The HHHR Performance Appraisals and Objective Setting Cycle

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Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The first of the year, of course, is the time many of us are working through the Performance Appraisal and Objective Setting cycle in our companies.  I know that a lot of small HR departments don’t even do PAs, much less objective setting but I believe it is a critical and a very important part of what we do in HR.  Despite what many in HR think.

Today, even though it’s February and many of us are finishing up our cycle,  I’m going to share how I do the Performance Appraisal and Objective Setting cycle. This post is a quick overview of what I do.  I have a seven week process and in the coming weeks, I will devote a post to each of the the weeks in the process.

Pre and Week One – Prep and Training Week

The first thing I do is send out an email in December to all the supervisors in my company reminding them that the PA cycle will start in January.  I also include a timeline of deadlines in that email. They, of course, love getting this email just before the Holidays!

I then take the time to update all the documents from the previous year to the new year and make any edits to the process of forms that supervisors suggested the year before.

After the Holidays, the cycle starts full swing.  The supervisors already got the heads up from my email in December so there is no surprise when I start sending out all the information about the PAs and Objectives at the first of January.

Then I make all the updated current year documents available on our SharePoint site designated for HR.

Finally, the most important part of this week is training.  I conduct a webcast training session for all the supervisors in our three locations on why and how we do PAs and Objectives setting.

Week Two – Writing Week for PAs and Objectives

Supervisors write the PAs for each of their direct reports.  These are preliminary as I will explain later in this post.  They also have a discussion with their direct reports during this week about objectives they will collaboratively set for the year.

Week Three – Deadline Week for Preliminary PAs

The preliminary Performance Appraisals are due to me on Wednesday of this week.  I make the deadline Wednesday because very few supervisors get these in on time and it gives me two extra days until the end of the week for them to get turned in.  It’s a way to trick my chronic procrastinators into getting their PAs turned in on time.  It generally works except for the real professional procrastinators who probably know what I’m up to anyway.  There are always several who take longer but if you can get the majority in by the end of week three, your doing OK.

Week Four – Prep week for Talent Review Meetings

This is the week I construct Talent Review Notebooks for the Talent Review Meetings that will be held next week.  What the heck are Talent Review Meetings, you ask?  Well, I will explain the Talent Review Meetings more in depth in the coming weeks since it is one of the most important parts of the cycle but you may get the gist of things here.

Week Five – Talent Review Meeting Week

The Talent Review Meetings are where we review every single preliminary PA and the performance scores for each employee are calibrated for fairness.  The PAs are finalized during these meetings before they are to be delivered to the employee.  Again, you’ll learn more about the Talent Review Meetings in the coming weeks.

Week Six – Delivery Week

Supervisors deliver the PAs to their direct reports and have a final discussion on what their objectives for the year will be.

Week Seven – Deadline Week for Final PAs and Objectives

Completed PAs and Objectives are due to me by Wednesday of this week.  You, of course, know why I have Wednesday as a due date…

 

This the schedule that has evolved in the seven years I have developed this cycle.  It works very well for my company and HR Department of One.

As I write more in depth about each of these weeks, I will include copies of the versions of the documents I’ve developed.  They will be different, but similar, to the documents and forms I use at my company.

Perfection vs. Excellence

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I once had a boss who was a proud perfectionist. He was such a perfectionist that he had a very difficult time making decisions because everything had to be perfect before he could. Of course nothing is ever perfect so it often took a very long time, if ever, for him to decide.

Now, I’m the kind of guy who likes to get things done then move on to the next project. I’m not a perfectionist. If its good enough, I make a decision and move on.
When you work for a perfectionist, unless you are one yourself, it can be very challenging. They will always pick apart and criticize your work no matter how good it is. They look for the one or two flaws, no matter now minor. They will take forever to make a decision. It once took over a year for this boss to finally approve a project I had worked very hard on. By the time he finally gave me the go-ahead, I was very demoralized and frustrated. This became a common occurrence and eventually, I slowed down my production because my work seemed to disappear on his desk or in his inbox. Ironically, I was eventually criticized for slowing down. Lesson learned! Never slow down your work. Keep producing no matter what.

