4 Secrets IT Managers Need To Do Successful Performance Appraisals

by drjim on February 24, 2011

Performance Appraisals Shouldn't Be You Versus Them

Performance Appraisals Shouldn’t Be You Versus Them

On top of everything else that you have to do as an IT manager, there are those performance appraisals. You don’t want to do them, your staff doesn’t want to do them, and yet the company insists on everyone doing them. As long as you’ve got to sit down and evaluate the performance of each member of your staff, it sure seems like you may as well get the most out of it. I’m willing to bet that nobody ever told you how to do a performance appraisal the right way. Well, that’s all going to change now because I’m going to share 4 secrets to getting the most out of performance appraisals with your staff…

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

It is my hope that everyone knows that in order to run a successful performance appraisal every IT manager needs to take the time to prepare for it. However, what a lot of us forget is that it is also important that our employees prepare themselves for an appraisal.

What this means is that they need to take the time to reflect on what they have been working on and how it has turned out. Generally these discussions are best if they center on employee goals. Key questions need to be addressed such as the status of achieving goals, which (if any) goals were exceeded, goals that the employee may be struggling with, and of course things that may be holding the employee back from completing his or her goals.

Howdy Partner!

A performance appraisal environment can be toxic if you don’t take steps to make it more positive. IT employees generally view appraisals as an opportunity for their management to either dismiss them for poor performance or to inform them that they won’t be getting much of a raise this year.

As an IT manager you need to change this situation and turn it into more of a discussion between partners who are working together to achieve great things for the company. You can make this happen by taking time at the start of the meeting to put the employee at ease: explain to them why you are having the meeting and what you want to get out of it.

In order to make the meeting a positive meeting, you are going to want to encourage your employee to do most of the talking. As they talk, you are going to want to show what a good listener you can be. Ask questions and allow them to complete their thoughts. Echo back things that they have said when you ask them follow-up questions.

Your goal here should be to provide the employee with an opportunity to “get it all out” – to lay out how they feel that they’ve done since you last talked. All of this needs to be completed before you start to talk about your appraisal of their performance.

There’s A Gap!

When you start to provide your evaluation of your employee’s job performance, you are going to have to base it on the goals that had been laid out for them to accomplish. If you haven’t asked them to do something, then you can’t very well evaluate them on how they did.

When discussing accomplishments, you’re going to want to talk about how their performance measured up to what the goal was. What you are looking for here are gaps between what was expected and what was delivered.

Often times IT managers run into problems when the goal is a hard-to-measure goal. Things like “boost customer satisfaction” are good goals, but are difficult to measure.

If you find a gap between a goal and your employee’s accomplishments, then this is where you should focus your discussion. It’s going to be important that you clearly show the employee why this goal was an important goal to accomplish by mapping it back to what the overall company is trying to accomplish and then showing how your employee’s efforts support the company.

You need to get the employee to concur that a gap in performance exists. Once you’ve been able to do this, the next step is to work with them to try to identify a root cause for the gap.

It’s All About The (Root) Causes

The purpose of searching for root causes is to start to identify ways that your employee can improve their performance. With a little luck, this search will allow you to avoid casting blame on the employee directly, and instead the both of you will be able to work together in order to search for the outside cause of the performance gap.

Your role here is to motivate the employee to give you useful feedback as you search for the root cause. There are several ways to do this. This is a good time to be selective – you don’t want to dredge up everything that you feel that the employee didn’t due well enough during the last review period. Be sure to mix in some praise for what they did accomplish – this will make reviewing the gaps easier for both of you to do.

Ultimately the goal is to work as a team to find ways to attack the issue that is preventing the goals from being met. If you can get the employee to work with you in order to accomplish this, then you will be a successful IT manager.

What All Of This Means For You

A well done IT worker performance appraisal is very much like a work of art. It takes planning, requires a good environment in which to create it, and it has focus: in this case on gaps in an employee’s performance.

IT managers need to take the time to make sure that a performance appraisal doesn’t turn into a waste of time. These are unique events that can better align the team and turn low performers into rising stars.

Taking the time and making the effort to get the most of your next set of performance appraisals can pay off for you. The better feedback that you can provide to your team, the better performance you’ll get out of them. Ultimately, how you conduct performance appraisals will determine how far your IT career takes you…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How many performance appraisals do you think you should have with each employee each year?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Most IT managers have never been trained on how to properly conduct a performance review with members of their team. What this means is that all too often they end up doing these reviews incorrectly. Not only is this bad for the team – you can’t fix what nobody knows about, but it could also have disastrous consequences for the company. Let’s talk about four of the biggest mistakes IT managers make and how you can avoid them.

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