Friday, June 27, 2008

Ten Tips to Maximize Your Performance Appraisal Documentation Skills (part 3)

By Paul Falcone

Rule 5: It’s okay to give an A.

Do you remember those college professors who never gave A’s? It seemed that no matter how hard you worked or how much extra credit you turned in, they were simply implacable:

An A was little more than a lofty dream.

It shouldn’t work that way in the workplace. Saying thank you for a job well done and recognizing special achievements should be a matter of practice, not a matter of exception. It’s perfectly acceptable to write at the conclusion of an appraisal:

Patty, thank you for your ongoing contributions and continued hard work over the past year. You’ve made our department a better place by your willingness to assume additional responsibilities, your friendly customer service, and by the care you put into everything you do. Keep up the excellent work, and remain a role model for your peers. I’m proud of you and very appreciative of all you’ve done.

Again, your merit pool may only be 2 percent, or maybe you have no merit pool at all this year. The overall score on the review shouldn’t be lowered because you have a smaller merit pool than you’d ideally like to have. What’s important is the written message: Those parting words in the annual review, now made into a formal company record, will have an incredible impact on your employee’s sense of job satisfaction and self-worth. And think what a gift you’ll have given her to

share with family and friends at home as well as perspective employers in years to come.

Of course, you should also be a bit cautious about being too flowery in your accolades and compliments. Should that employee later fall from grace and you terminate the individual for cause, your stellar recommendations from prior years may be enlarged and placed before a jury as evidence of the individual’s worth and work ethic.

Rule 6: Don’t give everyone A’s!

If you routinely give all of your direct reports the highest overall grade rankings, you’re probably doing something wrong. It’s possible to say that at one particular point in your career, every individual member on your team may be the best worker you’ve ever had the joy of supervising. Maybe you’ve got the best line-up of staff members in your entire industry.

Reality, though, is probably not quite as optimistic: Managers who award A’s to everyone on their team often have the problem of distinguishing between genuine superior performance and overall good work. They also often wish to avoid the confrontation that comes with providing more down to earth, albeit realistic performance scores.

The solution is pretty simple: Rank order your staff in terms of who is your most critical contributor versus who probably would make the least difference if she resigned tomorrow. Your superstar would be a 5; your ‘‘least stellar’’ worker, who still performs at a very acceptable level, would be a 3. Your other staff members will probably fall into the 4 category.

Think of it another way: You’re not doing your subordinates any favors if you continuously give them 5s. Agree together on areas for growth and learning and push them to develop their technical skills and formal education by attending discipline-specific workshops and conferences. It’s a more honest appraisal methodology, and a 5 will really be something to strive for.

If you’ve only given 5s in the past but want to give more 4s and 3s this year, simply hold a staff meeting in advance of the performance appraisal meetings and let your subordinates know that you’ll be evaluating everyone differently this year. State that although you’ve typically given higher grades to the group in the past, you want to work on customizing each appraisal this year in terms of objective feedback and development plans. That means the overall scores may be a bit lower, but the value of the entire process, especially the development plan, will increase, and that’s to everyone’s benefit.

Rule 7 : .........

Source : 2600 phrases for effective performance reviews. Paul Falcone. 2005

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ten Tips to Maximize Your Performance Appraisal Documentation Skills (part 2)

By Paul Falcone

Rule 3: Understand how documentation can be used against your company if composed the wrong way.

Here’s a special consideration: When employees are terminated for cause and bring wrongful termination actions against prior companies, judges and arbitrators look to the consistency in a company’s written communication in order to justify the termination and determine which party prevails.

This written record is typically found in the form of written warnings and annual performance reviews, laid out side by side on a table as exhibits. But which one is more important in an arbitrator’s eyes: the annual review or the written warning?

Generally speaking, the annual appraisal is given more weight in legal deliberations because it covers an entire year’s work. A written warning, in comparison, could simply be the result of one bad day in the office or a short-term string of thoughtless acts or omissions. Think of it this way: A written warning typically functions to break the chain of positive performance evaluations that’s been documented over a number of years. Still, the annual appraisal is generally viewed as the ‘‘anchor’’ document that evidences the company’s formal communication record with its worker.