Our performance under this boss was mediocre at best. His team was more worried about making everything perfect rather than focusing on getting the work done and moving on. It was a very risk averse and toxic work environment. It was unsafe to admit you made a mistake, our morale was low and we dreaded coming to work.

In contrast, I had another boss who was clearly focused on excellence. He was happy with projects that were good enough and as a result his team’s performance was excellent. I thrived working for him. This boss trusted us to get the work done to achieve the goals of the company. He didn’t need to sit on things for months before making a decision. He was quick to make a decision and move on to the next. As a result, his team was one of the best in the company. We won more performance awards than any other team during his tenure. It was fun and exciting and we were all very motivated and enthusiastic about our work.

I ran across this list recently, contrasting excellence and perfection.

  • Perfection is being right. Excellence is being willing to be wrong.
  • Perfection is fear. Excellence is taking a risk.
  • Perfection is anger and frustration. Excellence is powerful.
  • Perfection is control. Excellence is spontaneous.
  • Perfection is judgment. Excellence is accepting.
  • Perfection is taking. Excellence is giving.
  • Perfection is doubt. Excellence is confidence.
  • Perfection is pressure. Excellence is natural.
  • Perfection is the destination. Excellence is the journey

What a great message! As an HR pro, a manager, or a supervisor, it is so important to make sure you’re demanding excellence, not perfection. The same goes for what you should expect from yourself in your career and personal life. Trying to be perfect causes way too much stress.

Even the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we will catch excellence” which mirrors the last bullet point in the list. He understood the difference between the two and knew that perfection was the enemy of excellence.

In order to perform at the highest levels, expect excellence from your direct reports, the people you work with, and yourself. Expecting perfection and trying to make your work and life perfect will only slow you down, keep you constantly behind, stressed and frustrated. So relax and focus on producing excellence instead of perfection. It will make your work and personal life far more productive, effective and pleasant.

Out of the Blue, a Manager Wants to Terminate an Employee. What do You Do?

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve all been there. A manager calls us to say they’ve had enough and want to fire one of their direct reports. But we go back and look through the employee’s personnel file and see that there are no disciplinary actions and their performance appraisals don’t reflect a problem.

This is the first time we’ve heard of the problem but the manager, however, has finally had enough of their direct report’s poor performance or conduct and is ready to fire them and move on. But they haven’t done their part and properly supervised their problem employee or documented any of the performance or conduct issues. They spent years avoiding or ignoring the problems because dealing with them is, well you know, awkward and uncomfortable.

Now the puck is in your zone (I’m a hockey dad). You are the HR pro and they expect you to take care of the problems they weren’t willing to deal with.

What do you do?

I’m going to assume you have a progressive discipline policy in place. You just simply need to start the process. Of course, it should have been utilized by the manager before it got to the point they called you. But, as is often the case, that doesn’t always happen.

The progressive discipline policy I use is Dick Grote’s Discipline Without Punishment. I will cover the details of how I have incorporated this method in a later post but simply put, it goes like this: Reminder One, Reminder Two, Decision Making Leave, and final separation. Of course, the ultimate goal is for the employee to make the necessary performance or conduct improvements before the need to take the next step. I will use this method to describe how to terminate a problem employee who the manager has finally had enough of but hasn’t yet documented any of the performance or conduct issues.

First, you need to meet with the supervisor and discuss exactly what the performance or conduct issues are. Find out from the supervisor if they have any documented conversations or criteria that the employee failed to accomplish. Review the past several performance appraisals and look for any statements that are pertinent to the present situation. There usually isn’t any of this documentation in the scenario I presented above but it is still important to double check with the supervisor. Its fine if there isn’t any at this stage because we are starting the process from the beginning anyway.

