Why a Non-Profit Scrapped Their Appraisals Process

In: BlogDate: Jul 25, 2018By: Henry Stewart

“Appraisals don’t really work,” argues Sophie Bryan. But is there a better way?

“Working in HR you get lots of negative feedback. People complain that they don’t agree with their manager’s rating [of them]. They especially resent getting feedback on something that happened long ago,[something] that they are now powerless to correct. They ask ‘how can I be rated about something he didn’t tell me about six months ago?’

“They also take up a lot of effort on the part of the manager and the employee, as well as HR, and they don’t really inspire high performance. There has to be a better way.”

I spoke to Sophie to discuss this idea further, and find out what the alternative to appraisals is.

The alternative to appraisals

“The alternative is to create a coaching culture. You can give effective coaching and feedback regularly, in short discussions, to help people come to their own conclusions on their performance — for points of reflection and meaningful learning — instead of this six-monthly, one hour teeth-pulling exercise.”

Until this year Sophie was Director of Workplace Culture at a social housing charity. “We had got to the point of stopping appraisals and were putting in place a new processes. If there are organisations that want to adopt this approach, the crucial bit is figuring out how to align your coaching culture. You can’t just pull appraisals and expect it all to work.

“Everybody has to be bought in, with leaders and managers trained how to be coaches, staff having an understanding of what makes them a good coach, and a commitment to play to strengths.

“You have to build a culture where coaching is at the heart of business. For me, coaching is about what I’ve devised as the 3 Cs – Connection, Collaboration and Curiosity.

“More and more companies are moving from an appraisal based approach. Google does it well. Adobe have recently scrapped their appraisal process. Even General Electric – famous for forced distribution of staff – have abandoned appraisals.

“What do I love about this profession? I want people to walk into work and feel the ‘wow’ in work. I want them to wake up in the morning and be engaged and eager to go to work. And that’s about creating an engaged, strengths-based and happy workplace.”

Best advice I’ve received

“Whenever I was having moments of doubt, my colleague Denise would ask me ‘What can you learn from that?’ It really helped refocus and see the positive in every situation, and is now one of my mantras.”

The advice I’d give

“Build networks and see the opportunity in everyone you meet. When you need to look for advice or expertise, coaching or mentoring – you’ve got a really good network around you so that you can connect, collaborate and act on curiosity, that’s how you learn and grow.”

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he built a company with a reputation for some of the best customer service in the country and one of the UK’s best places to work, winning multiple awards for its culture and philosophy.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

Outside of work he is a father of three, was Chair of Governors at his local primary and comprehensive in Hackney and a very keen cyclist.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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