Friday, June 16, 2006

The Performance Appraisal Question And Answer Book: A Survival Guide For Managers

The Performance Appraisal Question And Answer Book: A Survival Guide For Managers
Dick Grote
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
238 pp, $17.95, ISBN 0870334441, 1-800-250-5308

HR pro Grote asks and answers 141 questions about structuring and conducting employee performance appraisals in this practical reference on the topic. His presentation explores the four phases of a performance management system (planning, execution, assessment and review) and details the elements of the comprehensive appraisal form and process.

From my experience

Friday, April 28, 2006

Reducing Employee Turnover

Maybe it isn't what you are doing, but what you aren't doing
by Greg Langston

As soon as one of your best employees walks in, you know what is going to happen. The look on his face says it all. "I am leaving." How did this happen? Did you miss something?

What are the reasons that employees leave? You don't have to look very hard to find answers to that one. This seems to be one of the favorite things for human resource researchers to research. And research they have.

Unfortunately, "leaving" gets too much attention. Retention is the focus that will keep you and your employees happy. Remember, if you aren't actively recruiting your employees, someone else will-and someone is probably recruiting your best and brightest right now.

The case for focusing on retention

Every year, businesses face the costs of replacing their key employees at up to 2.5 times the former employee's salary. Add the costs of recruiting, training, lost productivity, and the business knowledge that your former employees have now taken to your competitors and the figure looms even higher.

And it gets worse. Did you know that up to 38% of your managers, supervisors, and team leaders are about to leave? Monster (the premiere online job search company) has seen a 44% increase in new resume postings. In particular, "confidential" postings from job-seekers hiding the search from their bosses are up 13%. With your good employees leaving and the less productive employees staying, the costs can be staggering.

The hidden costs of turnover

The costs of turnover are usually only seen in basic terms: downtime, recruiting a replacement, and training the new-hire. That's a lot like making a grocery list with "food, drink, and health products." You leave the store wondering why these three items cost so much. When you are shopping for a new employee, here is a real shopping list:

o Last paycheck o Leftover vacation hours o Processing the paperwork for separation o Advertising o Meetings o Interviews o Background checks o Medical check-ups o Reading through resumes o Training materials o Lost productivity until position is filled o Learning curve down-time

And you haven't even picked up the milk and bread yet!

What's the solution?

Data can't do anything by itself, and sometimes data can even be misleading. Remember that voluntary turnover data is often gathered from somebody who has already decided to leave. Couple that fact with the adage "don't burn your bridges", and you can quickly see why one of the top reasons given for voluntary turnover is "better pay elsewhere." In other words, nothing personal, Boss.

It is personal!

It is not that people never leave their jobs for a better paying job, but the reason you have lost, are losing, and will lose key talent is probably not related to money. People leave when they are no longer happy. Don't simply focus on the employees on their way out the door. Let's look at the ones who are staying and how to turn the employees planning to leave into key talent planning to stay.

How to slay the turnover dragon 5 Key Retention Factors

If something were stolen from your office-say, a computer-you would probably stop at nothing to find the culprit. Why then do most companies treat the "theft" of an employee as part of the normal course of business? You invest a great deal in each of your employees, so how can you protect that investment? Research shows that when a company addresses the following 5 areas, employees are far more likely to stay.

One: Trust in management

Before you can ask your employees to trust you, you have to determine exactly what your company is all about. How can an employee trust management if he/she doesn't even know what management stands for? Determine your Mission, Values, and Objectives-your MVO statement. There are numerous resources to help you craft your mission, values, and objectives if you have not done so already. If you have already crafted them, it might not hurt to take a second look. Ask yourself the following questions about each element of your MVO statement: o Is this measurable? o Does each element provide value? o Can I explain what it means? o Are our decisions actively based on our MVO?

Once you have determined your company's mission, values, and objectives, you need to measure your employee's alignment with them. This can impart a whole new level of responsibility and accountability in your company. By measuring the performance of your employees with the company's mission, values, and objectives, you can completely align your company.

By incorporating your MVO into your review process, you get an additional benefit-your employees will truly know the company's MVO.

Two: Proper use of skills/abilities

This is one of the most fundamental issues in employee retention: are their duties and esponsibilities properly matched to their strengths and weaknesses? There are many powerful diagnostic systems on the market today-Myers-Briggs and DISC, for example-that can aid you in determining the unique abilities and personality traits of your employees. Many companies have had great success using the Kolbe Index™ (found at, which provides a scientifically validated assessment of your instincts that you can put to work immediately in all areas of life. The value of the Kolbe assessment is that you get precise data that outlines how your employees can communicate most effectively, the types of actions that match their strengths, how they can maximize their unique abilities, and how to minimize stress. Why should you help your employees discover their MVO and their unique strengths? Productivity is maximized through alignment of your employees to their MVO and their unique strengths. This will ensure that your employees are engaged, plus they will feel appreciated and valued.