Second, write up and deliver a Reminder One and title it an Overall Performance (or Conduct) Correction Reminder. Describe, in as much detail as possible the performance and conduct issues where the employee is falling short. This Reminder is not for a specific incident but rather an overall performance correction so there needs to be several examples of where the employee is failing to meet expectations. In addition to the areas where the employee needs to improve, there needs to be steps the employee needs to take in order to improve their performance or conduct. Finally, there needs to be a deadline for immediate improvement. Usually 30 days is an appropriate amount of time. During the 30 days the manager needs to constantly monitor the employee’s performance in order to measure improvement.

When delivering the Reminder One it is important to inform the employee that the goal of this process is to have the employee improve their performance or conduct and not have to go further. But you still must discus the next steps(Reminder Two, Decision Making Leave, and separation) in case there is no improvement in their performance or conduct.

The employee needs to be reminded that it is their responsibility to make the necessary improvement within the 30 day period. You need to meet with the employee on the 30th day regardless if they have made the necessary improvements or not. Hopefully, the employee will get the message, make the improvements needed and the meeting will be a congratulatory meeting. Often, however, the meeting will be to deliver a Reminder Two.
Normally, a Reminder One is delivered by just the manager but because this is an Overall Performance Correction, it would be best if HR is included in this meeting.

Third, if after 30 days there hasn’t been the necessary improvement, you will need to write up and deliver a Reminder Two. It is basically the same as the Reminder One, but just the next and more serious step of the process. Again, this should also have deadline of 30 days for performance or conduct improvement. Depending on the seriousness of the performance or conduct issues and how the Reminder One’s 30 days went, you could shorten the deadline to 15 days. Again, the manger and HR should be present in this meeting.

Fourth, if after the 30 (or 15) days of unacceptable performance or conduct improvement, you will need to take the next and very serious step of writing up and delivering a Decision Making Leave. This is where you again document the employee’s performance deficiencies and what they need to do to improve. The critical step here requires the employee take the next day off, a paid leave, to consider whether they want to continue working for the company. They are required to write a statement explaining how they will make the necessary steps in order to improve their performance or conduct.

They can also decide to resign at this point. If they return with the document describing how they want to continue working for the company and the steps they are going to take to improve, you need to establish another deadline of 15 to 30 days. This time, however, termination will occur if there is no acceptable performance or conduct improvement.

Finally, you now have all the documentation you need to terminate the problem employee with minimal risk. You’ve given them two warnings with the Reminders. You’ve given them a paid day off to make a decision on whether they want to make the improvements necessary to remain employed. If they do, they wrote up their plan. And if they fail to live up to their plan, you have all you need to safely terminate the problem employee.

I Fired Santa.

“He’s doing it again, Rich, and customers and employees are irritated with him” said Tina, my department manager.

“Are you serious?” I said  “I just had another talk with him a couple days ago and he promised me he would stop! I will talk to him again.”

Being the long time retail anchor in downtown Missoula, it was up to us to provide the “official” Santa Clause for the community.  Every parent wants to have a picture of their little one with St. Nick.

Up until then, I had no problem because I just simply hired the gentleman who had been doing it for the past decade, but this year he was no longer physically able to play the roll.  I had to find a new Santa and I hit the jackpot – I thought – when I discovered a professional birthday clown/Santa Clause looking for work!  He had experience, could tie balloon animals, and had his own Santa suit!

We set up his chair, the camera, and backdrop along a main aisle.  We ran an ad in the Missoulain and posted his hours throughout the store.  Now I could focus my attention and concentrate on executing the store’s Holiday sales, profit, credit, and customer service strategies.

Instead, we quickly discovered our new Santa had a very odd personality – one that my customers and employees found very irritating. Irritating enough to complain and avoid him.

He would make a strange comment or crack an awkward joke to everybody who walked by him – nothing inappropriate but strange.  It got to the point where my employees would take another longer route in order to avoid having to walk by him when they saw he didn’t have a kid on his lap.

