Say the word “performance appraisal” and you will likely register a nearly audible groan in your managers. The truth is, the idea of capturing a person’s performance in a basic appraisal form is an exercise in futility. Without proper calibration amongst raters, results mean nothing. One manager’s “meets expectations” is another’s “exceptional performance”. Yet the most challenging part of using a performance appraisal form to measure a person’s contribution to an organization is that it merely provides a snapshot in time. Most managers fill it out according to the company’s time line and then fail to revisit any of the points until it is time for the next appraisal. However, the simple inclusion of goals on an employee’s performance appraisal can change the appraisal process into a living, breathing, influential document.
The first time the term “S.M.A.R.T goals” appeared in publication was in November 1981 in George T. Doran’s paper “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”. Since then, the acronym has largely been used to define the characteristics of an effective goal. While they have changed over time, Doran’s original criteria stated that goals should be specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related. First, rather than a general purpose statement of what you would like to see in an employee, a goal gives a specific target for which to strive. Second, you must define what success looks like in trying to attain the goal. If it cannot be measured, it is not a goal. Third, it is important to select goals over which the person in question has an influence. If they cannot be assigned to the specific target or task, it should not be included in their performance appraisal. Fourth, the goal should create a challenging but realistic target. Too easy and the goal does not present an opportunity for growth. Too difficult and the employee will become frustrated by an impossible task and give up. Finally, a goal should be time-related. If there is no specific deadline for progress, there is no motivation to achieve the goal.
Most employees do understand how an organization’s strategic vision affects their day-to-day work flow. In fact, many employees secretly roll their eyes when senior management unveils the organization’s “new direction”. If they cannot see how it impacts their daily process, they tend to view strategic vision as the result of a group of people with too little to do. In reality, translating a company’s overarching goals into measurable outcomes for employees is the first line managers’ job. The perfect place to not only communicate this vision but also to incorporate it into an individual’s work flow is through goal setting during performance appraisals. Not only does breaking down corporate strategy into an individual level help employees with goal setting, it also improves employee buy-in and reduces turnover. If each person feels that their contribution is vital to the organization’s success, they are less likely to feel dissatisfied with their job outcomes.
Fitzhugh Dodson is credited with saying, “Goals that are not written down are just wishes.” While it is possible to discuss goals and objectives in both formal and informal performance reviews, employees cannot be held accountable for anything that is not written down. Including specific, written goals in the performance appraisal form gives both the employee and manager accountability for how and when those goals are achieved.
Fortunately, Trakstar not only guides the process of goal setting during performance appraisals, it also sets reminders and enables managers and employees to communicate about goals in the time between appraisals. From small task-related goals to large-scale strategic goals, Trakstar’s employee goal setting software can take the sting out of the appraisal process while improving employee buy-in, and participation, in the process.