Three: Relationship with immediate supervisor

Would you rather work for the worst manager in the best company or the best manager in the worst company? Given this choice, just about everybody would choose the better manager over the better company. Turns out, unhappy employees are usually unhappy because of a poor employee/supervisor relationship.

The keys to solving employee/supervisor issues:

o Discovery: Integrate the discovery of your employees' strengths, values, and goals into your orientation and review programs.

o Measure your employees' alignment with their strengths, values, and goals: Make measuring your employees' alignment with their strengths, values, and goals part of their review process. This will help you find a way for everyone to benefit. If one of your employees had a goal to increase her sales by 25%, you could make sure that receives additional support from the company.

o Measure the alignment of employee/supervisor and supervisor/employee: Employees usually don't leave jobs-they leave supervisors. By measuring the alignment between your employees and their supervisors, you can find the earliest signals of turnover. If you were to only measure the perception of management, you probably wouldn't hear that the employees don't think things are going well with certain managers. On a positive note, measuring alignment gives you another avenue of praise and recognition of a job well done. Above all, by addressing alignment, you are improving communication throughout the company.

In the traditional orientation and review model, you might not discover the problems with your employees and supervisors until it is too late-when key employees start leaving. By incorporating alignment into your model, you can easily see who to promote, who to train, who to praise, what to fix, and who to fire.

Four: Opportunity to learn new skills

If your company has taken the time to discover the unique strengths of the employees, then this retention factor is even easier for you. When you know the strengths of your employees, you are in a much better position to match your need for new skills in the company with employees who are most suited to those skills. This is a win-win for everyone-your company gains new skill sets, and employees are matched to their strengths.

The most important aspect of this is not simply the opportunity to learn new skills; it is to learn new skills that are matched to their strengths. When you need to train ten people in your company in the latest research methods, it would certainly help to know who your ten best researchers are.

Five: Satisfaction with potential career development

We return again to discovering the MVO of your employees. If you know the mission, values, and objectives of your employees, you are in a much better position to determine the best way to match your company's MVO to your employees' MVO. It all comes down to knowledge. If you take the time to discover who your employees are and what they want, there will be no mystery surrounding career development. Most people have never taken the time to determine their personal MVO. By helping them do this, you achieve success on several levels:

One: They will feel like the company really cares about them.

Two: They will know where they want their careers to go.

Three: You will know how to truly maximize each employee's potential.

Bringing it all together

These solutions shouldn't be done piecemeal. Having a mission and values statement is meaningless if no action is taken. Measuring the alignment of your employees to the company's MVO is moot if your employees don't truly know the company's MVO. Without discovering the unique strengths, goals, and values of your employees, you will miss out on your untapped resources. Are there other turnover issues? Of course there are, but when you address the unique strengths and MVO of your employees and focus on alignment throughout the company, many other turnover issues are solved without even trying:

o The need for new challenges: You will help them determine their MVO.

o Personal happiness: You will show them that the company truly cares about them.

o Satisfaction with job role: They will be matched to their strengths.

o Teamwork: Alignment will become a key focus throughout the company.

o Communication: By implementing MVO alignment across the board, you will experience a level of communication most companies only dream about.

By discovering the Distinct Natural Abilities™ of your employees and aligning their MVO with the company's MVO, you will build a stable, low-turnover culture that maximizes everyone's potential.

When Greg Langston began his career in the international business arena almost 30 years ago, he had two objectives:

1) Become a successful global leader and 2) Maximize the potential of all those he came into contact with.

While running operations in excess of $1.2 Billion and 8,000 employees, he learned that without a process and technology, these two goals often worked against each other. He created to provide Life, Personal and Business coaches with a proven roadmap which will help their clients Discover, Determine and Direct their futures while driving an excellent return on investment (ROI).

Learn more about employee managment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Overcoming Defensiveness in Employee Performance Evaluation Discussions

Overcoming Defensiveness in Employee Performance Evaluation Discussions
By Dick Grote

There sits Sally on the other side of the desk during her performance evaluation. She’s scowling. Her arms are folded tightly across her chest. Her lower lip is turned out in a way that communicates both rejection and contempt. She’s flipped the performance evaluation she just read upside down on your desk as though it were some loathsome bug. She slowly shakes her head back and forth in a model of negativity. Looking you straight in the eye, she says, “Do you call this a performance evaluation?”

George is exactly the opposite. His employee performance evaluation, like the one you wrote about Sally, also told the truth about the fact that the quality of his work in the past twelve months wasn’t all that you expected and that immediate improvement is required. But George isn’t arguing; he isn’t negative in the slightest. In fact, he’s bafflingly positive about the negative review. He says that he agrees with everything you’ve said and tells you that you don’t have to give him any details or examples. You’re right, he says. He understands. He’s so contrite and remorseful, you almost feel apologetic about having written such a negative — but honest — evaluation. He promises to turn over a new leaf immediately and asks if there’s anything else you need as he gets up and starts walking out the door.

These are two entirely different responses to a negative employee performance evaluation. But both reactions can be described with the same word — defensive.

