Recognition, Rewards, and Performance Appraisal

by Louise Campbell, Managing Director Robert Walters Ireland

There is no doubt that the past year has been a challenge for us all – be it for managers or employees. One thing is for certain that a year in lockdown and remote or new flexible ways of working would have acted as a trigger for many professionals wanting to alter their ‘career goalposts.’

Managers should not automatically assume that the ambitions or personal objectives mentioned in previous appraisals 6-12 months ago are the same today – in fact it won’t be uncommon for more professionals to be swapping progression and compensation for perks that actively address work-life balance.

Look out for signs that your staff are not happy

With the prevalence of remote working it may be more difficult to see signs that your employees are not happy.

By and large the normal red flags of a decline of productivity, poor or unhelpful attitude towards colleagues, taking frequent sick days or being uncountable for long periods at a time, are all signs that it is time to sit down and check-in with your employee.

Whilst their may be grievances your end that you want to raise – such as poor performance, missing deadlines, and complaints from staff – it is important to give your staff the floor first and to assess whether there may be more context behind the recent change in attitude.

How to aid retention

The key to improving retention is to tackle it from the very start and identifying and selecting candidates who are likely to remain at the company for some time. This is not just about cultural fit alone, other things such as their professional ambitions, enthusiasm towards the type of tasks they will be working on, and passion towards what the company stands for – such as their CSR goals – all play a role in long term retention.

Training and progression opportunities are an obvious one but surprisingly many companies are always too slow to implement this at the right time.

If the past year has taught us anything, is that tailored benefits, solid and transparent communication, and investment in technology and smart working practices all help to keep employees happy in work.

Mid-year appraisal

The mid-year review meeting is an excellent opportunity to formally sit down with employees to:

  • Review goals and accomplishments to ensure everything is on track
  • Check-in on the general status of employees and how they are doing in their roles
  • Learn from employees on what is/isn’t working and what support or resources they need to deliver on expectations
  • Provide feedback on achievements and coaching for development
  • Communicate and plan for any changes in the company, team, roles or objectives that will affect the second half of the year.

But HOW managers approach mid-year review meetings can make or break everything. Just going through the motions and ‘winging it’ is not enough to ensure employees are on track and receiving the proper feedback and support they need to succeed.

Carrying out an effective mid-year review

Book the mid-year review meeting at least a week in advance with a formal meeting invitation. Your employee should understand that this is more formal than a water-cooler check-in or weekly touch-point and so communicate the purpose of the meeting in order to allow your staff member to adequately prepare.

Book a quiet room with plenty of cushion in your calendar so the employee knows they will be getting your undivided attention. We often suggest that managers have the meeting somewhere other than your office or where you would typically meet. If doing the call via zoom, gently point out that they choose a time in which they will feel less distracted at home – such as when children may be at school.

Start preparing a week in advance by collecting peer input, gathering all notes, doing a detailed review of job goals and responsibilities, and planning discussion points to structure the meeting in a positive yet constructive manner.

Always ask the employee to start the conversation with a recap of the last 6 months. Their comments will be very telling and should steer the rest of the discussion. Talking about or reflecting on yourself – be it good or bad – can be difficult and so try to keep employees talking by using leading statements like ‘tell me more…’ These leading questions can often stay with your staff member for some time and so remind the employee that you are available outside any formal meeting to discuss progress at any time.

Send an email after the mid-year review meeting to outline any key points, items to confirm (including dates on when the employee can expect to hear) and an outline of any promises or changes and when they will take effect. Deliver on any promises made or communicate the status to the employee, and schedule any other follow up discussion needed.

Discussing pay rises & bonuses

As with any formal sit down with employees, the discussion around compensation and benefits is always likely to come up. Its important to note that many staff often feel awkward to broach this topic and so rely on management to have this listed as a talking point. Regardless of whether it is good or bad news, managers should always encourage an open discussion even if it is for fact finding and to provide reassurance back to your staff member.

As will be the case for many companies this year – salary increases, and bonuses will be less likely as the economy recovers from the pandemic. However, managers should not assume that this is a good enough reason as in many cases productivity has increased whilst working from home – and so from an employees perspective they have done everything they can do ‘get the job done.’

Any discussions around pay and bonus freezes should always be handled sensitively and communicated in a way that the decision has not been taken lightly by the company. Promises for future pay increases are never wise, however as a manager you should have either prior to the appraisal or during the discussion obtained a good idea of personal and career goals that are important to your employee.

Whilst you can’t offer the pay rise, you can help put a plan in place that meets other needs around training & development, flexi-working, childcare needs, mentorship, and increased responsibility and autonomy.

Appraisals – regardless of performance – need to feel progressive and so it is important that no employees walks away feeling like they have less from the business than when they entered into the meeting.

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