Coffeepot Chatter: The Performance Meeting

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Harry (to Maria and Tom): Good morning. How are those self-appraisals coming along? 

Maria: We have two more weeks, right?

Harry: Yes.

Tom: Whew! You had me scared there for a minute.

Harry: I didn’t intend to do that, Tom, but do this for me. Put yourself on my calendar for early to mid-February to discuss the appraisal. You too, Maria.

Maria: Okay. How much time should we allow?

Harry: Sixty, no, make it ninety minutes. We may not need that much time, but this way we’ve got it if we do.

Tom: Okay.

Maria: Done.

Finish the statement: The most important part of the performance appraisal is . . .

You get some credit if you said, “Completion.”

The correct answer is, “The performance meeting.” And that can be different things to different people. If your performance meeting is a meeting where both parties stare at a GPS form on the computer screen for a few minutes and the supervisor says, “I’ll enter today’s date and we’ll be done with this for another year,” it’s time to rethink that meeting.

An effective performance meeting is a one to one conversation between the employee and the supervisor. How that happens, where that happens, and what is said are all very important aspects of the performance discussion. Following are a few guidelines to help everyone have an effective performance discussion.

Set The Stage

Schedule time. Harry, our supervisor in the above dialogue, asked his employees to schedule 90 minutes. For some of us that may seem like far too much time. Think about past performance discussions. If they took 10 minutes, you may want to start by scheduling half an hour. (You can revisit this when you’ve reviewed “What to talk about” below.)

Where will the performance meeting be held? It is best to select a private office rather than an open workspace. If neither person has a private office, you may want to reserve a conference room. Most people consider performance feedback very personal information. Yes, it is professional information, but it’s very difficult to not take the feedback personally – especially if there is constructive criticism – and there should be. More about that later.

Eliminate distractions. Put the office phone on forward. Turn off cell phones. Close the door. Supervisors, it is best to sit side by side if looking at the appraisal form on a computer screen. Don’t allow your desk to create a physical barrier between you and the employee. If you choose to print the GPS form and look at it together, do so at a table. 

What To Talk About

Hopefully, supervisor, you asked the employee to fill in “Progress and Outcomes” and/or “Comments” for each key accountability. If you didn’t, or if the employee chose to write very little or nothing at all, ask the employee what was his/her biggest accomplishment for the year for that key accountability. (Employees, this is your advance notice. Be prepared for this!) 

Supervisor, resist the urge to dominate the conversation. Try to allow the employee to do most of the talking. If the employee has not had an opportunity to review supervisor ratings and comments, now is the time to do this. Spend several minutes on each key accountability. Be sure to discuss not only what was accomplished but how it was accomplished.

Remember, the golden rule of performance appraisals is no surprise feedback. Anything you note or discuss (especially if less than positive) should have been discussed previously, around the time when it occurred.

Constructive criticism – Let’s call it performance enhancement – may be the one surprise area of the performance meeting. For clarification, this is not corrective information on something performed at a less than satisfactory level. This is taking solid performance up a notch. It is always good to provide employees with this type of information. If you have suggestions for each key accountability – great, but even one performance enhancement item for the year is a good start. 

In HR, we are often asked by employees, “I always get the “Fully Successful” rating. How can I move that to the next level?” We recommend that you ask your supervisor. “What would you need to see from me to rate me as a High Contributor?” (Supervisors, this is your advance notice. Be prepared for this!)

A Word About Goals

Goals are a good thing. Goals help us define what is most important in our jobs and help us to be on the same page of expectations with our supervisor. We always encourage employees to go into the performance meeting with at least one goal in mind. 

Think about one thing that’s really important to your work and that you’d really like to accomplish in 2013. Maybe it’s a workplace learning goal. The important thing is that you give this some thought and are able to articulate it during the performance meeting. Your supervisor may have a goal or goals for you too. And you may be surprised to learn they are similar.

Remember, there have been some changes to the GPS online tool this year. For more information on how this will affect your performance review, read this Spotlight article.

Be sure to move the GPS form through to completion. The supervisor needs to move the form to the signature step. When the employee moves the form for supervisor signature, the employee’s e-signature will auto fill on the form. The same will happen for the supervisor when she/he moves the form to Complete

And there you have it. After the performance meeting, an employee should fully understand where he or she stands with regard to performance and know what the supervisor is looking for in the next year. Supervisors should always ask the employee for questions, thoughts, and/or concerns before concluding the meeting.

Here’s to a high performance new year!