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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fun Appraisals

The owner of the company I work for has tasked me with coming up with a way to make employee evaluations “empowering and fun”. While I understand how to use employee evaluations in an empowering way, I have absolutely no idea how to make them “fun”. Furthermore, I’m not sure making them fun should be the goal. Aren’t they supposed to be objective? And since “fun” is a subjective term, doesn’t that make it impossible to do? If there isn’t a way to make them “fun”, how do I convince my boss it can’t be done? He wants everything to be “fun” and believes in making everything a game. I don’t know how to see that not everything in business is “fun”. Sometimes things just are what they are. Can you help??

Oh for heaven's sake, a fun performance appraisal. Let's see--have managers dress up like clowns to deliver the messages? Give everyone's appraisal in a Dr. Seuss styled-rhyme? Do appraisals on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disney World (arrgh!)?

I have to say I agree with you. One person's fun clown is another person's childhood nightmare. Blech.

I recommend going back to your boss and ask him how he expects you to carry this out. He'll probably say, "that's what I pay you for!" in which case, you respond, "Performance appraisals are about work, so I think they need to be fair and objective. I think the fun should be reserved for the company picnic."

Employees will NOT respond positively to any sort of "fun" appraisal process. If it truly is fun, it will not be empowering--an empowering appraisal needs to be objective and realistic and set goals that employees can achieve.

Fun appraisals. What will they think of next?

31 comments:

Rodolphe Mortreuil said...

Firing someone with a singing telegram?

Special Projector said...

Bless you EHRL, for speaking truth to ridiculousness. In my company, we run the gamut from managers who document every conversation with employees over the course of the year so they can easily write the evaluations, to those that look like they stayed up till 3 a.m. trying to come up with one sentence per category, to those who have their employees write their own, then they sign them and turn them in to HR. (My VP falls into the latter category; I have written my own for quite some time. And I look GOOD!)

HR Godess said...

Unfortunately, there is no "fun" way to tell an employee about performance issues. I also think that an employee should not be surprised in an evaluation. Peformance should be discussed all year long so there are no surprises in the appraisal.

Just for the record, I think all the HR people will agree, peformance appraisals are not "fun" for us to do either!

Evil HRISguy said...

Maybe they should try to get John Cleese to do their performance appraisals?

ljunker said...

I was once given a performance review by someone in a pumpkin costume. But it was Halloween, and it was a positive review, so I cut my boss some slack. Still, it was fairly surreal to listen to the Great Pumpkin talk about my performance!

Helen said...

"Fun" performance reviews sound like a great way to reduce headcount -- that would certainly get me on the phone to whoever had made offers recently.

Maybe it's worth asking the guy who suggested this if reducing headcount is what he wants to accomplish?

HR Wench said...

How about this: everyone that receives a certain "score" or above gets to throw a pie at your boss's face. That sounds like fun to me.

Andres said...

Dear Evil,
I agree with you 99% of the time, but you missed the mark on this one.

The company owner just handed this HR Professional a golden opportunity and you're reccomendation is to throw it back at the owner? The HR Pro needs to take the ball and run with it!

We'll never get a seat at the "proverbial table" if we belly-up every time we're tasked with something that requires a little ingenuity and verve!

Evil HR Lady said...

All right, Andres, you tell me how to make performance appraisals effective and fun.

jaded hr rep said...

Maybe fun isn't the right word, but why be so literal? I'm assuming the boss wants employees to be excited and energized about the review, and HR hopefully can create a culture where feedback and constructive criticism is seen as a development opportunity. Granted, it starts at the top, but rather than dismiss the whole idea, why not just go back and ask "Is this what you mean? If so, this is what I think we as a company should do.."

HR Godess said...

I'd be interested in hearing from any HR professional how to make this process "fun", literally or not. I agree that you can be more creative but it's never going to be a great experience for everyone. Some people just dread the process, no matter how "fun" you make it. I've even had people get significant raises, get great compliments and great marks and be angry with the amount of time it took going over the appraisal. It's frustrating to say the least!

Anonymous said...

Andres is right. Why do we in HR continually treat requests from executive leadership with such disdain? Why do we cling to old models /processes for doing our work (e.g., performance appraisals are not suppose to be fun, they're serious things) and then wonder why no one likes us.

And it's not a fair retort to challenge Andres with designing a "fun" performance appraisal unless you're also willing to share more company context. Give me a little time to get to know more about this company and its culture and I'll meet the "fun" request.

An executive who challenges us to actually think about infusing fun into a historically crappy event is a keeper in my humble opinion.

Or we can continue to demonstrate why Hammonds continues to be right in hi '05 Fast Company article...

Evil HRISguy said...

"Why do we in HR continually treat requests from executive leadership with such disdain?"

Because some requests (and some executive leadership) are "worthy" of disdain.

Anonymous said...

"Because some requests (and some executive leadership) are "worthy" of disdain."

This one included?

Anonymous said...

I am not an HR professional. I am a lowly worker in the system, so here is my opinion anyway. If my boss tried to make my performance appraisal fun, I would run away screaming. There are plenty of times for "fun" in the workplace, but performance review time isn't one of them. No matter what you do it won't be fun. My bosses are incredibly nice, give consistent feedback throughout the year, and for the actual appraisal they take me out to one of the nicest restaurants in town to discuss the review over lunch. It is still not fun, even though I am enjoying a wonderful lunch with people I enjoy. Don't waste resources and time trying to make something that people will always just want to be done with "fun."

Anonymous said...

