Do you feel that your work is directly contributing to the organization’s success?
This question can spark an important conversation linking the employee’s work and company goals. You may discover that they feel completely aligned; with a clear picture of how their work impacts company success. Bingo, great job. Employees who see a strong connection between their day-to-day work and company performance feel valued, make better spending decisions and can identify new ways to increase productivity. On the other hand, there may be a disconnect. There are many reasons why an employee might feel misaligned to company goals; low performing project, lack of communication in their team, a need for more transparent reporting, low self esteem, confusion, the list goes on. Take the opportunity to explore where there is misalignment and how you can strengthen their connection to company goals.
5. Support: In what areas do you feel most and least supported at work? How can I help?
Hear them out, equip your people with what they need, then get out of their way. People inherently want to do a good job, be trusted and feel supported. Raising this question might spark a great idea that you hadn’t thought of. Be open to exploring new ways of working and how you can adapt to your team’s needs.
6. Reflection: What’s one area of your work that you want to improve moving forward?
By asking this, you give people a chance to be vulnerable about their performance. Rather than asking “what’s your current weakness”, this question reframes the concept and lets them focus on the positive improvements they want to make. It creates a safe space to explore areas that they feel they have been lacking in, without feeling uncomfortable.
One theme that isn’t in the question list above is compensation. We have left this out as this is something that you don’t want to visit every week or every month – unless this is a key area of frustration for the employee, then by all means address it when appropriate. Depending on how your company structures pay rises, bonuses and other benefits, the timing of these discussions can fluctuate. Compensation is an important topic, don’t forget about it. Paychecks support the livelihoods of your employees outside of work, which ultimately has a flow on effect on their livelihood at work.
Now that your managers are equipped with key questions, how do you make sure to get good answers? Pass this guide onto your managers before they conduct their performance appraisals.
- Send the questions to your employees in advance using a platform like intelliHR, to give them some time to think about meaningful answers.
- Meet with your team members one-on-one
- Choose a location for your catch ups that is neutral and comfortable for your people to share how they are feeling. Consider a private meeting room or break out space where others can’t overhear your conversation.
- Be sensitive to cultural differences and diverse personalities. Some people may want to start with small talk to ease into the discussion. Some people want to dive straight in. Adapting to each person sets you up for a productive discussion from the start.
- Most importantly: Listen. When you give your people permission to express themselves, you’ll gain a deep insight into the dynamic of your team.
Performance management tools are a great way to streamline your check ins, particularly for continuous employee feedback. They can help to automate parts of the people management process so you can focus on supporting your team — and take the pressure off annual performance reviews.
From an employee perspective, a great check-in with a manager can be the difference between applying for that job they saw on Linkedin last week, and investing their energy in their current role.