Performance Appraisals: More Harm than Help

Man&WomanMeeting1I started my career in HR. I was educated in, and then spent years staunchly supporting, a core foundation of effective HRM practice; Performance Management.

Every year or so, we HR Practitioners rolled out the Performance Plan to the leadership team, and then relentlessly chased them down to get their performance appraisals done on time. Then, after hearing months of griping from leaders and employees alike, we’d re-develop, re-design and then re-launch the ‘new and improved’ form, the more stream-lined process and we were sure we’d be met with enthusiastic cheers from all involved.

Inevitably, the process of chasing leaders and dodging complaints continued. No form, no annual process, no amount of encouraging, berating or rewarding leaders worked; performance time was the bane of our existence. We detested it as much as everyone else did (and does)!

Then, along came the Neuroleadership Institute, and everything started to shift. Their research supports what many of us know is indeed the right thing to do: Kill Your Performance Ratings. Not only are most organization’s performance management systems cumbersome and incredibly time-consuming, they are often counter-productive. And, that’s not even the worst of it. They do more harm than good. “In the context of neuroscience research, most PM practices turn out to damage the performance they are intended to improve. That’s because they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human responses, as revealed in recurring patterns of mental activity.”

Performance discussions, as they are traditionally formulated and administered, automatically put people in a threat state (also known as ‘fight or flight‘ response). Think about it, if someone says they’ll be evaluating you, aren’t you automatically feeling a little on the defensive? In fact, that notion alone – being evaluated or appraised – will likely be enough to distract you away from the performance itself and toward the instinct to protect yourself. When you are in a threat state, your goal is survival…not learning, not growing, not appreciating…just surviving.  An entire organization focused on surviving is not one that breeds the collaborative cultures required for today’s workplaces. Instead a ‘kill or be killed’ mentality permeates the organization. People move away from each other, rather than toward teaming and co-creation.

All sorts of media, including CNN, are picking up on the idea of dismantling performance management as we know it. Not only is it completely demotivating for people, it is also a “colossal time-suck’ for managers.” So an increasing number of companies — including Accenture, GE, Microsoft, CIGNA, The Gap and Deloitte — have decided to overthrow the annual review in favor of monthly, bi-weekly or even “on demand” conversations between managers and employees.”

Human beings benefit far more from real-time, ongoing dialogue between managers and staff. Goals stay front of mind, appreciation is provided often, and possible ‘issues’ are addressed and re-directed promptly. Everybody wins.

Since people do better when dialogue is open, continuous and positive, why would we not have the key communication system about performance be that way as well?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life at work, at home and at any age!

5 Quick Tips for Psychological ‘Wellness’ at Work

Next week is Mental Health Week; so it seems like a great time to be reflecting on, and talking about, Mental Health in the Workplace. ?The Canadian Mental Health Commission?released a voluntary National Standard for Psychological??Safety and Health in the Workplace in January of this year. ?The work that has been done in the standard, and in the resources available for employers, is fantastic. ?As one large organization executive commented to me last week, ‘it’s all there; it’s all been done for us’.

So, take some time this month and look around your workplace. ?Ask yourself how you are doing. ?Ask your staff, co-workers, leaders, clients and suppliers how you are doing? ?Then, decide which of these 10 tips you might be able to begin implementing right away:

1. Look Inside: Who are you? ?What is important to you? ?What do you care about? ?Your organization’s culture is manifested in the behaviors of its members – and those behaviors derive from your values, beliefs and attitudes about what really matters (from who you are).

2. Listen: ?I know, pretty basic, right? ?It’s remarkable how much of the standard relates to having excellent listening practices. ?Do staff in your organization feel safe enough to talk to you – about how they are feeling, about an idea they have for a new product or process, about work in general? ?If you are a senior leader, are you ‘in the room’ inviting staff members to honestly share with you about how they are doing? ?If you are not a senior leader (and if you are), are you sharing?

3. Model: A psychologically healthy workplace is one that has reasonable workload demands. ?How are you measuring up? ?Are you permanently attached to your mobile device? ?Are you sending emails at 11:00 p.m.? ?Do you take your breaks? ?If leaders are not modelling ‘reasonableness’ when it comes to workload, chances are pretty good that staff members aren’t either.

4. Grow: A Well Workplace honors personal and professional growth and development. ?That includes all levels within the organization (see 3. Model, above). ?Are senior leaders educated about mental health and psychological safety? ?Are staff members provided adequate education about psychological well-being, and the importance of looking after their mental health? ?You could even include simple Lunch n’ Learn events, and share the tips from articles like the one from the Globe and Mail’s Kat Tancock, titled 7 Ways to Boost Your Mental Health (and Get Better Sleep). ?They include simple strategies like breathing deeply and joining a book club, in addition to tips on how you can practice mindfulness more often. ?Or, you could circulate articles like the one by Dr. Marla Gottschalk, titled 6 Ways to Build a Positive Workplace?to discuss at team meetings and get creative about how to integrate these ideas into your workplace. ?Also, be sure to check out Be Well Winnipeg, an initiative from the Canadian Mental Health Association, or other similar initiatives in your community – and get in on a program that is already set up and ready to engage your organization in practicing positive mental health.

