The case for appraisals over coffee

For practice managers formal appraisals can often be less than straightforward and occasionally lead to miscommunication. To make the process more effective Caroline Day, learning and development director at OneWorkforce, asks what’s wrong with a chat over coffee?

At a recent performance management training session a practice manager shared with me feedback they had recently received from their own line manager during their annual appraisal which had left them feeling worthless. Words something like this were used, “I think your performance really started to drop from the end of last year. Do you remember the report I asked for back in December? Why didn’t you just do it the way I told you to do it? Ever since you missed that deadline I feel that your engagement level has dropped and during your appraisal we need to explore how we are going to address this together.”

The question I asked was this, “How often do you meet with your manager to talk about your performance?” The answer was as expected. “Once a year – unless I’ve done something wrong.”

Don’t wait until it’s too late

Why do some managers put so much emphasis on an annual appraisal meeting? Surely, as conscientious managers, when we see our colleagues excelling in their work or struggling to deliver we want to help there and then, not in eight months’ time at their appraisal when it’s all too late.

I actively encourage practice managers to develop a culture whereby their door is always open and the kettle is always on. We should all strive to be approachable managers who can always spare 10 minutes of their day to provide feedback to their team, talk through a challenging situation or give recognition for a job well done. These informal chats over coffee can be more rewarding than a two-hour yearly appraisal meeting, driven by form-filling and rating systems. Don’t get me wrong, annual appraisals have their place in the performance management cycle, but they should be a balanced review of the year with no surprises.

Managing performance begins with delivering timely and constructive feedback and I have worked with managers using techniques such as the AID (action, impact, development) model. When recognising outstanding contributions from your team it is so easy to say, ‘That was excellent. Well done, thank you’ without saying why it was good or what difference it has made to the team, patient or practice.

The same can be said when an improvement needs to be made. So often we stress the importance of what has happened (the action) and what needs to change (the development) without explaining the effect (impact) this has had on those around us. In my experience it’s understanding the impact which helps to win hearts and minds. “When you missed the deadline the impact on the team was…” or “When you spoke to me like that it made me feel…” Emphasising the consequences of an individual’s actions can be a lever for changing behaviour.

Taking immediate action

Above all, performance-related feedback needs to be timely. Holding back until the annual appraisal is only going to result in distorted memories and, ultimately, the impact of the feedback is lost over time. I encourage practice managers to invest 10 minutes a day to provide their team with meaningful feedback. If you see a change in behaviour, a dip in productivity or a drop in performance don’t sit on it! Go and tackle it head on and have that conversation. Your employee will respect you more for helping them now rather than bringing it up later in the year at their appraisal.

Likewise, recognise and reward those individuals who go above and beyond. A little thank you card under their keyboard can make a world of difference to someone’s day. So, I say use the annual performance review to reflect on the year, but open your office door, put the kettle on and sit down with your practice team regularly to provide timely and constructive feedback when it matters.

OneWorkforce is a training provider, launched by and part of OneMedicalGroup, a national healthcare provider with over a decade of experience in delivering healthcare services in some of the country’s most challenging locations

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