Performance appraisal and performance management are common in most companies, but in many instances, the two are confused and managers are ill-equipped to use them effectively. 

Performance appraisal normally happens on an annual basis and may include half yearly or quarterly reviews. The appraisal is intended as a discussion session between manager and subordinate to discuss how the employee is performing in terms of Key Performance Areas (KPAs). 

In some instances, managers have no idea how to effectively carry out a performance appraisal meeting or they lack the required interpersonal skills to do so. These sessions are then used to point out problems with performance that have been going on over time. The manager uses the appraisal session as a fault-finding session and raises issues that should have been raised outside of the appraisal session. This is where performance appraisal falls down and it is why employees hate these sessions. 

Performance management on the other hand is something that normally takes place when the manager meets the employee to set the guidelines and parameters for performance or when a performance problem occurs. What is important is that the manager or supervisor needs to make sure he/she outlines, discusses and agrees with the employee what is expected and the need for continuous performance at the agreed level. 

In the event of a performance problem, the manager must make sure that he/she is dealing with the correct issue and that the actual problem has been identified. 

A performance management and/or improvement meeting should take place at which the employee and manager have a constructive discussion to clarify the work performance to be achieved or improved on, or the standard that should be met. This discussion takes place in the form of ongoing performance counselling and may be used in counselling associated with disciplinary action. At such meetings, the manager must outline the support and resources that will be offered to the employee and where necessary, what arrangements will be made for retraining of the employee.  

The manager develops with the subordinate a performance plan or an improvement plan that is acceptable to both. The overall purpose and outcome is to help the employee to achieve the desired level of performance. The employee should be advised of the consequences if the agreed standards are not met. 
A performance improvement plan will differ from the annual performance appraisal process as the former is ongoing and can be implemented at any stage of the business year.

Employees who are performing their jobs effectively and meeting the expectations of the performance development process will not need to participate in performance improvement sessions, but must be continually reassured that their performance is noted and commended. 

After a performance improvement meeting, the manager should monitor and provide feedback to the employee regarding his or her performance that relates back to what was agreed. Should there be no improvement, the manager may take further disciplinary action in line with the company’s disciplinary process.

At an effective performance management meeting, the manager should discuss the following:

• Performance standard to be met or improved on. Give specific examples;
• Outline, discuss and agree with the employee what is expected and the fact that it must be consistent;
• Explain the level of support and resources that will be provided to assist the employee;
• Discuss the plan for providing feedback and specify the measurements to be used in evaluating progress;
• Explain the consequences if performance standards are not met.

Managers should be committed to helping their staff improve performance – and that will be best achieved through counselling for performance improvement.

Des Squire is a managing member at AMSI and Associates. Call 082 800 9057 or e-mail des@amsiandassociates.co.za

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