The Problem with Performance Appraisals

Oh yeah, another article about it...

Nearly everybody hates performance appraisals. It’s a topic that has been written about and discussed ad nauseum by just about everyone in the industry.  It seems like everybody is trying to come up with a fancy and shiny new system.

I’ve written about how to do them and how to make them better several times.

And this week I’m going to add one more article into the mix based on a podcast I listened to the other day.

The podcast is Manager Tools (Mark and Mike) and this week’s episode is titled “Don’t Get Rid of Your Performance Review”.  I was fascinated by their take and ended up really studying what they had to say by listening to it several times and studying the show notes (available only to licensees).

Now they are big believers of performance appraisals, but only if done effectively, of course. They think organizations getting rid of them is ridiculous.  And I agree.  

They, like most, think that the system is broken and place a large part of the blame on HR, the owners/managers of the system, because we “regularly talk them (the appraisals) down” in our organizations. I certainly agree with this statement as I hear it at every SHRM meeting I attend.

HR also likes to change the form every couple of years so that they can show a big project initiative accomplished for their annual appraisal. But, unfortunately, changing the system seriously damages the ability for the organization to collect the all important trend data we need to to make important personnel and succession decisions.  

They give a nice bit of history about performance appraisals. Some version of performance appraisals have been around for thousands of years, according to my research, but Corporate America started borrowing heavily from the Army’s system shortly after WWII, according to Mark. The rapid growth of these organizations necessitated a system to help them grow so they looked to the US Army as the model.

In the Army, appraisals were never intended to be seen by the person being evaluated. They were only seen by the evaluator and his superiors. The purpose of the appraisal was for succession planning should the ranking officer be killed in battle. The Army, of course, would need to know who would be the next up to take command, a pretty important thing, right?

There was, frankly, no need for the appraisals to be shared because the Army had the system in place where soldiers received ongoing and constant feedback about their performance and conduct. There was never a question and soldiers always knew where they stood.  

Organizations who adopted the system soon realized, however, that their managers did a very poor job of giving their direct reports regular ongoing feedback so the “obvious” answer was to start sharing the performance appraisal with them. It was felt that they should at least get some sort of feedback at least once a year.

Rather than organizations training and following up with their managers to provide ongoing regular feedback and building relationships with their direct reports, they took the easy path of just requiring the annual performance appraisal.

Now while Mark and Mike put most of the blame of why the system is broken onto HR and only a little on managers, I would say it’s evenly split between the two. I’ve been in both shoes and, honestly, HR can only do so much especially when managers don’t fully support the system. (Maybe because HR has screwed it up so bad? I don’t know)

I would love to have the managers I support give ongoing regular feedback to our direct reports and the performance appraisal simply be an end-of-year summary that won’t be a surprise.

It is my experience that most managers don’t want to do the difficult and time consuming work of building effective professional relationships with their direct reports in order to establish trust and credibility. I wrote about a similar topic with HR having to build a foundation to establish trust and credibility.  Managers need to do this with their direct reports.

Remember the purpose of the performance appraisal is Talent Management and Succession Planning.

While it’s now very trendy these days for HR departments and companies to dump the performance appraisal, ironically, they are replacing them with regular ongoing feedback. They are, hopefully, training their managers to effectively deliver this feedback and building relationships  in addition to monitoring it. This goes back full circle to the Army officers who were trained to give regular ongoing feedback to their soldiers.

The only way to fix performance appraisals is to train your managers to build effective relationships and give effective regular and ongoing feedback to their direct reports. Senior leadership and HR must also monitor and measure that it is happening ( remember – what gets measured gets done). Then conduct the annual performance appraisal as an additional measurement of your talent management and succession planning strategy.   

This was part one of the Manager Tools podcast series on Performance Reviews and after reading the show notes there is a lot of other good stuff I will review and comment on in the coming weeks.

