Holiday Recipes – Appraising Your Appraisal Process – Essential Ingredients

‘Tis the season for annual reviews!

Depending on your organization, you are either neck-deep in your year-end performance appraisal process, or it is just around the corner.  Consider these essential components; just like cooking a turkey, the essential ingredients are widely available, but it’s the subtleties of the art of preparation and execution that differentiates a good, juicy bird from a dried-out, unappetizing one.

Choose your recipe well in advance (i.e. a year ago):

Key performance indicators for individuals, groups, and the broader organization.  Individual and group strengths and opportunities, plus action plans to further leverage those strengths and improve on the opportunities.  All of these should have been well documented, and widely communicated to groups and individuals, throughout the prior year.  Specific themes, categories, and the rating methods should be consistent throughout the year.


Quality Ingredients – Content for your assessment should be readily available from performance discussions you have had throughout the year.  Keep these key points in mind:

  • You are reviewing an entire year’s-worth of performance, not just the last quarter, and most definitely not the most recent “win/loss”. Your assessment narrative and performance metrics should span the entire assessment period.
  • Nothing related to an individual’s or group’s performance should be “new news”. If the person being assessed is hearing it for the first time during their performance appraisal, it is time to reassess your performance management and feedback process.

Serving Suggestions – Performance appraisal sessions are a BIG-TICKET item in terms of driving buy-in, ensuring ownership, and increasing engagement in your organization.  Take the time to make sure your presentation is top-notch.

  • Schedule well in advance, provide adequate time for discussion, and protect that time! Remove anything from the environment that could distract you or the other participant.  This is what I consider to be sacred space in the leader/team-member dynamic, so dedicate the time and effort to ensure it is perceived as such.
  • I highly recommend giving the person who is being assessed the opportunity to do their own self-assessment ahead of the actual session, and to compare the two during the meeting. This can help you to determine if the individual understands how their performance is being assessed, in addition to helping both parties to determine if they are aligned in their assessments.
  • Continuing from the bullet point above, be open to modifying your initial assessment based on the discussions that happen during the session. I have seen this go both ways, where a leader will increase or decrease the official “rating” based on the performance discussion and the input provided by the person who is being assessed.

Post-Session – What happens after the session ends is just as critical as the session itself!

  • Work directly with the individual to put together an action plan related to performance strengths and opportunities. It is best to allow the team member to take a little bit of time to absorb the feedback and to begin working on their own action plan.  Once they have done that, bring them back in to discuss, calibrate, and to optimize the development plan.  You are setting the stage for the performance management and development process for the new year.
  • Refer to prior year/period performance assessments during your discussions throughout the new period. Continue to focus on the major themes, but also allow for adjustments as performance improves and new opportunities arise.  You are actively gathering critical components for the next appraisal, so keep it consistent, intentional, and focused.

If your performance appraisal process is well planned, consistently executed, contains substantive and actionable feedback, and perhaps most importantly, is a coordinated and high-value collaboration between you and your team, the value proposition increases tremendously.  On the other hand, if it is perceived as a chore, feels disconnected or is a distraction from the day-to-day work that has to be done, or feels heavily one-sided, no amount of gravy or stuffing is going to make that bird palatable to your team members!