Defensive reactions come in two forms: fight or flight. Fight responses — what Sally displayed — show up as angry rejections of what the appraiser has said or written. The individual may deny the accuracy of the appraiser’s information or blame others for problems and shortcomings. Non-verbal indicators of fight reactions are usually clear: the person may pound the desk or point his finger. She may raise her voice or fold her arms defiantly across her chest. He may glare and refuse to engage in a normal business-like conversation.

Flight reactions — what you saw in George — are entirely different. Here the individual’s voice becomes quieter, not louder. He looks away, turns away. He speaks softly and agrees easily in order to change the subject. While the individual displaying a fight reaction may discount having any responsibility for the problems identified, the individual manifesting a flight reaction may take far more responsibility for a problem than the truth of the matter actually warrants.

Fight and flight reactions are hard-wired, genetically-based, normal human defense mechanisms for dealing with threatening situations. If your stone-age ancestor stumbled upon a testy mastodon, his alternatives were flight, fight, or get trampled. Defensive reactions served a survival purpose but they are out of place in the contemporary office. Here’s how to deal with them.

Fight reactions during an employee performance evaluation are best handled by allowing the individual time to vent. Encouraging the full expression of opinion is actually a wise approach, since many of these storms will blow themselves out if they’re allowed to.

Active listening is critical in dealing with fight reactions. Ask the individual for examples. Listen to what she has to say.

Here’s a key point: In dealing with a fight reaction, your behavior should be the opposite of the individual’s. As her emotional temperature gets hotter, yours should get cooler. As the employee starts to speak more rapidly, you should allow more pauses in what you say. If the individual’s volume increases, you should lower your voice.

Flight reactions are more subtle. The individual seeks metaphorically to flee the threatening situation. The easiest way is simply to agree with whatever is being said, change the subject, and move on. The challenge to appraisers in an employee performance evaluation when flight reactions arise is to continue to focus on the performance deficiency until there is complete understanding.

Too often, though, the appraiser feels just as awkward and nervous about confronting George with the fact that his performance was less than acceptable as George is in getting the bad news. The result is that the appraiser doesn’t drill down to the hard realities and allows the immediate defensive acceptance to bring the discussion to a premature end.

For example, as soon as he’s presented with the truthful evaluation, George says, “Yes. You’re right. I really did do a bad job this year. And I appreciate your bringing it to my attention. And you can count on me to do better in the future. I promise, I really will.”

We tend to be so relieved about not having to go through an unpleasant confrontation that we may accept George’s hastily offered, doubtfully sincere assurances and move on. But if we accept his statement as presented, it’s unlikely that there will be any real understanding or genuine commitment to change. That’s why during the employee performance evaluation the effective manager says something like, “Thanks, George. I’m glad we both look at it the same way. But let’s actually go through analyzing what happened this year. If we do that, then you can make some plans that will really make a difference in the upcoming twelve months.”

Fight and flight reactions aren’t the most common reactions to employee performance evaluations. Since most people perform well, accept honest feedback, and possess a high degree of maturity, the likely response to a performance appraisal is understanding and acceptance — even to those parts that aren’t totally flattering. If we realize that defensive reactions are part of the essential human condition, and have the patience to continue a business-like discussion of the performance evaluation in spite of any initial defensive reactions, we’re likely to break through the defensiveness and end up with a productive conversation.

Get Your Performance Appraisal Discussions Off to a Good Start (Part 2)

Get Your Performance Appraisal Discussions Off to a Good Start (Part 2)
By Dick Grote

In a previous article I shared a couple of tips that will reduce the feelings of discomfort that often come when a performance appraisal is discussed — gather your materials in advance, make a list of the key points you need to cover, and pick an appropriate place for the discussion. Here are four more suggestions that will make the performance appraisal discussion more relaxed.

Choose a Convenient Time
When is the best time to hold a performance appraisal discussion? There isn’t any one particular time that is ideal — mornings or afternoons, early or late in the week, it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is having enough time. Wise managers set a specific time for a performance review — perhaps 60 minutes — and announce at the beginning of the meeting just how long they have budgeted for the discussion. But they also make sure that the next activity scheduled for after the appraisal discussion is one that is either a low-priority (so that it can be re-scheduled) or highly flexible (like working on a long-range plan). It may turn out that more time is needed to discuss some sensitive items that arise during the discussion. It may also be that the performance appraisal discussion turns into a highly creative brain-storming session that needs to continue beyond the one-hour schedule. Make sure there’s enough time for unexpected events to play out.

Determine the Agenda
How are you going to kick off the performance appraisal discussion? What are the first words you plan to say? Will you review the performance appraisal sheet section by section, or do you want to start with the final rating and move backwards from there? When are you going to go over the employee’s self-appraisal?

Too often these questions are answered simply as “it just happened that way” — the manager gave no thought to the sequence of events that he wanted to follow.
A better approach is to have an agenda for the meeting. The agenda need not be written down (although that’s not a bad idea) but the manager needs to decide in advance how he wants to structure the discussion.

