What people need to perform well

Having been involved with Appraisal for some years and believing that we knew enough to write a book on the subject, in the 1990s my friend and colleague Colin Edwards and I set about doing just that. As we did so, we became aware that we were concentrating on the mechanics of the processes we had worked with and not on the more fundamental issue of Why would anyone spend time and money doing Appraisal anyway?

Putting everything aside we quickly came to the conclusion that if Appraisal was to add value to an organisation it must have an impact on performance. If it did, then the organisation would benefit, managers would benefit and individuals would also benefit.

So the next question was What do people need if they are to perform well?

We asked many people this question both formally and informally – managers, directors, course members. Their answers gave us four clear elements and some attendant conditions.

Unsurprisingly the four elements required if people are to perform well were

• Clarity on what is expected of them

• Clarity on what success looks like

• The right conditions for success

• Regular feedback on progress

The most important condition was the need for mutual respect with a sense of working in partnership

This was blindingly obvious – but only when it was made obvious!!

Our experience had told us that the traditional view of Appraisal – a backward looking evaluation of performance – was only partially helpful. Quite often it was divisive, especially where performance was rated. We had been trying hard to get the people we trained and the organisations we worked in to make it a more forward-looking process as we sensed that this might be the key to improving what was going on. This was more gut-feel than anything else.

Our findings gave us more clarity on why we were dissatisfied with particular systems and processes we had worked with.

They did not consistently address these four key elements!

It was as if a blindfold had been removed and the light had been let in.

Over the years we have tested out this thinking and have found that it does work. Processes that have these four elements consistently applied do work effectively and have a marked impact on individual and team performance.

So, whether you have an Appraisal, Performance Development or Performance Management process, these four elements need to be at its heart.

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