Steps to Help Your Employees Understand the Details of Their Benefits

Tell them real-life stories

This week I’m going to cover a small but very important tactical element of HR. Although it’s a small thing, it leads to a much larger strategic element of building a high-performing workplace culture

I’m a strong believer in delivering an amazing onboarding experience for employees. I built one at one employer from the ground up and I had the pleasure of  inheriting an outstanding one at another employer.

Today’s post is going to deal with one portion of the onboarding process – the Benefits discussion.  This is often the most confusing and boring part because HR typically comes in and goes through the insurance benefits using HR and insurance industry jargon. As a result, most employees don’t understand most of what is being said and just tune out and start looking at their phones. This is unfortunate because an organization’s benefits are an important and  critical piece of the total rewards program and employees need to fully be comfortable with understanding them.

I think employees really need to understand all of their benefits and there should be the appropriate amount of time put into the onboarding schedule to make sure employees really do fully understand them. We owe our employees the extra effort to help them understand their benefits rather than just handing them a packet of papers or just helping them logon to the onboarding site and leaving them with an hour to review and enroll.  

So here’s how I do it.

In my schedule, the benefits discussion occurs immediately after all the required hiring paperwork is completed. This way, they are still pretty fresh and enthusiastic.  I always go into the HR portion which includes the insurance and benefit portion of onboarding telling the new hires that this portion is going to be the most exciting and interesting part of the entire  process. I’m obviously being silly and I purposely exaggerate this because they and everybody else has experienced the opposite so it grabs their attention.

I then like to tell real-life stories about how the different benefits work. These are my stories based on my experiences and I’m certain you have your own story bank you can go to when communicating benefit details to your employee team.

For instance as I’m talking about the medical benefits, most people understand what the deductible means and how the co-pay plays into that but many don’t really understand what the Annual Max Out of Pocket means.

So I tell a real-life story about an employee (this was at a previous employer and whose identity I keep confidential) who had a heart attack while out camping with his family. He was life flighted to the hospital and had open heart surgery.  Well, when everything was said and done and the employee added up all the bills that came, the total was over $1,000,000. Fortunately for him and his family, the company health insurance plan had a maximum out of pocket of $3500.  What does this mean? Simple. The employee only had to pay $3500 total for the episode.. And this all happened in the summer so he had to continue treatment, cardiac rehab, and many other doctor appointments and because he reached his MOP, he paid nothing for the rest of the year. Every time I tell this story, I see clear understanding in the new hires’ eyes because this story always makes it obvious what the max out of pocket is.

Another story I like to tell is when describing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This benefit is very often forgotten and rarely used. I believe strongly in it as I’ve used it myself and tell the story of a couple employees I helped through substance abuse problems (again at a previous employer keeping names confidential).  

I had employees come to me asking for help with their substance abuse. They feared they would lose their job but my company believes in helping employees who ask for help. So I gave them all the EAP info and explained to them how the EAP works and strongly encouraged them to call and get the counseling help they need. I also explained that in addition to the free counseling sessions, our medical insurance has programs to help them clean up. They took advantage of these programs, cleaned themselves up, and remained good productive employees.

I love telling this story.

The last story I’m going to share this week is about the Flexible Savings Account (FSA). I tell them I love this benefit because it’s like an interest free, tax free loan to pay for medical related expenses like co-pays and deductibles. I tell them I usually max out the benefit and contribute the full $2600 and at the end of the year, if I have some left over, I treat myself to some very nice eye glasses and/or prescription sunglasses.  I also go back to the story above about the maximum out of pocket and tell them the heart attack employee had about $1600 left in his FSA and applied that to the MOP amount of $3500 he owed. So he only had to come up with $1900 for the entire cost of the episode.

There are, of course, other stories I tell to help our new employees understand the more complicated details of their benefits but I may share those at another time.. I always get positive comments from the new hires who appreciate me taking the time to sit down with them and going through the benefits we offer and explaining, through real-life stories, how they work.

Not only does this help them personally in understanding their benefits package, it sends the strong message that the organization sincerely cares about them and their well-being.  It’s an important element in the strategy of building that all important high-performing culture that we all strive for.  