Arrange for Work Coverage
If you don’t have someone to answer your phone and you can’t switch the phone to send all calls directly into voicemail, then make a firm decision to simply ignore any phone calls that come in during the meeting. Steal a “Do Not Disturb” sign from the next hotel room you stay in and put it on the door handle of the room where you’re meeting. Tell your staff and colleagues to follow the “thousand-mile rule” — don’t disturb you with anything unless it’s of the same urgency that they would track you down and interrupt you if you were a thousand miles away.

Give the Individual a Copy of the Performance Appraisal to Read in Advance of the Meeting
Before I became a consultant, I spent fifteen years working for three large corporations: General Electric, United Airlines, and PepsiCo. Each one of those companies had a rigorous performance appraisal system; every one of my bosses took the process seriously.

But each one followed the same clumsy procedure when the day came for my performance appraisal discussion. At the time we had set for the meeting I would walk into his office and he would hand me the appraisal. I would try to read through the multi-page document just as fast as I could while my boss sat behind his desk trying to gauge from my reactions how I was taking it.

What a bumbling way to start the meeting! How can an employee take everything in from 2 minutes of speed reading?

Here’s a far better way to get the meeting off to an efficient, business-like start. An hour or two before the appraisal meeting is scheduled, give the employee the performance appraisal. Say, “Sam, at 3:00 this afternoon we’re going to get together for your performance review. I’d like you to read through the performance appraisal ahead of time so that you’re prepared for our meeting. Feel free to write any questions you have directly on the form, or highlight anything that you want to be sure we talk about. See you then.”

Sam now has some time to read carefully what you have written, at his own pace. He can reflect on the things you’ve said without having to immediately defend or explain himself. He can jot down notes and think of questions he’d like to ask.
If you ask people to complete a self-appraisal, ask for it at the same time that you give them a copy of their appraisal (if you haven’t asked them to send it to you earlier so you can use it as an information-source in completing the official performance appraisal.) You too will be more relaxed and better prepared by being able to read, in an unpressured way, what the individual has written about herself.
One caution, however. If the person you’re reviewing is a marginal performer with a bad rating, wait until the beginning of the meeting to hand over the performance appraisal. This increases your control of the situation.

Must performance appraisal discussions be uncomfortable exchanges? No. Following these small suggestions will help produce appraisal discussions that turn out to be productive learning events and true team-building experiences.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Performance Management is NOT an Annual Appraisal!

Part 1: A Whole Different Focus
Susan M. Heathfield
Performance appraisals are a hot topic in HR these days. In fact, hundreds of resources exist to tell you how to do performance reviews. I think this is the wrong approach. Should you do reviews at all? People want to know how to do them, when to do them, whether to do them, and how they affect performance.

Targets of these assessments want to know:

* how they affect income,
* what they assess,
* how they measure contribution,
* how they are archived and used, and
* how they affect career advancement and success.

I am convinced that most of these are the wrong questions, especially when they focus narrowly on the performance evaluation instrument and the appraisal meeting with the supervisor. Ask instead, how your entire performance management system supports your desire to create a customer serving, motivated, accountable, reliable, creative, dedicated, and happy workforce. I don’t think the annual performance review helps you achieve these goals. In an earlier article, I promised I would write about the components of a performance management system. This article overviews the entire process; I’ll discuss the various components in depth in future articles.

As a Human Resources professional, one of your major goals is to develop the capacity of your organization and its members to perform. You lead company efforts to create a workplace in which people can develop their full potential. An effective performance management system, which line managers lead and own, guarantees you will achieve your goals.

Employee Performance Management: Both a Process and a System
Performance management is the process of creating a work environment or setting in which people are enabled to perform to the best of their abilities. Performance management is a whole work system that begins when a job is defined as needed. It ends when an employee leaves your organization. Many writers and consultants are using the term “performance management” as a substitution for the traditional appraisal system. I’d like to think of the term in this broader work system context.

The goal of performance is to achieve the company mission and vision. Almost no one performs, for the organization, however, if his or her own mission and vision are not accomplished as well.

As Fred Nickols, Senior Consultant with the Distance Learning Company, says, “The blunt truth is that, if they have any work objectives at all, most people set their own. This is the era of knowledge work and the knowledge worker…Many so-called "bosses" (if that term has any utility at all) are in no position to set work objectives, to monitor their accomplishment, or to supervise their pursuit. The work, especially at the task level, is in the hands and the heads of the workers. To be sure, a manager could formulate goals and objectives having to do with improvement in work processes and the like, but if these must be left to the workers to realize, who needs the manager? An even better question is "Who needs work objectives?" (See the citation in the side bar.)

An effective performance management system sets new employees up to succeed, so they can help your organization succeed. It provides enough guidance so people understand what is expected of them. It provides enough flexibility and wiggle room so that individual creativity and strengths are nurtured. It provides enough control so that people understand what the organization is trying to accomplish.