Is your boss Michael Scott?

Andres said...

Evil ... ask and ye shall receive:

"Fun" Performance Appraisals @ HR Consumed

Anonymous said...

"Fun" in the workplace is vastly overrated.

Performance appraisals ought to be serious business, and in a professional atmosphere, they are. Too many people don't approach them seriously, therefore employees don't take them seriously.

Mike Doughty

Teri said...

I think the word "fun" could be read as "let's make this a lot less like throwing gladiators to the lions and a little more like a cooperative process where we can openly discuss all issues that impact our success as a company - some of those will be your performance, some of those will be my [your supervisor's] performance, some of those will be your ideas for process improvements, and some of those will be contingencies for civil disasters."

I would consider a performance appraisal in those circumstances to be a lot funner than a lot of other things I could be doing in the same amount of time: cleaning toilets, data entry from dirty copy, collection calls.

class factotum said...

Maybe next we can work on making pap smears and mammograms fun.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe next we can work on making pap smears and mammograms fun."

And HR people...

HR Wench said...

I think Teri nailed it. We don't know the original poster's boss or organization and what things are like around there. "Fun" could mean a lot of things.

The first thing that came to my mind, however, is that this may be a case of treating a symptom and not a cause of the organization's weaknesses (whatever those may be). A lot of times execs want HR to change the culture of an organization while they themselves offer zero support (and in fact literally do the opposite of what needs to be done to make the change).

For example: if you want performance reviews to be fun that is great but let's make sure we are speaking the same language first. What is "not fun" to you when you give your direct reports their reviews? Oh you're not giving them reviews and you never have? You don't intend to ever do so? Oh. Ok. I don't see this working without your support in giving your own troops reviews. What's that? Oh, you ARE supporting me by giving me this assignment. I see. My bad.

So HR goes along it's merry way and tries to make perf reviews fun. It fails. Why? No exec support (and sometimes, intended or not, exec sabotage). And then HR gets blamed for the failure of the program.

ARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH

Anonymous said...

I am a HR professional and I have been told that my employees did have 'fun' while going through their review. I think the goal is to make them 'less horrible'. I start reviews with some questions that help generate a conversation about how the employee feels about their performance, comfort level with their position, general office concerns, feedback for me, feedback for their supervisors, swapping ideas about the team. Just catching up with an employee and seeing how things are going is a wealth of information for me because HR is usually the last to know. I think starting the review with that and then carrying that type of 'conversation' feeling in to the actual review can make the process a little more fun.

Andres said...

The owners request was actually a mini appraisal itself. What the owner basically said was, "the appraisal process sucks - make it not suck".

That's good feedback!

What the HR Pro does with the feedback will show the owner if HR can add-value on it's own, or if Human Resources is really just fancy-talk for 'secretary'.

Dan McCarthy said...

I think performance appraisals are already fun. Some of my other fun hobbies include root canals, going to funerals, annual physicals, long staff meetings, downsizing, watching those commercials in movie theaters, and malaria.
But here’s 10 ways to make them even funner:
1.Do them QUARTERLY
2.Make the form longer
3.Insist everything be measurable
4.Do a forced distribution of ratings
5.Do them all at once within a few days
6.Conduct an adverse impact analysis
7.Invite the EEOC in for an audit
8.Automate the process with SAP
9.Form a committee on how to improve them
10. Implement a multi-rater process - more fun for everyone!

class-factotum said...

Dan, you forgot, "Say that employees in certain deparments (ie, Legal) are ineligible from ever getting the highest rating."

Evil HR Lady said...

Dan,

I bow to your greatness. That is a fabulous list.

And class-factotum has a great addition.

Ahh, how I love my readers.

Dave Ferguson said...

I'm not an HR person either, but I've seen the collateral damage from similar management seizures.

If you don't have a good match between goals and individual responsibilities, if your priorities shift, if you have managers who can't compare performance to goals, if you have managers who can't provide timely, accurate, constructive feedback (and "timely" doesn't mean "in time for the annual performance review deadline") -- in other words, if the organization doesn't know what performance is, nor how to review it -- then the Second Coming of Peter Drucker isn't going to give you a good performance review system, and no escapee from a Tony Robbins seminar is going to be able to make it "fun."

It doesn't take much for those whose performance gets reviewed to suspect the system is rigged, arbitrary, or a liturgical rite intended to explain why the stellar people got 4.5% and the cubicle potatoes got 3.0.

Why exacerbate that mistrust when you can treat people as adults?

HR Wench said...

D.F.: Brilliant as usual!

Roma Ahuja said...

Performance Appraisals are not Fun Related.This is Serious Business, defining the future of a person and deals with self esteems levels of a person.An Appraisal System needs to be fair and should empower the person to perform better in the new role or do his current job better.

I am sure Fun Appraisals can be best defined as Manipulative and fails ethics of a performance based system. Any Appraisal System with a result impacting a greater than 2 year period would have a high skew towards a judgement process and would result in an unhealthy work environment .

Roma Ahuja,Resources-india

Roma Ahuja said...

Performance Appraisals are not Fun Related.This is Serious Business, defining the future of a person and deals with self esteems levels of a person.An Appraisal System needs to be fair and should empower the person to perform better in the new role or do his current job better.

I am sure Fun Appraisals can be best defined as Manipulative and fails ethics of a performance based system. Any Appraisal System with a result impacting a greater than 2 year period would have a high skew towards a judgement process and would result in an unhealthy work environment .

Roma Ahuja,Resources-india