Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Customer Experience Pt 9 - Appraisal

Post series written by Andrew McMillan (Principal Consultant at Charteris specialising in customer experience). Before joining Charteris, Andrew had a 28 year career with John Lewis and spent the last eight years of that career being responsible for the quality of service and selling across the UK department stores.

Nine months on and we have the final part in this series which, in a similar way to the last part on reward and recognition, is all about long term sustainability. I have found opinions amongst several of my clients to be extremely divided when it comes to individual annual appraisal. Those in favour see it as an invaluable management tool while those against feel appraisals can be divisive or simply a waste of time. The latter view is commonly held within those organisations that don’t have a ‘pay for performance’ policy, but even in these organisations I still believe appraisals can play an important part in developing performance. Team appraisals are another approach, but that is where I feel they can be a waste of time as a team approach negates the key benefits. Let me explain why.

Appraisals should be all about making individuals responsible and accountable for their contribution to the organisation’s aims. In that way they should be just as much an opportunity for thanks and reward as they are for constructive criticism and personal development. However, their effectiveness is determined by two key factors: what they report on and the way they are positioned within the organisation. I can only imagine those who are against annual appraisal have been subjected to a poorly executed process in the past either because the appraisal framework was flawed of the manager delivering the appraisal was flawed in their approach. Sadly both occurrences are far too common, but that shouldn’t be a reason to abandon the concept.

Content is Key

Firstly the content should be a combination of measurable performance, sometimes expressed as targets depending on the organisation and, to support the desired culture and customer experience, a set of commonly understood behaviours derived from the statement created earlier in this series. The most important aspect however is that the existence of the appraisal process and the aspects of performance it reports on should be totally transparent to the employee from the day they join. Keeping the form simple, clear and short is also a must otherwise the appraisal process becomes onerous for those delivering it and lacks real meaning for those being appraised. Some organisations use a performance matrix for their appraisals in an attempt to reduce or eliminate subjectivity. While this may be a worthy aim (or a defence mechanism from a Personnel Director who lacks confidence in their line mangers’ ability to be fair and balanced), I have yet to see a matrix that doesn’t de-personalise the reporting to the point that its benefits are lost.


That takes me to my second point which is about the delivery. The appraisal should simply be a formal record of the year’s performance. If the leadership in the organisation is competent there should be nothing in the appraisal discussion that comes as a surprise to the appraiser or appraisee. Sadly that’s where the process most commonly breaks down, when the manager hasn’t developed a leadership relationship with their team with the consequence that the appraisal is the first time good or bad performance is discussed, and that’s the best case scenario. What commonly happens is the manager who hasn’t developed a relationship with their team over the year then feels unable to comment on areas for development at the appraisal, so chooses the safe option and writes a report that is neither encouraging nor developmental. What I am really saying here is that the annual appraisal should be a formal record of the year’s leadership relationship and anything less should serve to demonstrate how that relationship should develop on both sides. And it must be a genuine two way discussion. This is not something handed down from on high, but an honest two way conversation about the highs and sometimes the lows of the last year with objectives set for improvement where necessary - and these should NEVER be a surprise.

When handled well, appraisals formally record the conversations that should have been going on every day for the last year. They also serve to strengthen the leadership approach described in the earlier article as a manger who hasn’t adopted that approach will find themselves very exposed at appraisal time. Of course they also provide the opportunity to record unacceptable performance and can document the beginning of a disciplinary and grievance procedure which is so important if you are to comply with employment legislation. However, I would stress again that even this should not come as a surprise to the individual being appraised. For those making a sound contribution appraisals document the opportunity for reward, further development and succession planning for senior roles which is so important, especially in larger organisations.

In Conclusion

So there we have it, seven easy steps to sustaining a great customer experience and an engaged and motivated workforce. I hope you have found these articles useful and for those of you without the time or inclination to read them all, to conclude with, here is your simple executive summary:

Define – what sort of organisation you want to be both for your customers and employees

Communicate – communicate frequently and loudly the aims of the organisation and the culture you want to foster. Evidence the communication with sharing of best practice within the organisation

Recruit – ensure the recruitment process identifies those with the right attitude and personality to support the aims of the organisation

Measure – you can’t measure the behaviours easily, so consider the desired outcomes of the behaviours and measure those

Lead, don’t manage – provide inspirational, highly visible leadership that demonstrates the desired culture and behaviour on a daily basis

Reward and recognise – take every opportunity to highlight the sort of behaviour and subsequent outcomes the organisation aspires to consistently deliver

Appraise – use annual appraisals to identify future leaders, reward those who support the organisation and start the process of removing those who don’t


Related Posts

blog comments powered by Disqus