Nickols summarizes, “now, in the era of knowledge work and knowledge workers, where work is information-based and working is a mental activity, work routines are configured by the workers in response to fluid, changing requirements. The task of management in this new world of work is to enable and elicit employee contributions of value to the organization. To continue with a system designed to exact and enforce compliance is folly.”

Get Your Performance Appraisal Discussions Off to a Good Start (Part 1)

Dick Grote

Too often, participants in performance appraisal meetings seem awkward and uncomfortable. To some extent, that’s unavoidable — it’s always a bit awkward for one person to deliver a formal assessment of the quality of work performed by another.
But a lot of the awkwardness in performance appraisal meetings can be eliminated by following some simple suggestions. Here are a couple of tips that will help put both players at ease. (In Part 2 of this article, I’ll provide some additional suggestions.)

Gather Your Appraisal Information and Materials in Advance
The most important item you need to have is a copy of the individual’s performance appraisal. That’s obvious. But that’s not all.

At the beginning of the year you and the individual probably had a performance planning meeting. Ideally, the individual would have taken notes on a blank copy of the appraisal form and made a copy for you. That document should have all of the key items that you discussed during the meeting. Be sure you have a copy of that planning document in case a question about the original goals comes up.

You’ll also need information about the individual’s performance, particularly if there are some areas where the performance varied significantly from your expectations. Whether the variation was in a positive or negative direction, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate why you assigned the rating that you did. If the assessment is that the individual’s performance was less than you desired, then it’s critically important that you have all of the evidence you used in order to come to that “Unsatisfactory” or “Need Improvement” performance appraisal rating. There’s a magic phrase to use here. That phrase is, “For example . . .” Make sure you’ve got plenty of examples that support a less-than-satisfactory evaluation.

You may want to have a copy of the individual’s development plan. You may want to have copies of weekly reports that the individual submitted that described progress against the goals that were set. You can’t make a mistake by having too much support material. It will prevent the embarrassment of being unable to find anything of substance to justify the rating you gave.

Make a List

What are the key points that you want to cover during the discussion? In addition to having a copy of the performance appraisal, write down a list of the most important items you want to discuss. It’s easy to refer to them during the meeting to make sure that everything that needs to be discussed gets covered.

Pick an Appropriate Place
Probably most performance appraisal discussions take place in the manager’s office, with the manager behind the desk and the appraisee sitting directly in front of it.
Is that the best place to hold the discussion? It may well be, particularly if the performance appraisal is not very good and the manager wants to trot out all of the power and authority available to make the subordinate understand that immediate change is necessary. But too often the authoritarian, boss-behind-the-desk arrangement serves to emphasize the power relationship at a time when a more collegial approach might be more effective.

More important than the actual location where the discussion ends up taking place is the decision-making process the manager engages in to determine that location. Too often, managers conduct the performance appraisal discussion behind their desks by default — they haven’t given any thought to the matter and just let it happen in the place where they are most comfortable.

There are several other alternatives possible. The manager’s office might not offer complete privacy, particularly if walls are thin or it’s a cubicle arrangement. In this case a conference room or the temporarily vacant office of an out-of town senior manager might be pressed into service. If the performance appraisal contains good news and the two participants in the appraisal drama are old colleagues, it might best be conducted over a cup of coffee in the cafeteria. And if it is conducted in the manager’s office, just a little furniture rearrangement might reduce the hierarchical nature of the discussion.

If the performance appraisal does indeed contain bad news, and particularly if the manager believes that it will take a dramatic gesture to bring home the message of “Change or else!”, the appraiser’s boss’s office might be a good location. Having your boss give you your performance appraisal in her boss’s office — with her boss sitting in as an observer / reinforcer — certainly communicates the seriousness of the message being delivered.

But beware the unusual location. The district sales manager who gives one of her sales reps his annual performance appraisal while the two of them are in the car, driving down the highway on route to a new prospect’s office, is exercising bad judgment. So too is any manager who selects a location significantly away from a business setting, unless the necessity for conducting the performance review at that time, in that location, is obvious to both players.

These are some small suggestions that will help to reduce the awkwardness that always seems to surround the performance appraisal discussion. In Part 2, I’ll provide a couple more tips that will help put both players at ease.

Employee Performance Reviews — Dealing With Disagreements

Dick Grote

What do you do when an employee disagrees with something you’ve written on their performance review? How can you prepare for this and deal with it effectively?

Start by listening to figure out the source of the disagreement. Is it an issue of fact (you wrote that the employee received a customer satisfaction score of 79 but the employee says that his score was actually 83), or is a matter of judgment (you wrote that the employee’s customer service skills were unsatisfactory; she feels that her skills are terrific)? If the disagreement involves an issue of fact, get the facts and make any corrections necessary. If it’s a matter of judgment, ask the employee for additional evidence. Then determine whether that evidence is weighty enough to cause you to change your mind, revise your judgment, and amend the rating that you assigned on the employee’s performance review.