Building an HR Foundation

Establish your credibility, competence, and trustworthiness

HHHR Photo

The most important thing an HR professional who’s moving into a new job or department can do is to build and establish a rock-solid foundation of credibility, competence, and trustworthiness. Today, I’m going to discuss how to do this.

There are two things an HR pro typically does when starting a new job at an organization or transferring to a new department.

  1. They come in with “guns a blazing” and immediately start changing the way everything is done and immediately start introducing HR initiatives. They focus on quickly making a big splash introducing HR initiatives and impressing senior leadership.
  2. They come in and take the time to get and know the employee’s, their team, processes, and culture. They focus on providing outstanding customer service to their client base and getting a good lay of the land and culture before making significant changes and introducing big HR initiatives.

Yes of course, sometimes you have to come in with “guns a blazing” and get things fixed quickly. The situation, and leadership, demands it because they need things to be fixed, and fixed yesterday. While it seems to make sense at first, it’s not. It will mostly cause significant chaos and business disruption. It certainly does not establish the credibility, competence, and trustworthiness for the new HR pro!

The best and most effective way for the HR pro to establish their credibility, competence, and trustworthiness in the eyes of their new company/department is to take the time to get to know and understand the team, processes, and culture before making any drastic changes. Build that important and critical foundation.

Remember, Human Resource pro, you are dealing with humans and, as such, you need to build a foundation of relationships first before you will be able to accomplish anything with any credibility and trust. Everybody in your organization is watching what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Start building a solid foundation so that you will be seen as a credible HR expert. Make sure there are minimal mistakes made with the basics like payroll, benefits, answers about polices, etc.

Here are the steps I recommend to build a strong and stable foundation that will establish your credibility and ability to effectively manage the HR function in your new organization. I think we all know this but often forget as it is the blocking and takleing.

  1. Most importantly – get to know the team. Get out of your office every single day and CIRCULATE around the office(s), store, plant, etc. and chat with your fellow employees. Learn your employee’s names and what’s important to them both personally and professionally. This helps them see HR as a part of their team, not the Grim Reaper that only makes an appearance when something bad is about to happen.
  2. Study and know the employee handbook (I know, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and other policies and procedures. You’ll need to be able to answer policy and procedure questions from employees as you circulate and as they come by your office/desk.
  3. Dig into the HRIS and make sure all the data in there is complete and accurate. It often isn’t. Make sure it is so that everything that feeds from the HRIS (payroll, benefit integration, etc) will also be accurate.
  4. Become the expert in the health and retirement benefits your organization offers. Make sure enrollments are completed with 100% accuracy. Build great relationships with your brokers and ask lots of questions.
  5. Respond quickly, accurately, and politely to all manager and employee requests and questions. Remember, you are a service organization supporting the other functional areas of the organization. Don’t ever be condescending because you think they should know the answer. You are the HR expert, not them and they are coming to you for your expertise – the reason you have the job!

By doing these five basic steps, you build the foundation of a successful HR function in your new organization. These are the basics that will establish you as a credible and trustworthy HR professional in your employee’s eyes.

Yes, I know every senior HR professional, and leadership team, wants to do the exciting strategic stuff but without that important foundation, the strategic HR initiatives will fall flat because you will not have the credibility and trust from the very people who need to buy in to those initiatives.

You absolutely must have a solid and effective foundation in order to effectively build the strategic framework that your leadership, managers, and employees will embrace. This will ensure your success in your organization and allow you to more easily have your strategic HR initiatives be successfully adopted.

The Five Steps of Analytics

Second Entry in the Metrics and Analytics Series

Next in my series of metrics and analytics, I feel its important to discuss some more of the foundational elements, or the “first steps” as Jac Fitz-Enz calls it in Chapter 2 of his book, The New HR Analytics, in order to better understand the topic.

One of the first things to remember is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend time on metrics that are of very little value to a business. Value comes from the knowledge of things that actually matter and what matters most is a business question, not an HR question. Those of us in Human Resources have to decide what actually does matter to the business and for what purpose.