I sat down with him in my office, with him in full costume, and had a “fierce conversation”  letting him know that I had received complaints and that he needs to concentrate more on being jolly and less on being irritating. He initially resisted but after I gave him several examples of his irritating behavior, he agreed that he would  try to do better.

This was Santa’s first warning.

I noticed an improvement in his behavior but that only lasted two days. He reverted back into his old irritating ways and the complaints started again.  I sat down with him again, again with him in full costume, and we had our second “fierce conversation” where I told him that he needs to alter his behavior quickly. He’s driving customers away and irritating my team causing a reduction in their productivity.  The critical Christmas season is short and I can’t afford to have Santa hurting my business.

This was Santa’s second warning.

Again, it took another two days before his behavior to reverted back to his irritating ways which led to the conversation at the beginning of this post.  Well, I had had enough and sat Santa Clause down in my office for the final time, again him in full costume, and said the words “I’m sorry, Santa, but I am going to have to let you go.  It’s just not working out.”

I had just fired Santa.

So now I had no Santa.  Now what?  Well, all I know is that the General Manager of the store (me) would mysteriously disappear whenever Santa showed up to for his shift…

You gotta do what you gotta do to make things right.

This story points out that we occasionally have to do some very uncomfortable disciplinary action on employees or independent contractors.   I sure could have avoided dealing with the situation, he was Santa after all.  And he was only going to be in the store for a couple more weeks.

You have to have the courage to do what’s right.

Even if it’s firing Santa.

My DiSC Profile Pattern – Inspirational

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the DiSC Personality Profile test and promised to share my profile so now will now take a few moments to  do so.  In the previous post, I listed the 15 patterns that DiSC identifies based on the individual’s score on each of the four personality dimensions.  So for today I will share and review my pattern and in a future post, I will discuss my strengths and weaknesses based on how I scored on each of the four dimensions.

I’m not trying to be self promotional about this, I am merely just using my personal experience with DiSC as a way to start discussing it’s usefulness for HR leaders.  In fact, I am taking a bit of a risk by sharing my weaknesses along with my strengths.

I completed the DiSC Classic assessment in 2010.  My score shows that my highest dimension is I (Influence) as well as being high in D (Dominance).  My lowest dimension is C (Conscientiousness) and next lowest is S (Steadiness).  As I read through the materials generated for me, I have to say I found my summary very accurate and enlightening.

The scores from my assessment put me in the Inspirational pattern.  Below, I will share a few highlights and lowlights from my profile sheet provided to me from Inscape Publishing.

Inspirational Pattern

Rich’s Motivation  You may often display a dazzling ability to persuade pothers.  Often, you can be quite charming and convince people to do what you want by the strength of pure likability.  Usually, the most important factor for you is control, which you tend to seek over your environment or your audience.

You are likely to be clear in your own mind about the results you want.  However, you might not always articulate these ambitions.  You prefer to reach your goals through cooperation and persuasion, rather than by exercising domination.

As part of your tendency to persuade people, you may downplay your own need for affection.

Insights for Rich You may believe that the ends justify the means, and your main goal is likely to be the control of your environment during the process.  This straightforward approach can lead to outstanding accomplishment and innovative breakthroughs.   However, it may create ill will amount your colleauges who may feel that you have used them or taken them for granted.

People may be drawn to your charisma and charm, but these same individuals can sometimes feel distanced from the “real you.”  You may be able to lessen this sense of alienation by showing a willingness to help others succeed in their personal development and advance in their careers.

Rich, you are likely to be an influential and articulate individual who has a tremendous capacity to inspire and lead people.

Knowing my DiSC personality pattern helps me understand how I can better communicate with others.  This is very helpful for an HR leader who needs to be constantly communicating with employees, peers, and senior management.  In future posts I will be sharing how different personality profiles can effectively communicate with others.  Again, since I have all my information, I will probably start with how my particular pattern can effectively communicate with those that are the opposite of me.

