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How to Improve Employee Performance Through Appraisal & Coaching

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Many employees await the approach of job appraisal time with trepidation, feeling this evaluation determines whether they retain or lose their jobs. While you can and should use appraisals in retention and firing decisions, ideally, the employee appraisal process should focus on helping employees improve. Carefully craft a system of appraisals with follow-up coaching to build your workforce instead of terrifying them with the prospect of termination.

Complete a Specific Appraisal

An employee appraisal must be specific to be a useful tool in the employee improvement process. When you complete your employee reviews, cite as many specific examples to back up your rating as you can. In the absence of specific examples, employees are often left looking at a sheet of numbers with no real insight into where these numbers came from. With examples, employees can better understand their ratings and more effectively adapt their behavior to meet your expectations.

Develop Coaching Relationships

Begin coaching employees immediately following their appraisals. Coach employees yourself, or assign peer coaches. While organizing peer coaching is more work for you, employees may more willingly open up to peers than they would to management. For effective coaching, coaches must build relationships with those they are coaching, reminds Candice Frankovelgia for Encourage coaches to be patient with those they are coaching. Coaches should always be supportive, not judgmental. If you are acting as a coach, adopt these behaviors yourself, if not, remind your coaches of them regularly.

Goal-Set with Employees

To improve, employees must focus their efforts. Help them develop this focus by engaging them in goal-setting -- or, if you are not coaching directly, instructing coaches to do so. Select particular weakness areas by reviewing performance appraisals and assist the employees in setting goals in these areas. Compose a limited number of goals -- no more than three -- as too many goals make focus impossible. Make goals SMART -- an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely -- to ensure they are adequately actionable and focused.

Give Feedback

Your attempts at employee improvement will not be successful if you only give feedback once a year. As employees work to accomplish their goals, they need constant feedback, states Katherine Graham-Leviss for "Entrepeneur.” To effectively coach your workers, give feedback in a timely fashion. Make the feedback specific so the employee can modify the behavior in response to your suggestions. Also, Graham-Leviss advises, focus on the “what” not the “why.” For example, tell your employee, “In my observation, you have been tardy to work lately,” instead of, “I know you must have gotten stuck in traffic, but this needs to change.”