To help decide what matters, Fitz-Enz introduces five steps of analytics which I will review here:

Step 1 – Recording the work (hiring, paying, training, supporting, and retaining). This is the most basic of HR metrics and were we measure how efficient our organization’s processes are and how we can improve them. This step indirectly creates value for the organization by saving money and/or time, improving production capacity, or improving customer service by coming up with better procedures.

Step 2 – Relating to the organization’s goals (quality, innovation, productivity, service). These four elements, known as QIPS, cover all of the basic goals of most organizations. Goals related to these elements are set by the senior leaders who regularly review the organization’s results as compared to the organization’s goals.

It is important to align the results of our employee’s work to these goals which are related to QIPS. It shows the value of each employee’s work and how it aligns to the organization’s goals.

Step 3 – Comparing results to other organizations (benchmarking). This step compares the organization’s results to those of other comparable organizations. Some examples are comparing the turnover rate between branch stores in a large department store chain, or comparing sales results with organizations within your organization’s industry.

Of course, the more detailed data available from that comparable organization or group, the better the value of the benchmarking as there can be a great deal of variance between the different branch stores or other companies within your industry.

Step 4 – Understanding past behavior and outcome (descriptive analytics). This step is where the actual analysis begins to happen. This is where we start to look for and describe relationships among the data. It doesn’t, however, give meaning to any patterns. We start to see trends from the past but it’s important to remember that its very risky to accurately make predictions about the future from these trends as the marketplace is always volatile and rapidly changing.

Step 5 – Predicting future likelihoods (prescriptive analytics) This step compares what happened in the past to what will probably happen in the future. This is predictive analytics. This is were we start to see meaning to the patterns we see in the descriptive analytics described above. Some examples are when banks predict credit worthiness and insurers predict patterns of accident rates. HR can apply prescriptive analytics to decisions on things like the expected return on hiring, training, and planning of human capital.

As you probably already guessed, these five steps increase in value going up from Step 1 to Step 5. Step 1 is where organizations typically start by collecting basic data like cost, time, and quantity. Step 2 is an easy next step where we simply relate that basic data collected in Step 1 to the organization’s goals. Step 3 is where we compare the data from Step 1 to a comparative organization or group to see how we stack up.

Steps 1 through 3 deal with what are known as metrics as I defined here last week:

…metrics are informational and focus on tracking and counting past data. Metrics look at tangible data that are easy to measure and usually of lower value. Metrics tell us what happened.

Steps 4 and 5 are where the actual analytics begins to occur. I defined analytics here:

Analytics, on the other hand, are strategic and look at both past and present data using mostly intangible data that are difficult to measure and of higher value. Analytics are very helpful with gaining important insights and predictions. Analytics tell us why it happened.

In order to be able to negotiate resources for your HR department’s programs and projects, you need to know and be able to explain why, what, and how your department contributes value to your organization. You need to be able to defend and explain the value that you produce to the organization in order for them to justify the funding you want and need. If you can explain the value by using the language of the business, metrics and analytics, you will have a much better chance of earning the funding and/or keeping your programs and projects.

That’s smart business and HR must learn to think this way. That’s why I love Jac Fitz-Enz’ books and that’s why I’m working on this Metrics and Analytics Series. HR needs to fully embrace metrics and analytics and learn how to comfortably speak the language of business. That’s the only way we will be taken seriously by senior leadership and have a positive impact on the organization’s financial and business objectives.

A simple and common example would be to look at the quality of a hire measurement once we fully understand the cost per hire and time to fill data. The question is, however, how do we measure the quality of a hire?

Another great example is with training programs and how relevant is training to an organization? Are the trainees doing a better job because of the training they received? How do we measure this?

We have to be able to figure out how measure these things because putting value on work without any supporting data is ineffective and dangerous. Training programs are often the first programs to be cut when there is an economic downturn because there was no data supporting their value to the organization.

That concludes this week’s entry in the series. As I continue this series I will explore the methods measuring things such as quality of hire, quality of training, and many more that are important and relevant to HR.

The New Overtime Rule Has Been Blocked. Now What?

My advice on what to do until a final decision is made.