In comparison, the written warning serves to reestablish and redirect the company’s written communication record by placing an individual on notice that failure to provide immediate and sustained improvement may result in further disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. Disciplinary consequences written this way clearly state that an individual’s position is in serious jeopardy of being lost. It would subsequently be very difficult for plaintiff attorneys to argue that their client (your ex-employee) was denied workplace due process because the individual couldn’t discern—based on your company’s formal communication record—how serious the situation had become.

The question you have to ask, of course, is whether one written warning or multiple warnings will be necessary to justify a termination. That can only be answered on a case by case basis, depending on an individual’s tenure, historical performance record, and protected category status. Remember, however, that you have a lot more discretion to terminate or issue a final written warning for a first-time ‘‘conduct’’ offense (like theft or insubordination) than for a ‘‘performance’’ infraction (like substandard work quality). In the case of performance infractions, you’ll typically be expected to provide workers with all the steps of progressive discipline typically accorded under your company’s policies and past practices, which could include written and final written warnings as well as suspensions, in some cases.

However, if written warnings are subsequently followed by a positive annual performance review showing that the employee has improved and now meets company expectations, then that positive performance evaluation will, in essence, nullify the written warning issued during the review period.

So if you have any remote hesitations about an individual’s ability to make it in your department or company in the upcoming year because of his sub par job performance or inappropriate workplace conduct, document it! You should grade the individual as ‘‘not meeting expectations’’ in the ‘‘Overall Score’’ section at the end of the performance appraisal form. Otherwise, the positive record that you create today will make it harder to terminate the individual tomorrow.

Rule 4: Performance reviews are absolute, not relative.

Too many unsuspecting, yet good-hearted managers feel that they’ve given an employee a real message regarding their substandard performance by assigning them lower grades than everyone else on the team. If the other four employees in your unit received ‘‘exceeds expectations’’ scores (for example, 5 out of 5), and this particular individual received only a ‘‘meets expectations’’ score (for example, 3 out of 5), shouldn’t she realize that she’s performing poorly?

Absolutely not! If the company deems a 3 an acceptable score, then the employee hears that she’s met expectations. In a court of law, that individual employee may state that she realized that she scored lower than everyone else in the department or that she had no idea what scores the others received. In either case, her lawyer’s argument will simply state that she had no idea that her job was in jeopardy because her overall score was acceptable.

The lesson here is simple: If the overall score for the performance period shows that the individual is not meeting company expectations, then your communication record will remain consistent and incontestable in its intent. On the contrary, trying to hang your hat on the ‘‘message’’ that one person received the lowest overall score in the unit is no defense to a wrongful termination charge. A jury most likely would not sustain your logic that the employee had cause to believe that she was heading down the road to termination.

Likewise, most performance appraisal forms have nine or ten individual categories in addition to the ‘‘Overall Score’’ at the end. Substandard scores in individual categories will certainly help your case if you’re forced to defend a termination, but in and of themselves, they may not be an absolute defense. Instead, be sure to give the individual a failing ‘‘Overall Score’’ at the end of the appraisal form to reflect unacceptable performance for the entire review period.

Rule 5: ..........

Source : 2600 phrases for effective performance reviews. Paul Falcone. 2005

Saturday, June 21, 2008


What do we mean by ‘‘employee loyalty?’’

We’re talking about employee commitment tied to an organization, one made from the first day of employment in return for guaranteed employment, with a career ladder for promotion, for those employees who show up on time and give more than a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. During the economic boom, the impact of the past economic downturn, with downsizing after downsizing, likely contributed to the job-hopping that companies experienced among their most talented employees. Past experience had given employees little reason to stay with one employer if a prospective employer had a better offer.

