Employee performance is often a dilemma for leaders and managers. Employees rated as excellent performers during a year often drift to the other end of the spectrum faring too bad in the next appraisal. Why does this happen? Why do such employees lose focus during the year and underperform? Not all employee appraisals are successful in being routine motivators or de-motivators. Apart from discussing the past and directing for the future, the appraisal process should also be used as an instrument for increasing employee engagement season after season. Here is a process that shows how such a process can be followed.

Inherent goal: When most appraisals focus on improvement in productivity and performance, employees are lost in the race to do more. They lose focus and hardly have interest and motivation to do things better. You cannot crib about lack of innovation in your employees if you focus on short-term objectives such as productivity charts and performance graphs. Understand that the root cause behind performance or leadership in innovation is backed by greater employee engagement level. Hence, you need to include the need to enhance employee engagement as part of your appraisal. Whether you explicitly add it as a goal for each manager or not, you need to reinforce the importance of understanding employee engagement.

Alignment: You cannot conclude that all employees who perform well or are very productive are really engaged and fully committed to their work. For example, some employees might get used to a kind of work that they improve in it at a comfortable pace without putting their minds and passion. Thus, you need to let employees know that employee engagement should be visible in the way in which they perform and need to inculcate a culture of creativity and innovation. The human resource department can also play a significant role in explaining the alignment between these two to various employees.

Track: Let each manager track the engagement graph of each team member. This should be a regular exercise and not left alone during the annual appraisal process. Even though the manager need not have a formal discussion with the employee, there should be some discussion if there are some changes necessary. Likewise, when there is an improvement in employee engagement, the manager should at least appreciate the employee. Wherever possible, the manager should reward employees for the change if the magnitude of change is helpful for a good number of people. For example, a laid back employee might appreciate the manager's communication with regard to employee engagement and put his heart to come up with an innovation that benefits the entire and saves a lot of productivity time.

Finally, the manager should not prepare a strategy for every individual employee if it has been communicated that they need to improve in their engagement levels. The manager should discuss with the employee and help in formulating a plan that will reach this goal. Thus, the employee should be the driving force in charting individual success. Employees should be encouraged to brainstorm together to come up with better ideas to perform better as a team with more commitment. They should list out the roadblocks and share them with the manager. Thus the engagement levels of the team can also be planned and tracked effectively.

While productivity and performance are the ruling factors in any appraisal, the manager should learn to appreciate the importance of employee engagement while rating the employee at the end of the year. This is very critical in letting the employee continue improving the engagement and commitment and avoid a downward shift in the morale graph.

Chakravarthy Tenneti