The Performance Appraisal: Going from Dread to Delight

It’s no secret that the traditional employee performance review doesn’t get a whole lot of love.  There are plenty of articles detailing how much managers dislike administering them, employees are uncomfortable participating in them, and companies are rethinking the process.  At the same time, open workplace feedback provides valuable managerial insights and is essential for employee development, morale and retention.  So, where is the disconnect?

Several factors have been identified as contributors, including a lack of training or too much subjectivity on the part of the reviewers; check-ins that are too infrequent, especially for those organizations still relying on the annual review; a focus on past work instead of future goals and skill building, and inconsistent processes across the organization that fail to generate actionable and measurable takeaways for all parties.

That’s a pretty hefty list, but take heart: it doesn’t have to be so hard.  Professor Arup Varma, PhD, of Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business can show you how and why the performance appraisal is a critical process you should be using with those you are sending on expatriate assignments as well as your overall talent population. He’ll be leading Performance Appraisals of Expatriates: Dos, Don’ts, and Why You Must! – an interactive and informative session offering specific, real-world examples and an opportunity for Q&A – during the Worldwide ERC® 2019 Global Workforce Symposium.  He’ll bring decades of education, research and teaching experience to the presentation, along with the benefit of numerous insights gleaned through his more than 50 published and widely cited articles in professional journals. He has also authored 35 book chapters, edited 6 books, including Performance Management Systems: An Experiential Approach, where he has co-authored 7 of the 10 chapters.

If developing successful practices for evaluating on-site associates has proven challenging, it’s easy to see how exponentially more complex it is for expatriate talent, where assignment drivers, durations, locations and goals are all unique layers that must be added into the mix. But getting the performance appraisal right is arguably even more critical for this population, not only because of the unique nature of their role, but for the significant investment the company is making in the employee and the assignment.  Professor Varma believes that one of the keys to designing and conducting effective expatriate performance appraisal methods is to focus on both the systems and the processes we use to conduct them. 

Throughout my research, I have seen two common problems across all types and sizes of organizations: raters who are tasked with evaluating talent without sufficient  training on how to do it, and expatriates who are unclear about what it is they are being evaluated on.
Arup Varma, PhD

While company cultures and global assignment goals are highly unique, there are some core questions that all talent mobility professionals can ask to help them get to a more efficient and productive evaluation process. Some examples to consider include:

  • How are those responsible for evaluating expatriate employees’ performance trained? No individual will ever be 100% objective, but there are methods for minimizing subjectivity by setting standards around what to evaluate and how.  An important part of this is frame-of-reference (FOR) training, which The American Psychological Association (APA) defines as: “training provided to those responsible for employee evaluation with the aim of improving the accuracy of their performance ratings. It involves providing raters with (a) a common reference standard to be used in performing evaluations and (b) practice in identifying good, average, and poor performances as defined by this standard.”
  • For both raters and expatriates, are the pre-, during- and post-assignment goals clearly identified, communicated and measurable?
  • To whom does the expatriate ultimately report while on assignment? Is he or she receiving consistent information and feedback from the home and host location managers, or are they in conflict? How familiar is the home-based team with the unique cultural aspects and requirements that shape business practices and outcomes in the assignment location?
  • How frequently do opportunities for feedback occur? Are there roadmaps for establishing what success looks like at certain points throughout the assignment duration?
  • How will the knowledge gained on assignment be brought back, shared and implemented upon completion? What’s next for the individual and the business?

Professor Varma has observed that many companies encourage employees to embark on a global assignment with the understanding that it will be beneficial to their professional development and growth. The reality, however, is that far too often, there is no plan for what that looks like, and personal development and future career trajectories tend to take a back seat to the immediate business goals and technical needs of the assignment. He has also found and can cite numerous examples of companies failing to focus on that critical aspect facing increased risks of losing expat talent – and all of the knowledge gained while on assignment – to their competitors upon their return. 

Goal-setting, regular feedback and future planning are all important parts of a successful global assignment, and it’s critical to have the right training, systems and processes in place to deliver them.  Help your organization go from dread to delight where the performance appraisal process is concerned – join us at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA on 17 October 2019, from 14:00 to 15:30, where we’ll give you the tools to learn how.   

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