Overtime, Office Binder on Wooden Desk. On the table colored pencils, pen, notebook paper

A federal judge in Texas gave something employers could be thankful for just a few days before Thanksgiving. On November 22, he issued a preliminary injunction on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime rule change that was to go into affect on December 1. It came about from a lawsuit brought by 21 states challenging the DOL’s authority to raise the salary threshold. This was pretty big news for us HR folks. Huge news actually.

Many small organizations, however, didn’t even know the rule was going into effect. I was at a meeting a few weeks ago with a payroll provider who told me that the majority of their clients didn’t know about the new rule when asked about it. It would be safe to say that most managers and small business owners are too busy operating their organizations and don’t keep up on these types of things.

In order to bring these organizations up to date, the rule was supposed to double the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) salary threshold for determining the exemption from overtime from $23,660 to $47,476. This is where we get the exempt and non-exempt employee classifications which I define in this post from my introduction to my series of the FLSA overtime classifications. In addition, it would also automatically adjust the threshold every three years based on the 40th percentile of the weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) has publicly opposed the new rule as it will hurt nonprofits and smaller organizations and have a negative impact on workplace flexibility and employee morale.

It’s important to understand that the preliminary injunction is not permanent and that the current overtime rule will still be in effect. The court needs to review the merits of the new rule and issue a decision which could take several more months. The fact that an injunction was issued in the first place, makes me think the new rule is doomed.

For those organizations that didn’t know about the rule, they can just go on about their business and not worry about it until a final ruling is issued. For those businesses that knew about it and were making plans or already made plans to comply with the new rule, things may be a little more complicated and until we get a final ruling, here is my advice:

  • Fortunately, the injunction was issued on November 22, before the payroll period in which the December 1 deadline fell. I had advised my clients to make their changes effective Sunday, November 27, the first day of the payroll period. By following my advice (Because I’m so smart, LOL), the re-classification of their exempt employees to non-exempt can be postponed until that final decision is made.
  • If the organization already re-classified their exempt employees to non-exempt, the organization will need to evaluate how the decision was accepted by the impacted employees. Did they take it well or did they take it poorly? If they took it well, the organization would be wise to leave the re-classification in place. If they did not take it well, the organization might benefit by reversing the re-classifications but need to make it clear to the employees that it may be temporary until the final ruling is issued.
  • If the organization already increased (or announced an increase) their exempt employee’s salaries in order to maintain their exempt status, it would be wise leave those increases in place. There will be a great deal of confusion and a big hit on morale if they reverse this decision. An organization can certainly reverse their decision but it will be at the cost of employee goodwill and engagement.

It will be very interesting to see how this case will eventually turn out. As I said earlier, I think the new rule, as it is currently written, will never come to pass. I think the judge issued the injunction because he thinks the challenge by the 21 states has a very good chance of being successful.

However, for those who made plans to comply with the rule, don’t toss out all the work that was done in preparing for it as the court may still issue a decision in favor of the DOL. At the very least, I anticipate that the rule will be scaled back with more gradual and less extreme salary threshold increases.

For those who didn’t know about the rule and didn’t make plans to comply, they’ve been given a pass for the time being but need to be ready to address it if a final ruling is made in favor of the DOL or a scaled back rule is issued.

Week Five of the PA Cycle: Talent Review Meeting Week

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Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here we are. Finally, its time to dive into the most important aspect of the PA cycle, the Talent Review Meeting!

So, with that, let’s go for it.

The TRM accomplishes the following things:

  • Ensures the fairness of the process by calibrating the scores of every employee in the organization.
  • Removes the pressure managers feel to inflate or deflate the ratings of direct reports.
  • Ensures the end results reflect a shared expectation of performance since managers often have different expectations for their people and interpret standards differently.
  • Reduces evaluation biases by forcing managers to justify and defend their decisions to their peers.
  • Increases employee perception that the process is fair.
  • Allows the organization to develop a succession plan with more complete performance information and data on each employee.
  • Assists managers by providing suggestions and guidance to the reviewing manager on how to present the PA to the employee or how to deal with any other issues or concerns.