HR managers found themselves occupied with filling one vacancy after another. It was hard to keep employees because many chose to ‘‘go solo;’’ that is, become independent and work on a contractual or freelance basis. Called ‘‘contingent workers,’’ these individuals were used to fill workforce gaps. During boom years, many IT experts chose to become consultants and work on contract. During our economic downturn, contingent workers can save employers money, working only during peak job periods or otherwise doing short-term assignments. In the beginning, one thought only about contingent work in relationship to clerical tasks. Temp agencies provided administrative assistance when an assistant was out sick, on maternity leave, or on vacation. But today, contingent work is that and much more.

Assignments vary. Attorneys, business executives, HR professionals, software engineers, accountants, hotel workers, nurses and other medical professionals, and technical support staff – all can be contingentworkers.

The boom period also prompted companies to study their existing personnel to determine if they could take on more responsibility. It was felt an effective way to fill a vacancy, particularly since experienced workers would bring some loyalty to the company, along with past experience in the company, with them to the job. This led to creation of employee skills inventories.

Source : Recruiting & Retaining People .Florence Stone. 2002

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ten Tips to Maximize Your Performance Appraisal Documentation Skills (part 1)

By Paul Falcone

Rule 1: There should be very few surprises in the annual review.

This is a ‘‘total recall’’ document reflecting twelve months of work. If something totally new needs to be surfaced now, you probably didn’t do a thorough enough job communicating with the employee throughout the review period.

So sharing performance concerns for the first time during the performance appraisal should be the exception, not the rule. Still, sometimes it may be necessary to do so, even though that may appear to ‘‘blind side’’ the employee. Nothing is more de-motivating than finding out that your overall performance didn’t meet company expectations when you thought you were doing fine. Typical complaints sound like this:

‘‘I can’t believe my boss. She gave me an overall review score of 2 out of 5, meaning that I didn’t meet expectations. It would have been nice if she’d told me some time over the past year that I needed to improve

in a particular area. She’s always so nicey-nice and perky to your face, and then she stabs you in the back on the annual review. Well, I have a pending meeting with the division president to discuss my supervisor’s

shortcomings, and this review she gave me will be the first item of discussion.’’

To avoid such lose-lose situations, whenever you’re faced with documenting new issues for the first time in an annual review, acknowledge in writing that the matter hasn’t been formally brought to the employee’s attention beforehand. For example, ‘‘I recognize that we haven’t formally discussed . . . , but I felt it appropriate to bring this issue to your attention during this annual performance review because. . . .’’

Assuming you have a compelling reason to include brand new information in a document that covers an entire year’s performance, this open and honest approach will make your documentation appear to be more objective and evenhanded. More importantly, the employee may perceive the entire matter as ultimately fairer because the disclaimer at least acknowledges that this is new terrain.

Rule 2: Review the employee’s prior year performance review(s) before attempting to draft a new appraisal.

Performance reviews aren’t meant to be conducted in a vacuum. They only make sense if they logically follow the prior year’s performance appraisal notes. Therefore, look to prior reviews for areas of particular strengths, weaknesses, or areas for development.

Which areas have improved?

Which areas have remained stagnant and in need of further development?

What’s the overall performance trend when comparing this year to last year?

Rule 3 : .........

Source : 2600 phrases for effective performance reviews. Paul Falcone. 2005

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


There are three components of the Performance Management Cycle:

1. Goal setting and planning

2. Ongoing feedback and coaching

3. Appraisal and reward

The annual performance appraisal clearly speaks to the third issue, but appraisal and reward can’t be accomplished in a vacuum. That third stage is the culmination resulting from ongoing efforts in the first two stages. The performance management cycle is a continuum leading to a particular resolution in the final (third) step, but all three stages are intrinsically linked to the end result—the performance appraisal and associated merit increase (reward).

Annual performance appraisals are not meant to be a paper chase—a mandatory exercise that creates a snapshot of your impressions as a supervisor about a subordinate’s work. Instead, they should be a collaborative effort that builds on open communication and constant feedback. Thus, investing in goal setting should be a two-way communication: Employees who have advanced input into their own career development will typically buy in to the suggestions much more readily than when those goals are imposed from above. And remember, no matter how ‘‘perfectly written’’ these goals are on the actual performance appraisal form, they’ll be useless without ongoing communication throughout the review period.