5. Recognize: Do you notice people? ?I mean really ‘notice’ them? ?Do you recognize when things are going well for someone, and when they might be in distress? ?What do you do in either case? ?When the person has achieved some success, do you recognize that? ?When the person appears to be less well than normal, what do you do then? ?A Well Workplace is one in which recognition is – in and of itself – a value (and a set of behaviors).

The standard is voluntary right now. ?However, it just makes good business sense, doesn’t it? ?Especially since there is a formula for you to follow to ensure your organization is psychologically well, ‘all done’ in the Action Guide for Employers. If you are still not entirely convinced, here are a few numbers that might pique your interest (there are many more, by the way).

A?Watson Wyatt Worldwide Survey* reports that in Canada, mental health is the leading cause of both Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability, in the U. S. it is the 4th greatest cause for Short Term Disability and the 3rd for Long Term Disability.

Companies with the most effective health and productivity programs experience:

  • 11% increase in revenue per employee
  • lower medical trends by 1.2%
  • 1.8 fewer days absent per employee
  • 28% increase in shareholder returns
  • IN ADDITION TO lower health care costs, lower levels of presenteeism, fewer days lost to disability and lower levels of absenteeism relative to their industry peers

* The study involved 282 U. S. and 70 Canadian organizations representing more than 11 million employees in all major industry sectors.

It seems pretty straight-forward to me. ?How about you?

Deri Latimer is an expert in re-energizing the workplace! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional).? Deri combines a business degree with experience in government, health care, manufacturing, education, mining, transportation, agriculture, tourism, and the professional services sectors. Deri impacts individuals and organizations by offering practical strategies to move from overwhelmed to resilient, from absence to presence, from stuck to productive, and from exhausted to energized!?

The Power of One

What difference does one person make? ?Does one staff member in your business make a difference to your customers’ experience (and to your organization’s success)? ?Does one friend or personal connection make a difference to the quality of your life?

I just ran into Ben who used to work at a local hotel; a place I frequented as my client booked a TON of rooms there to hold training, meeting and convention events. ?Ben left the hotel a few months ago. ?The difference his departure made was palpable. ?Very shortly after his leaving, my client pulled all of their business from that hotel. ?And, trust me, it was a significant piece of business. ?How can I be sure it was because of Ben that they left? ?I know. ?Ben was unbelievable at customer service, and no one who replaced him came even close to him. ?I worked in that location over the last 8 years – and the odd time when Ben was away on vacation over those years – I ‘felt’ his absence. ?Things just weren’t quite the same. ?The room was often not set up to specifications, the materials were left in the box requiring me to take extra time in the morning to distribute them, the equipment was regularly wrong or just not there at all, and the ‘climate’ was a lot cooler. ?None of that happened when Ben was there. ?He ALWAYS made sure at least the basics were covered, and then he went above a beyond the basics to truly make my day enjoyable. ?He cared about that – and, I think, about me.

Ben has a lot of class. ?He didn’t have anything bad to say about his past employer during our recent meeting. ?I know why he left, however. ?Ben was unappreciated and largely unnoticed by his employer. ?They missed the boat on this gem of a human being. ?Their loss, however, is Ben’s new employer’s gain. ?I hope the new employer recognizes that and nurtures it.

Tally is my hot yoga instructor. ?I always arrive early so I can lay in Shavasana for at least 10 minutes before class starts. ? Then, I wait for Tally’s warm voice to welcome us. ?When it’s not her voice, I have to admit, it bums me out. ?Even though the other instructors are knowledgeable, it’s just not the same without Tally. ?Tally’s classes are different. ?They are better. Tally loves what she does for a living. ?It oozes through her pores. ?And I, as one of her students, believe that she cares about me and wants me to love it too. ?It’s in the way she speaks, how she moves around the room, her gentle guidance when a pose is out of sync, her positive words of encouragement when she bids us Namaste at the end of the class. ?It’s all that and more. ?It’s a feeling you have when she is around. ? If Tally leaves my gym, I’d be very tempted to leave also. That’s the difference she makes for me.

So, what difference does one person make? ?I’d say, a lot. ?I wonder…is there that one person in your business that you are overlooking? ?A recent article in Workforce Magazine titled?“Companies Can Name Their Stars but Struggle to Retain Them”? Garry Kranz quotes a recent survey that says “eighty-six percent of companies report being able to identify star performers and nearly all companies express concern about losing their best employees”. ?So, the question to employers is; what are you waiting for? ?Do something about that concern! ?The article goes on to say “high performers are always able to find another job. ?And replacing one star with another isn’t as easy as it sounds”. ?Don’t wait until you lose your ‘Ben’ or your ‘Tally’. ?Talk to him or her right now, tell him what you appreciate about him, and ask her directly what you can do to help her continue to choose coming to work for you. ?Remember, replacing that ‘one’ is tougher than you think.

What makes someone a ‘one’? ?It’s probably a combination of things. ?In the case of Ben and Tally, I believe it is that extra special care they take in what they do. ?It comes from inside – from their passion for their calling. ?They just ‘have it’, and it is a beautiful thing to witness. ?It’s not about technical skill, it’s all about heart.

I’ll bet that you know what I mean. ?Send me a story about some ‘one’ in your life that has made a difference to you.