Talent Review Meetings (TRMs) are where a Talent Review Board (TRB)consisting of a group of managers meet to review each direct report’s Performance Appraisal in order ensure fairness. Each manager must review and defend, to their peers, the scores they gave their direct reports. Particularly the 1s and 5s.

Now that the purpose of the TRM is understood, it’s time discuss the actual mechanics of it all.

Everything for the meeting was prepared last week – the ranking sheet has been filled out, the schedule has been communicated to the managers, and the notebooks have been built. So the focus this week is 100% on the TRMs.

Obviously, a private conference room will be needed because it’s important that the managers are comfortable having a free flowing and frank discussion about their and their peer’s employee’s performance and conduct. It’s also kinda important that employees can’t hear what is being said behind those doors!

At the start of each TRM, the following materials need to be handed out to each manager and discussed:

  1. The Purpose of the TRM listing the seven reasons why the TRM is an important part of the cycle (see the points above) along with a list of evaluation biases to look out for. Click here for the Purpose of the TRM document: Talent Review Meeting Purpose
  2. The PA Ranking Sheet for their specific TRM session which helps the TRB with their review and calibration. I provided the Ranking Sheet last week bit will do so again here: 20XX HHHR PA Ranking Sheet (Example Organization)
  3. The Talent Review Notebook containing all the PAs for the TRB’s particular session.

HR is in charge of the meeting and is there to keep the proceedings professional, focused on the task, and on schedule.

Once the managers are seated and have been given the documents and notebook, they need to take a few minutes to study the PA Ranking Sheet and highlight the scores that, in their opinion and experience, seem out of place.

The process starts by HR and the members of the TRB opening up the TRM notebook and going to the PA of the first employee on the schedule. It’s best to schedule the strongest and/or most ‘HR supportive manager’ first. Meet with that manager beforehand to review what’s expected so they can be a model to the other managers.

HR should then say “Manager #1, Let’s start off by hearing about Employee #1 and why you scored them the way you did”. The manager will then go through, point by point, the Core Competencies and Objectives defending and giving the reasons behind each of the scores.

During their defense, HR and the managers making up the TRB should be asking questions and challenging the scores and comments that seem unusual, out of place, or those they don’t agree with.

At first, there probably won’t be much interaction as the managers will be afraid of stepping on each other’s toes. So it will be up to HR to model how the members of the TRB should behave. HR should question and probe for reasons why a manager scored their direct report taking special note of the 1s and 5s. Ask for specific reasons and examples from throughout the evaluation year of why they scored them the way they did.

Eventually, a couple managers will start getting it and will take over for you and start the heavy questioning and probing. And soon they will all start participating.

Also, refer to the Ranking Sheet and question the managers who score their direct reports lower than the average and those who score higher. The tough manager might have some of the organization’s best employees but will give them low scores compared to the others and visa versa, the generous manager might have some of the organization’s worst employees but give the very good scores compared to the others. This is where the manager and TRB make the appropriate adjustments to the scores in the PA as they work through it. This situation is very common at first but will correct itself as you continue with the TRMs in the future.

There will be times the manager won’t have a good reason why they scored the way they did. As they discuss, answer questions, and hear comments from other managers about their direct report’s performance and conduct, they will usually agree that the score should be changed. It can go both ways, up and down.

There will also be times when the manager feels strongly about the score despite what HR and the TRB thinks. This doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can get awkward and difficult. This is where HR needs to use their crucial conversational skills and help the TRB and manager make a final decision together. HR may have to accept the score or they may insist on changing it, it will depend on the situation and HR’s knowledge of the people involved. Remember, HR is in charge of this whole thing so don’t be afraid to flex your muscles if needed.

Once the TRB gets going, there will be comparisons between employees and how they’re scored.  Similar performing employees with similar results should have similar scores. This is good and should be discussed and explored. And the scores should be adjusted if appropriate.

