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Peter Cook

Human Dynamics

Managing Director

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Blog: Punk Rock HR – Appraisals (It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it…)


This is the fourth extract of my new book “Punk Rock People Management – a no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff”.  Here's an extract on the topic of appraisal:

I have had the privilege of working with ‘Honorary Punk Rock Leadership Professor’ Dennis Tourish, who asks audiences of HR professionals “Who enjoys their appraisal?” 
Almost every time he asks the question, no hands go up! The next question he asks is obviously “So why do you make people do them?” Even more inexplicably, very few explanations are forthcoming. So, why do we do appraisals? Companies like Fred Perry are asking such questions.
Furthermore, why do many HR departments attempt to link appraisals with rewards? These are big questions which are relatively unquestioned.
Giving people praise and feedback is generally considered a ‘satisfier’, whereas pay is a ‘dissatisfier’ in Herzberg terms. Look at what happens when we attempt to combine appraisal with pay in pseudo-mathematical terms:
+ 1 (appraisal)     +     – 1 (pay)      =       0 (neutrality)
Is it any wonder that most people feel neutral at best with their appraisal? With a few exceptions where there is a broadband of opportunity to enhance pay through high performance, most attempts to link pay to appraisal produce pretty tepid results.
I’m not saying that we can simply dispense with any sense of giving people feedback on their performance. People need to know what they are doing well so they can do better and they need to know where to improve.
It ain't what you do…
However, when this is reduced to a bureaucratic ritual that overwhelms the results, something better change in the words of The Stranglers:
So, what is the alternative? The key to any successful appraisal is embedded in the wisdom of ‘punk pop poets’ Bananarama (OK, I know, they are not punks!), with their hit “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it – that’s what gets results”. 
People’s experience of appraisal is hugely dependent on how it is done, even if the appraisal is not overwhelmingly a good experience for the person on the receiving end. Punk Rock People Management offers us three chords on appraisal:
  • Find ways to praise what people do well on a continuous basis rather than storing it up for the appraisal. Use a personal communications channel rather than text or email for this purpose. Let people know immediately if you feel they need to improve. Discuss ways to achieve this rather than letting poor performance become a chronic problem.
  • Focus appraisal 80% on the future and 20% on the past, using it as an opportunity to improve personal and company performance.
  • Resist linking appraisal to pay unless your company can show a very clear link between extra effort and results. 
I'll be presenting on a range of HR topics at the Chartered Management Institute at the University of Bedford on Tuesday 13th November. Contact me for your ticket.
If you are in a hurry to read my book, simply contact me with PUNK in the title and I'll send you the whole e-book in one go for free

Peter Cook is managing director of business and organisational performance consultancies, Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.

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Peter Cook

Managing Director

Read more from Peter Cook

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