How to promote high performance behaviours in your appraisal process
Most small businesses start out with very informal appraisal processes - when you're 'micro' sized, you spend a lot of time working alongside your colleagues, so it's relatively easy to give (and receive) constructive feedback on performance.
Pretty soon, though, as you grow, you find that the expectation from new joiners - some of whom will be from larger firms - is of something a bit more structured. To run your firm as a meritocracy, you need transparency and fairness - people need to know that their chances of career progression are genuinely tied to their performance and that they have gained skills and experience.
At this point, you'll invest in a formal staff development (or personal development) programme. Often, the implementation of such a programme is through a quick side-project, resulting in a competent but fairly basic appraisal system. Such systems may include performance targets and assessment (e.g. level of sales achieved), but are predominantly focused on the 'what' (e.g. competencies acquired, work tasks completed).
They rarely focus on the 'how' - the behaviours needed to perform successfully and to grow professionally. Interestingly, back at the micro-size stage, you would have been picking up and helping with these traits naturally. It is all to easy to lose this benefit in the maze of administering a formal process - and that would be a shame, as promoting the right behaviours is one way that you can ensure that the culture of the company you are building forms in the shape you had in mind.
Why not, then, invest a little more time in your first staff development programme, and ensure you the high performance behaviours you want are covered by the process?
In practical terms, drawing from an example in our consulting industry past, this would mean including in the framework an assessment of the behaviours associated with:
- Personal Approach: the values and attitudes expected from your people in their day-to-day work
- Working With Colleagues: how you expect your people to interact with their peers
- Working with Clients: the principles you expect to be applied in delivering high quality work and service to clients
- Developing the Company: how you expect your staff to partipate in the effectiveness and success of the firm
An example of 'Personal Approach' might then include:
- Demonstrates a positive attitude - works with enthusiasm and is receptive to new ideas;
- Maintains professional integrity at all times;
- Accepts responsibility for actions and decisions;
- Goes the 'extra mile' for clients and colleagues;
- Takes pride personally in work delivered;
- Learns from mistakes;
- Takes the initiative before issues occur;
Self-evidently, these sort of 'how' behaviours are not quite as easy to measure as the 'what's (e.g. "can manage a sub-project team").
However, we've always found that defining expectations of high performing behaviours is an effective means to shape the cultural development of our businesses... and well worth doing early.
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