It’s important to understand that this isn’t an exact science. This is about people evaluating other people so there will be a lot of intangibles and biases. But the TRB will do their best to even out the scores by exploring the intangibles and reducing the biases.

As a great solo HR leader, you should have a great professional relationship with most of the employees in your organization. You should have a good idea of how everybody is doing since you are constantly talking to and building relationships with them. And, since you have a good idea about the employees in your organization, does the manager’s score jive with your perception of the employee? Have there been forgotten discipline issues or performance/conduct awards the the manager has forgotten and isn’t taking into consideration? Dig, probe,and question. It’s up to you to drive the success, fairness, and accuracy of the TRM.

After each section of the PA – Core Competencies and each Objective – HR should ask if there are any further questions or comments and if everybody is OK with the scores and or revised scores, if any. If there is, continue the discussion, keeping the schedule in mind, and if there isn’t, move on to the next PA.

Keep good notes during the TRM. Record the revised scores and make notes of when you ask managers to expand on or clarify their comments in the PA. Once the TRMs are finished, HR will go back and make the changes to the scores and send the updated PA to the managers for them to deliver, reminding them to update the comments, if needed.

At the end of each meeting sincerely thank the participating managers by telling them the following:

Thank you very much for your participating in today’s TRM. It’s a lot of hard work but important work spending the time discussing the performance and conduct of our organizations most important asset, our people.

We were able to sit down as a team and learn more about our own people and the people of our peers today, and from what I saw, gained a lot of appreciation and value from it. I have a couple more days with other TRBs this week and once I’m done, I’ll get the final PAs sent to you next week so you can deliver them to your people.

Thanks again!

Whew, this was a long post but like I said, the TRMs are the most important aspect of the entire cycle. I could go into more detail but I think this is appropriate for a blog post and I’ll save the greater detail for a book in the future.

This post, hopefully will give you a good sense of the mechanics of how to run a TRM. Please don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any questions. I’d appreciate knowing what I need to clarify and expand on.

Next week, I’ll discuss week six, Delivery Week.

Pre and Week One of the PA Cycle: Prep and Training Week

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Today’s post is a continuation of the Performance Appraisal and Objective Setting cycle and where I start getting into the real meat of the program.  There is some prep work that needs to be done in December before you can start in January so I am covering off on that in addition to covering week one in this post.

Prior to the first week, in December, I launch the upcoming PA and Objective Setting cycle by sending out an email to all the supervisors in the company reminding them that everything will start in January.  I also include a timeline of all the important deadlines in that email.

They, of course, love getting this email just before the Holidays! Who wouldn’t?

I’m kidding and they hate it but it is important to communicate exactly what’s coming up as soon as the holidays are over.  The process is difficult and everybody needs to be ready to roll as soon as the calendar changes to January.  The end of December is a very quiet time for most small companies, except for retail, and let’s face it – most of us are on vacation or checked out and/or stressing out about entertaining family and buying gifts for everybody.

Here is an example of the email I send out:

Company Supervisors,

It is that time of year when everybody is thinking warm and joyous thoughts about the holidays and along with the peace, love and laughter of the season, it’s also time to start thinking about performance appraisals!  Yay.

Here is the schedule for the 2015 Performance Appraisal cycle:

  • Jan 6: 2015 PA Documents made available on the internal company HR webpage
  • Jan 7: PA training via webcast (details coming soon)
  • Jan 20: Preliminary PAs due to HR
  • Feb 2-8: Talent Review Meetings
  • Feb 8-12:  Supervisors to deliver PAs to their direct reports
  • Feb 17: Completed 2015 PAs due to HR

Everything you need and need to know is or will be available on the internal company HR web page, here.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Regards,
Rich

The next thing I do in December is update all the documents from the previous year to the new year. As you will see and as I will explain in more detail in future posts, the forms are on MS Word and Excel – old school but effective and affordable for most of us small HR departments.  I make sure the dates are changed on the forms and I review my notes from the year before and make any appropriate adjustments to the way we do things and to the forms based on suggestions the supervisors made last year.

