Over the last 12 months the employer and employee relationship has moved into a different sphere. Openness, sharing of vulnerabilities and care for wellbeing has become the norm in many companies. With many staff furloughed for the majority of the financial year, along with the actual or perceived threat of redundancies and home working, it would seem reasonable to assume that it is unlikely that employees and managers will be engaged in the annual appraisal. Nevertheless, expectations of employees meeting readjusted targets regardless of the working environment is still necessary; therefore, what should the approach be?

As always, employers have several options open to them, for example:

  1. Place the appraisal process on hold until the world returns to normal.
  2. Move the annual review to a bi-annual process in the hope that the next 12 months will provide the chance to adjust the appraisal process, developing a fit-for-purpose process to match how companies measure their staff performance post-COVID.
  3. Adjust the appraisal process to reflect the challenges of the last ten months, as well as current and future uncertainty. Include individual wellbeing plans (WAP), changing the focus from input and outcomes to reflecting on how to set staff up for success in the next 12 months.

As one might imagine, each option has pros and cons:

Option Pro Con
1. Releases time for both parties. Sends a message of uncertainty to employees.
2. Releases time for both parties

Demonstrates an appreciation of the current climate, provides certainty by sharing how the process will continue.

May leave employees feeling undervalued, especially those who have worked through the whole of lockdown. They may feel their contribution has not been recognised or appreciated.
3. Demonstrates an appreciation of the current climate, focuses on the number one reason for absence from work, supports employees and creates direction for all parties. The change of approach requires time to plan, communication and train managers and employees.

Should a company choose to continue with the appraisal process, they may wish to consider what staff should be measured against. For example, in the current climate it would be reasonable to measure staff against the following skills: resilience, flexibility, innovation, and positivity. However, such a move away from the traditional appraisal approach (namely,  reviewing objectives and setting new objectives) would mean that the identification of training and career aspirations needs to be communicated with a clear rationale along with the impact of such change. Consideration should be given to any previous direct or indirect link to salary and appraisal; should this be the case, evaluate any subsequent HR risk to the business.

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Should companies take this opportunity to envisage a new approach? 

The current situation calls for employees to tap into the hidden benefits of the professional discussion. Moving to a professional discussion framework will provide a place for reflection by both parties, focused on the conversation rather than on paper work, allowing employers to concentrate on making the employee feel valued. Incorporate wellbeing into the conversation and motivating managers by removing the shackles of paper work could be liberating. A professional discussion chart and WAP could be all it takes.

It would be foolhardy for companies not to engage in some form of review, especially as companies become leaner and those employees that remain in employment will need to feel motivated, engaged, safe and informed. Providing high quality feedback to support a review based on resilience, flexibility, innovation, and positivity will provide the best chance to increase productivity and consequently competitive advantage.

If you want to find out how to make sure your appraisal process is fit for purpose, please contact our friendly team at MAD-HR here.