How to make performance appraisal less stressful for employees

Performance reviews can be counterproductive if you hold them in less-than-desired circumstances. According to Gallup, only 14% of employees found performance reviews help to improve their professional growth. Badly-organized appraisals increase the employee’s stress. For example, employees are reminded of painful experiences instead of overdue encouragement. 

There is a glaring expectation mismatch between employees and management about how to conduct performance appraisals effectively. Read this article and learn how to improve growth and retention by turning the appraisal sessions into safe psychological grounds. 

How performance review trends have changed? 

Performance review has evolved tremendously in the past decade. Instead of serving as a tool to segregate high and low performers, companies use appraisals to help their employees grow by providing valuable feedback. 

Here are two notable changes that shape performance review trends in 2022. 

Shorter review cycles with faster feedback 

Holding performance reviews once or twice per year is a thing in the past. The lengthy gap between appraisals does not help resolve issues on time. For example, an employee might consider upskilling opportunities but must wait months before the issue is discussed in detail. 

Today, employees expect daily feedback to help them grow and improve professionally. Shorter review cycles allow employees to evaluate their performance, correct mistakes and move forward faster. Instead of waiting months to know if they are moving in the right direction, employees want an answer now to avoid wasteful efforts.

Short cycles of performance appraisals are influenced by the transformation in modern software development practices. The developer's community has adopted Agile approaches, where they build software applications in multiple, progressive steps. This allows them to be more responsive and flexible to changes. 

Likewise, employees are pursuing rapid growth in their respective careers. They become proactive in seeking spontaneous and regular feedback. For them, continuous feedback is a powerful tool that helps them scale the career ladder at a greater pace. Employees recognize that they can't make the meaningful progress they desire without timely employee feedback. 

Therefore, the responsibility of holding regular performance appraisals like on the shoulders of management and HR. Employees are smart enough to consider other options if they don't feel valued. They will be greeted by waiting arms of companies that seek growth-motivated talents. 

Increased expectations amongst employees 

It’s time to grasp the fact that the market influence now lies at the hand of employees. You can’t hold the same type of performance appraisals as you did in the past 10 or 15 years. Back then, managers were obliged to rank employees into the top and bottom performers. Regretfully, those that are at the bottom ranking often face termination. 

The conventional ways of evaluating employees cause undue stress to the entire organization. No hardworking employee would want to end up seeking another job after the long-dreaded appraisal. Thankfully, performance reviews have since evolved into a mutually-beneficial platform that helps both the employee and organization grow. 

Employees now anticipate constructive feedback then they are put through the online appraisal process. They want to know if they have made a meaningful contribution that aligns with the company’s goals. More importantly, employees want to be valued according to what they are worth. And this means rewarding them with the remuneration that they deserve.

Instead of inducing fear and anxiety, performance appraisals are now motivational boosters that elevate employee performance. Therefore, companies need to avoid performance appraisal mistakes that might prove costly to their workforce. 

How to minimize stress in performance reviews 

Shortening the interval between appraisals is a step in the right direction. However, you’ll need to do more to ensure the employees don’t suffer from stress and anxiety when they go through evaluations on appraisal apps. Here are seven steps that help.

1. Conduct appraisals for the right reasons

Never hold performance appraisals just because others are doing the same. Companies, specifically the HR department, must establish the proper purposes for conducting appraisals. As we’ve mentioned, you shouldn’t appraise your employees merely for banding them as good or bad. 

If you lack a convincing reason that employees can relate to, the HR department will have a tough time implementing the appraisal system. The HR would need to base the appraisal process on a foundation that supports the employee’s expectations. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that other departments could effectively adopt the evaluation process. 

It isn’t hard to understand why employees might react badly to performance reviews that lack wholesome objectives. As individuals, they dislike being judged for mere formality. Employees want the entire process to be respectful, stress-free, and contribute to their professional growth. In the end, they want the appraisal to be the catalyst for their growth. 

2. Be a proud performance appraisal ambassador

It helps when the HR team takes a more proactive role in creating the awareness of performance appraisal. Merely setting up the evaluation guideline is not enough. Instead, the HR team should correct any misguided views and explain why the performance appraisal is necessary. 

For example, I once joined a company that hasn’t had any appraisal conducted in up to 2 years. I held discussions with the employees and showed them how regular appraisals could help them improve in their job. My colleagues are convinced that performance is key to their growth and welcome the evaluation that follows.

We found encouraging responses from the appraisal sessions, and soon, it became a regular fixture in the company. The employees are looking forward to the feedback that helps them sharpen their skills. Ideally, you’ll want to have several appraisals a year of it that’s not possible; make it an annual fixture.

3. Create a culture of continuous improvement

Instead of being wary, you’ll want to have your employees anticipate the performance reviews. To do so, make growth-seeking a habit in your company. Encourage your team to be proactive in improving themselves and use performance appraisals naturally as a means to support them.

When employees are accustomed to the idea that constructive feedback is pivotal to career growth, appraisals become less intimidating. They will be more receptive to the assessment and less anxious throughout the process. 

4. Rope in the managers

If you want to conduct effective performance appraisals, you’ll need to start by convincing the department managers of its benefits. Some managers are not aware of the true benefits of appraisals, while others feel that doing so is a waste of time. When left unchecked, your managers will be reluctant to hold the appraisals properly. 

Sometimes, your managers believe that performance reviews are necessary, but they lack the skills to do so. For example, they are uncomfortable providing feedback to their subordinates, particularly if it involves criticism. Or they thought that holding 1-to-1 sessions was unnecessary and solely depended on evaluation forms.  

Therefore, the HR team needs to train business managers on the performance appraisal best practices. The HR team can set a performance appraisal framework for the business managers. For example, the HR department spelled out the instructions and timeframe to conduct the appraisals.

Your HR team should automate the performance appraisal process with the right tools. This helps managers evaluate their team members without taking up much of their schedule. Understandably, some managers might lack the subtlety to provide feedback without demoralizing the employees. In such cases, allow the HR team to provide the necessary training. 

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5. Learn how to provide constructive feedback

Giving feedback is an art that takes time to master. An evaluation session might go south when done wrongly, leaving employees hurt and confused. Therefore, it’s essential to educate your management on how to provide relevant feedback. Always take a positive approach and avoid direct criticism, especially in public.

6. Avoid punishment-related terms

While performance appraisal is all about transparency, you should be aware and avoid certain harsh terms. For example, words like ‘fine, fired, and pressure’ automatically instill negative perceptions. Using such terms is not helpful even if you have the best intention. 

Instead, any hints of punishment during the appraisal will shut down the communication channel with the employees. This is even more so if they have traumatic experiences with previous appraisals. So, choose your words wisely when providing feedback to employees. 

7. Use automation tools

Given that employees expect frequent and honest feedback, you’ll want to use performance appraisal software to reduce the workload on the HR team and managers. Investing in performance automation tools allows the company to scale the appraisal process as the company grows. 

It is also easier to convince the management and employees that holding appraisals isn’t a waste of their time when you can quantify the resources involved. When used appropriately, the performance appraisal software leads to positive growth of the entire organization. You’ll also end up with a grateful team that thrives on constructive, honest feedback. 

Summary

Performance appraisal need not be a process that causes undue stress to employees. By taking the proper steps, you can make it a fruitful affair that leads to the professional growth of employees and the organization. It takes a collective effort amongst HR, managers, and employees to make the most of performance reviews.

Plai is a performance review software built to make performance appraisal fun and rewarding. It features a friendly UI and gamification to help you save 30+ hours when conducting appraisals. 

Try Plai for free now.