Most of the time, you have a reasonably good understanding of the areas where disagreements are likely to pop up in the course of the performance review discussion. Before beginning the discussion, re-read the review you wrote and try to spot the areas where you and the individual may not seem eye-to-eye. Then ask yourself, “What am I going to say when George disagrees with my assessment that his performance on the Thompson project just barely met expectations?” If you’ve taken to time to review the appraisal you’ve written for potential hot spots, and given some thought to how you’ll respond, you’re much less likely to be caught off guard.

During the employee performance review discussion, start with your higher ratings and move toward the lower ones. Be prepared to give additional examples besides the ones you’ve included on the formal written appraisal. Refer back to the informal conversations you have had with the individual over the course of the year.

Of course, if you haven’t had on-going, informal performance review discussions with the individual over the course of the appraisal period, then it’s much more likely that disagreements will surface during the review. That’s one more reason for scheduling periodic, “How’s it going?” discussions with each person on your team.

As soon as a disagreement pops up, switch into active listening mode. “Active listening” involves allowing the other person to clarify both the facts and feelings about an issue so there’s nothing left under the surface. For example, using phrases as simple as, “Tell me more . . .” or, “What else can you share with me about that . . . ?” or, “Really . . . ?” can encourage people to talk more about their perceptions. Simply nodding without saying anything encourages people to expand on what they have said. It’s not at all unlikely that the employee, allowed a sufficient chance to think aloud about what you have written, will end up saying, “Yeah, I guess I see what you mean.”

In dealing effectively with employee performance review disagreements, remember what your objective in the discussion is — and what it isn’t. Your objective in a performance review discussion is not to gain agreement. It is to gain understanding. If the employee agrees with you, that’s great. But particularly if your appraisal is a tough-minded assessment of the fact the Charlie’s contribution toward achieving your department’s objectives was only mediocre, you’ll probably never get him to agree. That’s OK. What you want is for him to understand why you evaluated his performance the way you did, even if his personal opinion is different.

Finally, if you have several employee performance reviews to deliver, don’t start with the individual whose performance was the worst and where disagreements are the most likely to arise. Start with the easiest — your best performer — and move toward the more difficult. In this way, you’ll build your skills and become more comfortable with the performance review process. Remember the advice that John Dillinger, the 1930’s public-enemy #1, once provided: “Before you rob your first bank, knock off a couple of gas stations.”

Friday, February 24, 2006

GroteApproach, Ltd. Announces Update to Its Online Employee Evaluation Software

GroteApproach, Ltd. Announces Update to Its Employee Evaluation Software
Web-based performance management system adds Development Planning and Goal Alignment features.

DALLAS, TX – February 20, 2006 – GroteApproach Ltd. announces the release of GroteApproach SM version 3.0, the newest update to their web-based performance management system (on the Web at: Developed by performance management expert Dick Grote, the GroteApproach system helps organizations transform performance management from a frenzied series of events to a well-defined, continuous, and effective process.

With this new version, managers and employees can create employee development plans for important competencies and soft skills throughout the entire review cycle. Development objectives, expected outcomes, associated key activities and due dates can all be established and tracked in the system.

Development plan items can be created at the beginning of the review period, during the year as employee performance is observed, and during assessment time based on specific competency scores received by the employee.

Jack Wilson, Staff Development Director with Compassion International said this of the Development Planning feature, “GroteApproach is a natural extension of Dick Grote’s philosophy. It is a performance planning tool and the addition of the development planning now completes the cycle. When a gap in performance is recognized, the development planning piece lets the employee and manager work to close that gap.”

Compassion International first implemented the GroteApproach system in 2003 and was one of the companies GroteApproach worked with in developing the new functionality. “The combination of Grote’s performance management software and their responsiveness to customer needs has resulted in a solid partnership,” explains Larry Lemmon, Compassion International’s Vice President of Human Resources.

To help organizations ensure that individual employee goals are tightly linked to the overall corporate strategy, a goal alignment option is now available in the system. With this new functionality, employee goals can be created from a cascading structure ensuring that individual goals support all higher-level objectives and strategies of the organization.

Also in this release, enhancements to the system workflow are available to help individuals more easily navigate through the performance management software.

About GroteApproach, Ltd.
GroteApproach, Ltd. is dedicated to delivering the technology, services and client care that transform organizations from best-effort climates into results-driven cultures. The GroteApproach web-based performance management system reflects best practices in performance management as identified in Dick Grote’s 25 years of research and consulting with hundreds of organizations throughout the world. Its combination of unrivaled expertise and superior technology make the GroteApproach system an ideal fit for organizations large and small. GroteApproach can be found on the Internet at

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Making Forced Ranking Work, Part One

Dick Grote’s new book, Forced Ranking: Making Performance Management Work, argues that forced ranking doesn’t have to be a dog-eat-dog Darwinian exercise.
By Dick Grote

Here, from Appendix A to the book, is a CEO’s memo to participants in the ranking process. The memo was sent to all employees who were to be assessed in the company’s initial forced ranking process. The objective was to build understanding and acceptance of the new procedure.

Grote notes that this memo and other tools he shares in the book’s appendices "resulted from my work in developing and implementing a major forced ranking system with several large organizations. Only the names of the companies and other identifying details have been changed to preserve their anonymity."

