Amidst all the Christmas carolling and last-minute present shopping, it’s EPA season in Sodexo, and in our office that’s been cause for some serious debate. As my Sodexo colleagues will know, the Employee Performance Appraisal (EPA) focuses on a quality conversation with our managers around personal contribution, development and career aspirations. Various EPA deadlines have recently passed (with yesterday being deadline day for individual sign-off) and since EPA has been the number one searched-for item on Sodexonet for the last few weeks, I’m guessing there’s been a scramble akin to Oxford Street on Christmas Eve to get all the one-to-ones completed and submitted on time.
This process is separate from our business objectives, which we set and agreed a few months ago. EPA is about the personal stuff – learning, personal development, goals, and aspirations. Now I love this sort of thing – give me some questions, and I’ll deliberate for ages, trying to make sure I’ve thought of everything. As any of my previous managers will attest, my written answers are comprehensive – no danger of one-word responses from me, that’s for sure.
But there are definitely two schools of thought. One of my colleagues was lamenting the pointlessness of it all – what’s the point of looking backwards? The past is in the past! And once everyone started getting their views in, it became clear that this is a very emotive topic, and there are numerous and some quite excitable points of view.
As mentioned, I’m totally pro the appraisal process, I love talking about what’s happened and how I can learn from it, and what may be coming up in the future. That’s not to say that the questions, the responses and the conversations around them are always easy. I just think it’s important to have them. So the very vocal members of my team who struggle with the process caught me by surprise, and I thought they were surely in the minority until I started doing a little digging. It seems my team is not that unusual after all – according to hrmagazine.co.uk, 58% of organisations feel that performance appraisals are not an effective use of time. Look further and it becomes clear that the appraisal process gets quite a bad rap – according to http://www.business2community.com, 44% of employees don’t think their boss is honest during the process and 1 out of 5 employees think their bosses don’t even think about the appraisal until they’re in the room (the site also lists a further 11 “disappointing performance appraisal facts you really need to know”).
The thing is, appraisals, development reviews, EPAs – whatever your organisation calls them – are not about a rushed meeting at the end of year, struggling for examples about how you have or haven’t displayed ideal behaviours, and hurriedly filling out a form. Unfortunately however, it seems that this is how many of them happen in reality. The appraisal is a process, an ongoing cycle of review, feedback and discussion about you as an individual in your current role, in your future, and in everything inbetween. It’s an integral part of the role you fulfil now and into the future, not an add-on that should be crammed into daily operations. Beth Miller, Leadership Development Advisor, Speaker and Executive Coach suggests “banish[ing the word] ‘Annual’ from your performance review vocabulary” (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237585) and she has a point – it’s really important to see the process holistically, not just as an unnecessary distraction at an already busy time of year.
Companies like Sodexo have robust talent management and succession plans in place, and coupled with our Focus on Five principles this aims to foster a culture of focusing on our people, not just on EPA deadline day, but all of the time. Vocalising how you would like to develop, where you might need a bit of guidance and where you think you’d like to be six months, a year, or five years from now (or importantly where you don’t necessarily want to be), stands you in great stead for springing to mind when the right opportunities arise.
This isn’t always easy – I certainly struggle with many questions and still struggle to express my long-term career plan without a lot of um’s and ah’s – but I stand firm in my belief that our EPA is a crucial tool for ourselves and our organisation.
On that note, I can confidently say that my short-term plan involves mulled wine and mince pies – so Merry Christmas everyone, and best wishes for 2015!