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No Way ... You Still Do Appraisals!

In my view the use of appraisals in business is so wrong! I'm happy to stand out from the crowd and go as far as saying it's an archaic management process that should be banned! So why do I think this and more importantly, what should we do instead?

I believe there are four main reasons why appraisals fail. The concept of appraisals was developed from the experiences we had from an outdated education system. From a process that prepared us for a world that doesn’t really exist anymore! Who can remember their 'annual' school report? Appraisals were doomed from the start you might say.

So what are the four main reasons for failure?

  1. In a fast moving, ever changing, complex and networked world it is not possible that the manager will have all the answers. Therefore, there is no way they can really ‘appraise’ someone on how they are doing their job. Who are they to tell them they are right or wrong? There is certainly no way to harmonise the scores across the organisation – how crazy is that as a process!
  2. Appraisals trigger a stress response - fact! I’ve seen this many times from my experiences. I’ve seen grown men from my military days, who have been in combat, shake with fear at the prospect of having an appraisal! The neuroscientists have also proven that they don't work. They have clearly shown that when our status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness buttons are being pressed our logical brains switch off to protect ourselves and we go into a fight or flight response… and sometimes even freeze. Not a good condition for feedback, recognition and performance improvement!
  3. When you think about it, using an annual approach is a very strange and risky thing to do. Why wait a year before giving feedback – just crazy. The world is changing too fast for a year to pass before reviewing. It needs to be an in the moment learning and performance improvement intervention.
  4. And a fourth main reason why they are a stupid thing to do is the requirements of the changing generations in the workplace. Millennials need to be led differently than say us Baby Boomers and Gen X.

So what should we do instead?

As leader I believe we are there to create a high performance culture where success is inevitable. We need to awaken possibility in people to deliver extraordinary results. We need to hire great people who are fit for the work in hand and have the right values. We then need to trust them to do great work. We need to make sure that they:

  1. Understand and buy into the purpose and values of the organisation
  2. Have clarity and focus around their role and the impact they have
  3. Constantly learn, are being developed and have space to develop
  4. Have autonomy, play to strengths and have opportunity to perform
  5. Feel valued and part of something that makes a difference
  6. Feel challenged and supported

And that's it really!  Just imagine how much more time your managers would have to lead and do great work if we stopped using appraisals ... now there's a thought! Perhaps they could spend time boosting confidence, coaching, building on strengths and enabling people to be the best they can be.


About the author

Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson

I enjoy and specialise in teaching leadership skills, how to create winning strategies, how to build high performance cultures. Outcomes and results are the most important measures for me!