To: All Acme Employees in Salary Groups 14 and above

From: [name of CEO]

Date: February 19, 2002

Subject: Acme Leadership Assessment Program

Next month, we will initiate a new forced ranking procedure that is designed to help us better identify Acme talent. In this Leadership Assessment Program, Acme’s senior managers will use a forced ranking process to identify:

  • the top 20 percent of all Acme managers so that their career development can be accelerated;

  • the vital 70 percent — the great majority whose strong performance is essential to keep Acme competitive;

  • the bottom 10 percent whose talents and skills will be best used in other jobs or in other organizations

This program will benefit everyone who is involved. For those 90 percent of Acme managers who will end up being ranked in the top two groups, the ranking process will confirm the importance of their contributions. For those ranked in the top 20 percent, this program will highlight the talent they bring to Acme and accelerate their development. And for the 10 percent who are ranked in the bottom category, this process will allow the person to move to a job that better matches his or her skills, whether inside or outside the company.

The criteria to be used for this ranking procedure will be based on three of the most critical Acme Values (Execute with excellence, Passion for results, and Succeed with people) as well as the individual’s ability to make tough decisions. In the forced ranking discussions, consideration will also be given to such important aspects as the individual’s past performance, promotability, and intellectual strength.

The ranking decisions will be made by the vice presidents of the various Acme departments who are most familiar with the individuals under review. Each person who participates as a ranker will undergo several hours of training to assure accuracy, fairness, and consistency. In addition, the most experienced HR managers who serve the various functions will sit in on the ranking sessions to provide additional input, as will members of the corporate HR staff. Finally, [name of Vice President – Human Resources] and I will be active participants in every session.

We are taking every step to assure the success and the fairness of this process. We have reviewed all of our plans with internal and external legal counsel and have engaged an experienced consultant to help us design the procedure and facilitate the meetings. We are requiring all meeting participants to attend a training program before they participate in a ranking session. We are using the key criteria from our Values in Action as the basis for our decisions. We will discuss the results with every person involved as soon as the ranking discussions are completed. And I personally will play an active role in every session.

Because the senior leadership of any organization has the greatest responsibility for achieving organizational results, we will be using the process this year with all individuals in salary groups 14 through banded, including my direct reports. In future years we may extend the program further, but we will start with those whose impact on our success is the greatest.

Appendices A and B excerpted from Forced Ranking: Making Performance Management Work, by Dick Grote. Excerpt copyright 2005 by Harvard Business School Press. Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business School Press from Forced Ranking: Making Performance Management Work, copyright 2005 by Dick Grote. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Effective Employee Feedback

Make your employee performance feedback have the impact it deserves by the manner and approach you use to deliver feedback. Your feedback can make a difference to people if you can avoid a defensive response.

Here's are some suggestions on how to do it:

1. Effective feedback is specific, not general. (Say, "The report you turned in yesterday was well-written, understandable, and made your points about the budget very effectively." Don't say, "good report.")

2. Effective feedback always focuses on a specific behavior, not on a person or their intentions. (When you held competing conversations during the meeting, when Mary had the floor, you distracted the people in attendance.)

3. The best feedback is sincerely and honestly provided to help. Trust me, people will know if they are receiving it for any other reason.

4. Successful feedback describes actions or behavior that the individual can do something about.

5. Whenever possible, feedback that is requested is more powerful. Ask permission to provide feedback. Say, "I'd like to give you some feedback about the presentation, is that okay with you?"

6. Effective feedback involves the sharing of information and observations. It does not include advice unless you have permission or advice was requested.

7. Effective feedback is well timed. Whether the feedback is positive or constructive provide the information as closely tied to the event as possible.

8. Effective feedback involves what or how something was done, not why. Asking why is asking people about their motivation and that provokes defensiveness.

9. Check to make sure the other person understood what you communicated by using a feedback loop, such as asking a question or observing changed behavior.

10. Effective feedback is as consistent as possible. If the actions are great today, they're great tomorrow. If the policy violation merits discipline, it should always merit discipline.


1. Feedback is communication to a person or a team of people regarding the effect their behavior is having on another person, the organization, the customer, or the team.
2. Positive feedback involves telling someone about good performance. Make this feedback timely, specific, and frequent.
3. Constructive feedback alerts an individual to an area in which his performance could improve. Constructive feedback is not criticism; it is descriptive and should always be directed to the action, not the person.
4. The main purpose of constructive feedback is to help people understand where they stand in relation to expected and/or productive job behavior.
5. Recognition for effective performance is a powerful motivator. Most people want to obtain more recognition, so recognition fosters more of the appreciated actions.

Contributed by

An effective article on maintaining a good rapport between you and your employees. Contstructive feedback will always play a part in that equation.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Motivation is Key to Increasing Employee Performance

What’s an organization to do when all of its honest and genuine efforts to motivate Sally and Sam to come to work on time, work safely, deliver efficient services, and act as if they were happy to be a part of the team, fail? There is no shortage of pop-psych books and motivational speakers who’ll tell you a thousand-and-one ways to light a fire in Sam’s belly. But what do you do when the fire goes out and none of those thousand-and-one ways seem to work any more? What do we really know about motivation?