 

Three Keys to Being a Good Boss

I came across this blog post over at TLNT, written by Derek Irvine, a few weeks back that really resonated with me.  The post was actually first published in October of 2012 and has been republished a couple times since due to it’s popularity.

I love the simplicity of what Derek sees as the three keys to being a good boss.

Those three keys are Presence, Praise, and Promise.

I’m going to be lazy and simply quote all three of these keys as Derek wrote them in his post.

    1. Presence – You not only “manage by walking around,” you show up to meetings on time to signal that you value the work your employees are doing. When you’re meeting with an employee, you shut off or totally ignore your email, IM, texts and any other interruptions to give your full attention to the employee. If employees need your support to push a key decision forward, you lend your visible presence and direct support.
    2. Praise – You make it a point to give your employees the frequent, timely and specific feedback they need to stay on track and move their projects forward appropriately. You recognize and appreciate them and their efforts that are especially in line with the company’s core values and strategic objectives. Because you are diligent about “catching employees doing something good,” you also help employees receive constructive feedback more readily as they know the feedback is intended to help them advance.
    3. Promise – You help your employees see the future they have with the organization and in their career. You don’t make undue or unwarranted promises of course, but you are committed to helping your team members grow and develop – and they know it. You seek out training and development opportunities for them and encourage them to go. You give them realistic “stretch” goals to help them develop skills.

When I read through these three keys I see one very clear attribute.  Respect.  The boss’s respect for their direct report.

In the Presence Key, the boss is respecting the employee’s time.  Showing up for meetings on time shows respect for the time of those in the meeting.  Giving full and undivided attention to an employee when meeting them one on one shows respect for their time.

In the Praise Key, the boss is respecting the employee’s work and effort.  Giving employees regular feedback and recognizing them for their accomplishments.

In the Promise Key, the boss is respecting the employee’s career.  Helping employees by being honest and committed to helping them grow and develop by delegating important tasks and getting them the training they need.

Showing your direct report the respect they deserve is, in my opinion, one of the most motivating factors in the workplace.  It makes people want to work harder and more effectively.  It makes the employee more loyal to their boss and gives them the sense that they are valued and an important part of the boss’s team.

The Importance of The Morning Greeting

My favorite podcast, Manger Tools, recently released an episode titled The Morning Greeting. I liked the episode because it speaks to an important activity I learned many years ago working as a store manager for the Bon Marche (now Macys).

Basically, it is simply the act of saying good morning to each of your direct reports every day and the positive impact it generates.

Mike and Mark go into quite a bit of detail on the mechanics of how to greet direct reports which I found humorous.  I know there are many managers who find it difficult to circulate and greet their employees so I understand their need to go into detail.  It came naturally to me early in my career as I observed  effective managers I worked with and as I developed my own style.

When I was in retail, I would make the point of circulating through my store every morning and greet each of my employees (direct reports, sales and sales support associates) by name.  Sometimes I would cruise by their department, wave and say “Good morning, Joan!” and sometimes I would  stop and chat a bit – either about business or personal stuff or both, depending on what was going on in the store or in their lives.

I would also make a point of circulating through the store as I left for the day, catching the late shift,  and say “Goodnight!” to each employee by name.

Each time I started in a new store, I would immediately begin my greeting activity and quickly learn every employee’s name along the way.  I was told I was the first store manager who did this and/or even knew their names.

I often startled new employees when I would approach and greet them but they quickly learned I was OK and approachable.  While I did much more than just “the daily greet” to my employees, this simple activity was a significant factor in creating a tremendous amount of trust and loyalty among my teams.

In my current job as an HR leader, I have five direct reports but  still make a point of greeting all 16 employees, by name, in my office every morning.  I also do the same when I visit the mine or the Wyoming office.  Similar to when I was a store manager, sometimes its just a quick greeting with a wave or a chat for a few minutes.

