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Guest Commentary: ‘You Can’t Handle the Truth!’ … Indeed, They Can

Based on his years of experience in human resources for automotive aftermarket firms, Dr. John Passante wants you to take a closer look at your approach to performance appraisals.

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John Passante is a broad-based senior executive with over 30 years of extensive organizational development and senior human resource experience with progressive corporations involved in multiple locations, both domestic and international.

No doubt, we all remember the dramatic scene from the movie, “A Few Good Men,” when Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) erupts and says, “You can’t handle the truth!”

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As we approach the end of 2018, the dreaded annual performance appraisal is fast approaching. My experience has been that many leaders feel their employees cannot handle the truth in these appraisals. I submit that employees deserve to hear the truth regarding their performance, and can, in fact, handle the truth. They seek the truth and deserve the truth!

The foundation for meaningful and impactive performance reviews includes:

  • The establishment of goals and clear expectations.
  • Ongoing review and truthful feedback, which results in assessing employees fairly and with supportive candor.

Mutual accountability strengthens the relationship between the leader and the associate (employee). A key element of sharing the truth is to communicate in supportive language and provide honest feedback, and to have a company culture of “no fear.” Indeed, the truth will set you free. Frank conversations should be encouraged and we live this culture every day.

The catalyst for the performance review process is to support the organization’s mission, strategy objectives and vision and to focus on core competencies and action. The purpose of the performance review is to enhance performance and reward appropriately.

Question: Is your performance review process human? Is it real? Does it inspire? Is it truthful and transparent? Is it inclusive? Game-changing performance reviews influence employees in real time. Feedback is ongoing. Thus, there should be no surprises at the annual review. Schedule timely performance snapshots, at least once a quarter. Employees seek a sense of personal value. Make the time to reinforce it. Be clear on what is desired from the employee. De-couple the performance review from the compensation review. The performance appraisal is the time to coach the employee. The discussion needs to be collaborative – a learning experience for both parties.

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It is a one-on-one session, to highlight the employee’s achievement for the year, their developmental needs, career aspirations and to layout a roadmap for the future.

The conversation is a give and take. It should not be a “got you” situation, but a mutually beneficial experience. The cadence of sharing performance feedback should be similar to the quarterly review of financial performance. Silence is not feedback, when it comes to employee’s performance. Do not assume that the employee clearly knows what you think of their performance.

Keep these things in mind for a beneficial performance review:

  • Constructive dialogue
  • Feeds on success
  • Be fair and accurate
  • Individual achievement
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Value-add to the customer
  • Encourage employee development
  • Reflect on experience
  • Recalibrate goals
  • Hold employees accountable and their unique aspirations

When leaders emphasize accomplishments and growth in performance conversations it results in employee engagement, motivation and improved performance. It is paramount to review the purpose of performance management, which is to develop employees and focus on the internal and external customer and paint the picture of their future.

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With the human touch, you can indeed create a workplace environment that supports employee happiness. Remember, happy employees are more likely to stay with your organization. Employees are not unicorns. They are human beings with hearts and dreams. We all need to take the time to truly pay attention to the business enterprise. Personal interaction gives out positive energy. Employees see sincere interest as caring.

It is the leader’s role to understand each of their employees and be open and available and to speak with integrity. Give your employees the room to fly! And then step back and watch the magic that occurs. An honest and open performance appraisal leads the way to enlightenment for both the leader and the employee.

And remember your employees can “handle the truth.”

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