So keep a copy of each of your staff member’s annual reviews in your desk, and make sure they do the same. Develop a habit of reviewing the status of performance achievement and skills development on a quarterly basis. You’ll find that your business relationships will be focused, you’ll never again feel like you’re flying blind, and your subordinates will have less of a need for ongoing supervision.

Source : 2600 phrases for effective performance reviews. Paul Falcone. 2005

Friday, June 13, 2008

10 Techniques for Learning Names

In an active-training environment, the participants are as important as the trainer. When participants are called by their names, they feel important. There are a variety of ways to learn others’ names. Some (such as Name-Learning Assignment and Alphabetical Sign-In) are relatively straightforward; others (such as Name Bingo and Do You Know Your Neighbors?) make learning names into a game.

1. Name-learning assignment. Ask participants to learn as many names as possible, either by going up to others and introducing themselves or by reading one another’s name tags. After several minutes, stop the group and ask the participants to cover up or discard name tags, name lists, and the like. Now challenge participants to look around and quiz themselves on the names of others in the class. If desired, repeat the learning and self-quizzing activity as many times as you like. Within ten minutes, it should be possible for participants to learn at least twenty names.

2. Name chain. Ask each participant in turn to share his or her name and the names of the people who have already introduced themselves. For example, the first person to introduce himself or herself need only say his or her name, but the second person is required to give the first person’s name as well as his or her own. As the chain becomes longer, there will be more names to remember; however, the names will by then have been repeated several times. You can make the name chain alliterative by inviting each person to use an adjective before his or her name that begins with the same letter, as in “creative Carol” or “lucky Lee.” The alliterative adjectives help others to remember the participants’ names and often add humor to the activity. Or invite participants to say their names and then accompany them with some physical movement. The movement then becomes a mnemonic aid.

3. Alphabetical sign-in. Pre-mark sheets of flip-chart paper with the letters of the alphabet. Tape the flip-chart paper to walls around the room. Direct participants to sign the sheet containing the first initial of their names and to find others with the same initial. Then instruct the participants to look over the other sheets and attempt to identify as many names and faces as possible.

4. Alphabetical lineup. Invite participants to arrange themselves in alphabetical order by their first names. This task forces participants to find out other names in the group. Or do a “nonverbal name lineup” as a way to review names after participants have introduced themselves in conventional fashion. Ask participants to line up in alphabetical order by their first names without talking to each other.

5. Name bingo. Ask participants to mill around the room and meet one another. As they exchange names, have them write each name anywhere on a blank bingo form you have made for them. Create a 3 x 3 format of squares if the group has fewer than ten people, a 4 x 4 format if the group has sixteen or fewer, and a 5 x 5 format if the group has twenty-five or fewer. Instruct participants to place an “O” on any box not used up after meeting each participant. Then place a copy of everyone’s name in a hat. As the hat is passed around the group, each participant picks a name out of the hat. Everyone places an “X” on the box on their form containing the name picked. Whenever any player obtains bingo (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), he or she yells “Bingo!” Eventually, everyone will get bingo several times.

6. Name tag mix-up. Give each participant the name tag of someone else in the group and ask each person to find the owner of the name tag. Invite participants to circulate until every person receives his or her name tag.

7. Do you know your neighbors? Form a circle and place one participant in the middle. Ask that person to point to someone in the circle and challenge him or her with the question, “Do you know your neighbors?” If the person in the circle can successfully say the name of the people immediately to his or her right and left, the person in the middle stays there and challenges another person in the circle. When a participant fails the neighbor test, he or she replaces the person in the middle. As the game is played, frequently change the positions of the participants in the circle.

8. Personalized name tags. Provide materials so that each participant can develop a name tag that uses any of the following:
  •  Interesting calligraphy
  •  A personal logo
  •  A zodiac sign
  •  An object or animal that symbolizes some personal quality
  •  A coat of arms
  •  A collage of magazine cutouts that contain favorite expressions or objects
Ask participants to meet one another and to learn names.

