Archive for November 2013

Tips For Making Performance Appraisals More Productive

November 25, 2013

The most hated talent management process is the performance appraisal. It’s one of the few processes that both leaders and direct reports dread.  Unfortunately, most HR policies require this annual ritual that is cumbersome and expensive.  HR experts estimate that the cost of preparing a performance appraisal is about $2,500 per employee per year. This cost includes the time required for preparation, meeting, and recovery (yes, direct reports need time to recover from this traumatic experience).

With all the evidence showing the ineffectiveness of formal performance appraisals, we are flabbergasted HR influencers insist leaders continue to conduct formal appraisals.  We recommend informal quarterly performance reviews but realize most leaders are still required to prepare formal performance appraisals.

Here are some tips to make the performance appraisal process more effective:

  • deliver a copy of the appraisal to the direct report before the meeting to give them a chance to digest the feedback (this reduces the uncertainty the direct report feels);
  • have the direct report complete the performance appraisal form on themselves in advance to exchange when you provide the copy to them (this creates a sense of fairness);
  • meet someplace other than the boss’ office (this reduces the status a boss holds);
  • avoid meeting on a Friday (the extra time for boss and direct report to interact before the weekend allows for the relationship to be re-established);
  • discuss compensation adjustments in a different meeting (this keeps the focus on performance).

Empower your leaders to conduct smarter performance appraisals, and you’ll experience more success.

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Beware of Availability Bias When Preparing Performance Reviews

November 18, 2013

Availability bias was pioneered by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, who in 1973 developed a model to explain systematic bias in human decision-making. Kahneman subsequently won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work.  We all have availability bias and have to exert much cognitive discipline to avoid the pitfalls.

Availability bias is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to mind. When making a decision, recent related events and situations are easily remembered. As a result, we might judge that those events are more frequent and impactful than others. We give greater credence to this information and tend to overestimate the probability and likelihood of similar things happening in the future.

Availability bias is frequently demonstrated when preparing performance reviews.  Leaders tend to give greater weight to recent events when evaluating their direct reports.  This becomes more problematic the longer the time between performance reviews.  Most people can only recall details within the past 90 days.  To overcome this tendency, leaders must record the performance of their direct reports throughout the review period and prepare the review based on those records, not their memories.

Empower your leaders to prepare their performance reviews based on documentation accumulated all through the review period instead of what they remember, and they’ll have more successful feedback sessions.

Group Job Activities into Three to Five Accountabilities for Best Results

November 11, 2013

Chunking is a term psychologists use to describe a technique individuals utilize to group responses when performing a memory task. When we take bits of information and group them into larger chunks, we are better able to remember the details.  Psychologists argue our short-term memory can handle anywhere from three to seven chunks.

What’s easier to remember: 2485222593 or 248-522-25-93?  “Jobdefinitionisimportantforsuccess” or “Job definition is important for success?”  This is why we chunk numbers and words.

When defining job functions, leaders easily identify dozens of activities and functions required in the job.  This extensive list usually becomes the basis for job descriptions.  Unfortunately, employees can rarely recall all the job activities for which they are responsible and end up not accomplishing everything.

The best way to structure job activities is to group them into three to five larger chunks called accountabilities.  The leader and direct report can then think of the job in these easy to remember chunks, thereby improving their performance.

When defining your direct report’s job functions, empower yourself to chunk the activities and you’ll experience more success.

In The Absence Of Information People Will Make It Up

November 4, 2013

In the absence of information, we make stuff up.  Our brain won’t live with a void, so it fills in the blanks.  When we do this, we believe what we made up to be true.  Because we are wired for survival, most of what we make up is negative.

We see this in the workplace all the time: the closed door meetings, the popular co-worker who was terminated, the new policy change, and the unannounced job posting are all common situations where uninformed employees make up information to fill in the blanks.  Though all of these situations have perfectly reasonable explanations, employees left without clarification will behave skeptically and unproductively.

Most leaders are oblivious to the ramifications of these seemingly routine actions, and when asked about them will openly explain the circumstances.  Unfortunately, leaders have no idea of the disruption caused by these perceived clandestine actions.  Leaders can do the following to minimize these impacts:

1.  Be aware of the actions that can be misinterpreted (remember the things you thought your boss did that made you feel uneasy).

2.  Encourage direct reports to ask for clarifications to the mysteries (easily done through the weekly one-on-one meetings).

3.  Remember the “average” person needs to hear something 7 times to remember it  (imagine the below average person), so determine what message you want heard and clearly state that often.

Empower yourself to appreciate how lack of information can disrupt your team, take measures to lessen the impact, and you’ll experience more success.