The performance management process in our organization has conflicting purposes. We use it to determine merit increases and performance feedback for work done during the previous twelve months, to determine training needs, and as a key tool in succession planning. Can one procedure really serve all those functions well?

One of the fundamental problems with performance management is that we load one system with too many expectations.

It is very difficult for one management system to serve so many objectives well, particularly when there is pressure from managers to reduce the number of meetings required and to streamline the form to a one-page document.

Here's a workable solution. First, communicate the importance of performance appraisal to everyone in the organization. In particular, let everyone know that the process is used as a fundamental determinant of many decisions that affect people in a very personal way. Second, review your appraisal instrument to make sure that it can provide the data the organization and appraisers need to serve all of the different purposes (realize that this may make the appraisal form more complex and comprehensive). Finally, consider using different processes and holding separate meetings to deal with each of the areas that a performance management system addresses.

How many meetings should I have with an employee to talk about performance?

You should have a minimum of two meetings. You'll hold one at the beginning of the yearthe performance planning meetingwhere you will talk about the important results to be achieved over the next twelve months. In this meeting you and your subordinate will review the job description, the organization's mission and vision and values statements, your department's goals, and the most important items on the performance appraisal form.

The second mandatory meeting will be at the end of the year, after you have written the appraisal and had it approved by your boss. This is the performance review meeting. You and the individual will discuss the performance appraisal, talk about the individual's achievements over the past twelve months, review his development needs, and then plan for the next twelve months.

Besides these two mandatory meetings, however, good managers meet with their people to talk about performance on a routine and regular basis. They also conduct a formal midterm review halfway through the year.

All these meetings take too much time. Why should I spend all this time doing performance appraisal when I've got much better things to do?

Does performance appraisal take too long? Let's calculate just how much time the performance management process takes. The planning meeting lasts forty-five minutes to an hour, once a year. Writing somebody's performance appraisal takes another hour, maybe an hour and a half. And the performance appraisal discussion takes about forty-five minutes with most people.

That's about three hours. Add another three hours for preparation, thinking, and planning. Now you're up to six hours per person.

There are exactly 2,000 work hours in a year (8 hours a day X 5 days a week X 50 weeks a year = 2,000). Six hours therefore represents 0.3 percent of a manager's time devoted to performance management for each employee. What "better things" do you have to do?

Too often, the complaint about performance management taking too much time results because neither appraisers nor appraises have a clear picture of exactly what is expected of the process and what the benefits of an effective performance management process are. Obviously, if people don't understand why they are doing something and they don't know how to do it well, it will seem like a timewaster.

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