Does anything work?

Given the constant barrage of pep talks and posters, slogans and free advice on the topic of motivation, there should certainly be at least a couple of core principles that predictably work every time. Aren’t there? Or are we stuck with the notion that everybody’s an individual, and what’s a turn-on for Sally is likely to be a turn-off for Sam?

Rather than speculate, let’s gather some data. Think back through all the jobs you’ve ever had, and bring to mind the job you had that produced the greatest amount of motivation in you. It doesn’t matter what the job was — it might be the job you have right now; it might be a part-time job you had in high school. Doesn’t matter.
It also doesn’t matter what the word, “motivation,” means to you. However you choose to define the term is fine. Simply bring to mind the job that you had when you had the greatest degree of job satisfaction, excitement, enthusiasm, turned-on-ness.
Now that you’ve got the job clearly in mind, quickly jot down the factors that caused you to feel so motivated, so satisfied, and so turned on. If you’re like most people, the factors you listed are highly predictable — and so are the ones that didn’t make your list.

On your list appear such items as recognition, opportunities for achievement, freedom and autonomy, challenge, the chance to learn and grow, and the work itself. What was missing? You probably didn’t write down such important items as job security, benefits, working conditions, and the organization’s policies and procedures.
It turns out that the missing link in understanding motivation is understanding that there are two very different factors at work. On one hand there are the things that motivate us, that turn us on, that cause us to feel satisfied with the job. On the other are those things that dissatisfy us, that turn us off, that demotivate us. There are two separate variables at work, and you have to attack both of them. Psychologist Fred Herzberg stated it best, “Job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not flip sides of the same coin. They are entirely different coins, and the wise manager uses both those coins to buy better performance.”

What is motivation?

A good working definition of motivation is this: motivation represents a measurable increase in both job satisfaction and productivity. The motivated worker does his job better and likes it more than those folks who are not so motivated. What generates real motivation is the first set of factors mentioned: opportunities for achievement and accomplishment, recognition, learning and growth, having some say in how the job is done, and worthwhile work. Those are the items that generate strong feelings of loyalty, satisfaction, enthusiasm, and all those other important attributes we want to see in those whose paychecks we sign.

But you can’t get away with working exclusively on the satisfiers scale. You have to make sure that you clean up the job to reduce or eliminate those things that cause people to be unhappy and quit.

Wait a minute, some of you are saying — where does money fit into this scheme? Pay is the ringer in the equation; the one factor that shows up as both a source of satisfaction and a source of dissatisfaction. People are dissatisfied with their pay when they feel it isn’t commensurate with their efforts, or is distributed inequitably, or doesn’t reflect the responsibilities of the job, or is out of touch with market realities. If you don’t pay competitive wages, people will be unhappy and they will quit. But no matter how much you raise salaries, you won’t generate motivation and job satisfaction, because job satisfaction is a function of the content of the job.

Look at it this way: Hire me to wash dirty dishes and pay me chickenfeed and I’ll be unhappy and demotivated. But raise my wages to a princely sum and guess what — I’ll still hate washing dirty dishes. But I won’t complain any more about my crummy compensation; I probably won’t quit; and I may even improve my attendance record (if you pay me my munificent wages on an hourly basis). What you have bought with the generous pay increase you provided me was not real job satisfaction. All you have bought is the absence of dissatisfaction. They are not the same thing. If you really want me to be a happy camper, you’d better change the nature of my work.

And changing the nature of the work is the true key to motivation. The message is clear: do everything you can to get rid of the things that generate employee unhappiness, recognizing that no matter how big an investment you make you’ll get precious little in return. All your money will buy is the absence of dissatisfaction. Listen up — you have no choice! You must pay people competitive wages, you must provide a healthy, safe and attractive work environment, you must give at least as good insurance policies and vacations and retirements plans as people could get working for the bagel joint down the street. If you don’t, people will quit and you won’t be able to hire replacem But all you’ll get for the fortune you spend in this effort is a bunch of people who have to search hard for something to complain about.

If you want genuine motivation, though, you’ve got to look at the job itself. Does the work provide me with the chance to really accomplish something? Does my job allow me to do something that makes an actual difference? Do I have a lot of say in how I do my job or am I totally constricted by standard operating procedures? Can I learn and grow and develop on this job, or will I be tightening the same nut on the same bolt for the next thirty years? Do I get any recognition when I do something particularly well?

Providing recognition of good is the best place to start. Recognizing good performance any time it’s encountered — with just a “Thanks” or a literal pat on the back — can be enough to get the motivational engine working. Sally and Sam will need more than just an attaboy, but acknowledging excellent work every time it appears is a wonderful place to start the engine of motivation running.

Keeping track of your employees performance is crucial. GroteApproach can help with their online employee appraisal software.