How to Improve Employee Appraisals Using Performance Logs

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AdobeStock_44576903Throw a Log on the Performance Management Fire! How introducing simple performance logs into your organisation can take the chill out of appraisal season.

For many organizations, this time of year is not only about the magic of ringing in a New Year, it is also appraisal season. It’s when managers everywhere sit down to regroup and determine if their team is performing at the levels expected of them in their roles.

It’s also the perfect time for managers and employees to spend some one-on-one time discussing challenges and development opportunities and for organisational leaders to assess the talent landscape of their organisation. It all sounds like snowflakes and cinnamon right? Not exactly. In reality, this is often a very chilly and stressful time of year for managers and employees. And here’s why.

Why appraisal season can be stressful:

Uncertainty: If performance management is limited to once-a-year appraisals, employees aren’t certain about what to expect and managers aren’t clear as to how employees will respond. The whole thing can cause a load of dread for all involved.

Lack of Confidence: Employees often see appraisals as a less-than-accurate representation of their actual performance. Many factors can lead to this perception, but one of the biggest stems from the fact that managers simply cannot recall every account of performance for their entire team. This can lead to mistrust of the entire appraisal process and tension from employees whose accomplishments might be overlooked.

Deadlines: Appraisal season often coincides with other end-of-year activities. Because business must go on as usual, finding the time to submit complete and effective appraisals can be challenging and quite stressful for managers and HR.

How to reduce appraisal-related stress using performance logs.

We work with many companies that have significantly reduced the tension surrounding appraisals and greatly increased the effectiveness of their performance management efforts by introducing a simple yet powerful tool – performance logs.

Performance logs (or journals) are simply notes made by an employee to document their own performance progress and accomplishments, or made by managers to note trends and examples related to their employees’ performance. This is happening in many organisations already in the form of post-its, hallway-feedback, or emails but for the most part, it isn’t a structured or centralized process.

By giving managers and employees an accessible, consistent and informal tool to record performance logs, users are more likely to use it and reap the benefits.

What should and shouldn’t be recorded in a performance log?

What to include in a performance log:

  • Deadlines missed/deadlines met or exceeded
  • Accomplishments or improvements
  • Trends in performance (positive or negative)
  • Specific behaviors related to performance
  • Instances of tardiness or inconsistent attendance
  • Recap of status meeting discussions
  • Recap of feedback given throughout the review cycle (directly or from peers)
  • Disciplinary actions and discussions
  • Examples – pasted emails, files, etc.

What NOT to include in a performance log:

  • Rumors or third-party unsubstantiated complaints regarding the employee
  • Theories about ‘why’ an employee displays a behavior.
  • Personal information regarding an employee
  • Vague notes

5 Ways Performance Logs Can Significantly Improve Employee Appraisals

  1. Reduce bias in appraisals: Recency bias happens to the best of us. It is the tendency to rely solely on relatively recent accounts as a basis for ratings and to assume those trends will continue. This means employees aren’t being evaluated fairly based on an entire appraisal cycle – only what managers can recall clearly in the last few months or weeks. By keeping a detailed record of performance observations and trends, both managers and employees are less likely to forget key accomplishments, milestones, development needs or performance trends which took place during the year. This results in more accurate and fair appraisals.
  1. Save loads of time completing appraisals: When employees sit down to fill in ratings and comments in their self-assessments, or managers do the same for their team, they are often faced with a blank page and a case of serious writer’s block. Deciding which ratings best reflect performance or comments to use to support ratings can be a challenge for all involved and leads to a lot of time spent trying to fill everything in. Having clear performance notes accessible when completing appraisals is shown to greatly reduce the amount of time needed to complete appraisals. These time-savings add up big time, especially for managers who sometimes have to complete dozens of appraisals.
  1. Keeps performance management top-of-mind throughout the year: There’s more to performance management than just the annual appraisal. By encouraging managers to keep an updated log of performance, organisations are creating a culture of ongoing performance management, where all aspects of an employee’s performance and development are considered more than just once a year. This results in timely performance discussions and feedback, and better recognition of employee accomplishments. By tracking performance details closely throughout the year, managers are also more likely to identify and prevent performance issues before they become a problem.
  1. Provides a record of performance discussions: It is shocking to think of the number of informal and formal meetings that might take place between managers and employees in the span of a year. Performance logs are a great way to easily jot down few key points from these meetings, resulting in a complete summary of performance discussions to use for coaching, feedback and of course, to help complete appraisals and set effective performance goals.
  1. Removes the shock-factor: Surprise! There should be no surprises in appraisals. In fact, as mentioned above, the greatest source of anxiety related to appraisals happens when both parties aren’t completely confident about what the appraisal will contain or how it will be received. By keeping performance logs up-to-date and by encouraging frequent feedback, employees are more likely to know what to expect and managers can steer the conversation towards the future, instead of spending time justifying the appraisal itself.

Avoid the chill of appraisal-season. By centralizing feedback and journaling and encouraging performance logs, appraisal season will leave employees feeling toastier than ever.

Want an easy tool for recording performance logs and feedback? Explore emPerform tag.

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