As a result, I am on friendly terms with everybody in the office and know and understand a lot of what is going on at many different levels.  This allows me to do my job, as the HR leader in my company, more effectively and provide greater value to my company.  More importantly, knowing my co-coworkers as I do helps me enjoy my job more.

I would challenge all HR leaders and managers, even Mike and Mark who said it isn’t realistic or practical to greet 30 people every morning, to take the time to greet all their direct reports and steps even if there are 30+ of them.  I did it in a 60,000 square foot store with nearly 30+ people working during any given shift.  The time you take to do this is nothing compared to the value you derive.

It is a simple and powerful management activity.

Clear the Decks!

Being efficient and productive is essential to being an effective and successful HR leader.  I like to occasionally share my own personal productivity techniques here at HHHR in the hopes that they may be of some help to my readers and listeners.

Soon after starting my concentrated effort to manage my email three times a day, I started a new organization improvement method of “clearing the decks desk”.

Before I go home for the day, I completely clear off my desk and the top of my filing cabinet.  I file away the papers that need filing and put papers that I am still working with in my desk tray.

This daily clearing the decks forces me to do the filing and organizing that tends to get procrastinated throughout the days and weeks causing work to be forgotten, misplaced, and piled up.  Before I started this effort, my desk was never out of control but it was usually messy and disorganized.

As you see in the photo I leave work with my desk cleared off and when I come in to start a new day, I’m greeted with a clean and organized office that allows and motivates me to quickly get right back to work.

I’m much more efficient and effective and able to produce higher quality work.

As David Allen says in his book “Getting Things Done”,

…our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.

Clearing my desk every evening helps me clear my mind and plan for the next day.

Coming into a clear desk every morning allows me to start the day fresh without any mental or physical clutter from the day before.

It takes discipline and effort to get into the habit but when you make it part of your daily routine, it will pay off with increased productivity and reduce the amount of daily stress at work.

A Manager’s Most Important Responsibility

What is a manager’s most important responsibility?  It’s quite simple, actually.

The most important responsibility of any manager is to hire the best people they can.

Think about it.

What happens to everybody’s workload when a manager makes a good hire?  We love it!!

A good hire makes everybody more productive by allowing them to continue their work while being competent enough to do their own. A good hire is somebody who others enjoy working with creating a positive work environment which increases morale and production. It’s motivating when the new hire fits in well  and effectively contributes.

What happens to everybody’s workload when a manager makes a bad hire?  We hate it!!

A bad hire creates more work for everybody as they compensate for the poor performer.  A bad hire can also create a poisoned work environment leading to poor morale and reducing overall production.   A bad hire can make good employees flee the organization if nothing appropriate is done to remedy the situation.  We’ve all made bad, if not horrible, hiring decisions in our career.  I certainly have and have paid the price.

As an HR leader, it’s vital that we train and coach managers on how to effectively recruit, interview, hire, develop, and retain great employees.

So many managers “shoot from the hip” when it comes to these critical steps.  Sure they get it right sometimes and justify their methods by focusing on when they did well.  If they were honest with themselves, however, they would say they got it wrong more than they got it right.

With the huge impact a good or bad hire can have on an organization a manager’s most important responsibility is to hire the best people they can.

Funny Recruiting Experiences

Last year I was out on the road recruiting for candidates to staff our new uranium mine in Wyoming and thought it would be fun to share some of the funny and interesting things candidates said or did.

I received a phone message where the gentleman did not leave his name but rambled on about how he heard about the job. When he got to the end of his message, he instructed me to look at the caller ID on my phone to get his number and call him back…

I was interviewing a gentleman and a few minutes in, he asked to be excused to go to the bathroom.  I don’t know whether he had a medical problem or not but when he returned, after about five minutes, he proclaimed with a big grin on his face “Whew! That felt good!”…

I spoke with a young man and usually open my interviews with the question “What do you know about Ur-Energy?” (the name of my company – I like to see if they did any preparation work).  He looked at me funny and asked “Why the hell do you want to know about my energy?”…

Makes you wonder.