I always encourage supervisor feedback about how we can improve the process and the forms because they are the ones in the trenches filling out the forms and delivering the PAs and have a good handle on what is and isn’t working.  I try to do everything I can to make it work well for them. Bonus: you will get more buy in on the process if they know you are listening and taking their suggestions and incorporating them in the following years’ process.

Immediately after the Holidays is when the cycle starts full swing and the supervisors are happy and ready to go (that’s what I tell myself, anyway).  They got the heads up from my email in December so there is no surprise when I start sending them information full speed at the beginning of January.

Beginning in week one of the cycle, I post all the updated current year’s documents, training materials, calendars, etc. on our internal company HR website  This way, everything is available to them whenever they need it.  If you don’t have something like this, you’ll just have to send everything via email to your supervisors.

Finally, and most importantly for this week and for the entire cycle, I conduct a training session for all the supervisors on why and how we do PA and Objective setting.  The training materials are fairly extensive and I’m including it with this week’s blog post.  The session should last only approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

I’m thinking I can write several additional posts about the training session but for the purposes of this series, I will just include the training PowerPoint so I can move on to the remaining weeks in the cycle. Much of the content in the attached training session will be included in future posts in this series and I think the PowerPoint is self explanatory since each slide has a script that goes along with it. You’re free to use the training and modify it as you see fit.

Well, this completes the the prep work and week one of the cycle.  Next week will be Week Two – Writing Week for PAs and Objectives where I will include the HHHR Objective Setting and Performance Appraisal forms and detail how they work together.

Here is the PowerPoint version of the training session.  The notes are included and can be seen in the window below each slide as you are reviewing them.
Managers 2015 HHHR Performance Appraisal Cycle Training

Here is a PDF version of the training session and a PDF of each slide with notes.
Managers 2015 HHHR Performance Appraisal Cycle Training

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.

Retooling Hard Hat HR

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Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, I took a lot of time off from my blog and podcast. I can blame it on a number of things, but bottom line, I just simply ran out of motivation. I’m sure I would have found time to post if I had been passionately motivated to do so. But I just wasn’t. It became a chore and I found it way too easy to find other things to do instead of work on HHHR.

It did bother me that I had abandoned my blog and podcast but not enough to to work on it.  At first, I enjoyed writing posts and putting out podcasts but as time went by, I just felt I didn’t have any real direction for HHHR. I didn’t feel comfortable with the niche I was trying to be a part of. I wasn’t even sure what niche I was in.  When you think about it, the HR profession is very diverse and complicated.  My niche was the entirety of HR which was entirely too big and left me feeling overwhelmed.

Then, after many months of HHHR being dormant and it nagging at the back of my mind, it came to me.

I’m going just focus Hard Hat HR on HR departments of one. Because that’s what I am. I’m in charge of a small HR department for a small mining company. That’s what I do and I do it well. So why not have that as my focus, my niche. I also, like most employees in a small company, wear several other hats. I do the Investor and Public Relations.

I don’t know what I was thinking before. What the heck does “Working Hard and Making it Safe for HR Pros” mean anyway? I guess I was trying to tie it into the Hard Hat theme but I was obviously trying too hard.

I think now that I’m just focusing on  HR departments of one, I can really concentrate on the issues that affect us because I experience those issues every single day and can write about those experiences and challenges. It gives me a great deal of subject matter. I will, of course, have to be careful about some things and won’t be able to share everything but I will take what I know and what I do and share it the best I can.

I also found myself worrying about my writing skills and how others would judge me when reading my blog.  This worry blocked me from sitting down and just banging something out, like I am now.  Even though I’ve stopped writing for a while, I continued to read many HR blogs and observed the folks writing them are clearly not worried about what others think, yet they have huge followings and are considered HR leaders – at least with their readers!

I know I’m not the most elegant writer.  I know I will make grammatical mistakes.  But I’m not going to worry about it any more and concentrate on just putting out good content that will help small and HR departments of one.  And I know the more I write, the better I’ll get.

So with that, I introduce the new and retooled Hard Hat HR, Building HR for Departments of One! I like it. I hope you do too.

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.