9. Name toss. Have group members stand in a circle with one person holding an object that can be easily thrown and caught, such as a ball or a beanbag. The member holding the object says his or her name and tosses the object to another group member. The person catching the object gives his or her name and tosses the object to another group member. Continue the tossing until all participants have introduced themselves. When the final member has been introduced, ask that person to say the name of another group member and then toss the object to that person. The receiver then repeats the name of the person who tossed him or her the object and says the name of another group member before tossing the object to that person.

10. What’s in a name? Have participants introduce themselves and then share any of the following about their names:
  •  What I like or dislike about my name
  •  Who I was named after
  •  A nickname that I like or dislike
  •  The origin of my name
After these introductions, challenge participants to write down the names of all the members of the group.

Source : 101 Ways to Make Training Active. Mel Silberman.2005

Friday, June 6, 2008

10 Questions for Obtaining Participant Expectation

There are a variety of questions you can ask to find out the needs, expectations, and concerns of the participants so that you can gear instruction appropriately. You can obtain answers through open discussion, a go-around, response cards, fishbowls, polling, panels, games, and so on.

1. Why did you choose this class? Why did you come?

2. What questions about [subject matter of class] do you come with?

3. What advice, information, or skills do you want to get from this class?

4. What advice, information, or skills don’t you need or don’t you want?

5. What do you want to take away from this class? Name one thing.

6. What are your hopes for this class? What are your concerns?

7. Do the class objectives match your needs?

8. What knowledge or skills do you feel you “need” to have? What would be “nice” to have?

9. What are your expectations about this class?

10. What have you learned from previous classes on this topic?

Source : 101 Ways to Make Training Active. Mel Silberman.2005

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Organization Development Defined

According to Clardy (2003, p. 785):

“The field of planned organization change was long equated with organization development (OD). OD proponents were up-front with the bona fides of their approach: full disclosure, informed consent, inclusive participation, and so on. These canons of OD provided the principles and practices that could be applied to any organizational change project. Yet, for a number of years, standing alongside the OD literature were smaller volumes (Zaltman & Duncan, 1977, was an early example) that did not so neatly fit the OD mold. By these accounts, the geography of organizational change management was bigger than that encompassed by OD.”

While some might disagree with the assertions in the preceding paragraph, those assertions are effective in forcing readers to confront what they believe about OD—and what they do not.
Over the years, organization development has been defined by just about every author who has written about it. Here are a few chronologically organized definitions that represent a range of ways to understand OD:

• Organization development is an effort (1) planned, (2) organizationwide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organization’s “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge (Beckhard, 1969, p. 9).

• Organization development is a response to change, a complex educational strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of organizations so that they can better adapt to new technologies, markets, and challenges, and the dizzying rate of change itself (Bennis, 1969, p. 2).

• Most people in the field agree that OD involves consultants who try to help clients improve their organizations by applying knowledge from the behavioral sciences—psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, and certain related disciplines. Most would also agree that OD implies change and, if we accept that improvement in organizational functioning means that change has occurred, then, broadly defined, OD means organizational change (Burke, 1982, p. 3).

• Organization development is a top-management-supported long-range effort to improve an organization’s problem-solving and renewal processes, particularly through a more effective and collaborative diagnosis and management of organization culture—with special emphasis on formal work team, temporary team, and intergroup culture—with the assistance of a consultant-facilitator and the use of the theory and technology of applied behavioral science, including Action Research (French & Bell, 1990, p. 17).

• Organization development is “a systemic and systematic change effort, using behavioral science knowledge and skill, to change or transform the organization to a new state” (Beckhard, 1999, personal communication).

• Organization development is a system-wide and values-based collaborative process of applying behavioral science knowledge to the adaptive development, improvement and reinforcement of such organizational features as the strategies, structures, processes, people, and cultures that lead to organization effectiveness (Bradford, Burke, Seashore, Worley, & Tannenbaum, 2001).

Source : Practicing Organization Development.William J Rothwell & Roland Sullivan.2005