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Our culture revolution. Part 21: Is the Annual Appraisal dead?

Luke Kyte

Posted by Luke Kyte

04 October 2019

We’re just a normal agency. You may own one. You may work for one. We’re ticking along nicely, picking up new business and growing at a good pace. The team size has upped from 1 to 20 in five years, with plans of reaching 50 by 2021. Everyone seems happy. But we want more.

Day Zero was the launch of our manifesto. Its aim? To revolutionise our culture, attract amazing talent, and be recognised nationally as a great place to work.

Over the course of the next few months we’ll be taking you to the heart of Reddico, sharing our highs, our lows, and our eureka moments. We’ll be honest and open about everything. What works. What doesn’t. Whether you’re here for inspiration, to watch us fail, or out of sheer curiosity, welcome along.

No hours. No managers. Rules set by the team. Let’s see what happens next.

What is the point of an annual appraisal?

To summarise something I heard recently: “I’m walking into the room wanting to increase my salary. My manager’s walking in trying to manage their budget. My growth and personal development is completely off the table.”

And when you think about it, this just about sums up an annual appraisal.

In most businesses, a yearly review is tied in some way to salary expectations – and when money’s on the table you take away a core element of what the appraisal should be about – honesty.

The truth is, annual appraisals are dying.

Frequency of appraisals

The larger the company, the fewer appraisals someone tends to have. So, performance, growth, training, support, help, and advice are only factored in once every 12 months.

That’s hardly creating a culture of continuous development and feedback.

Who remembers what they did six months ago anyway?

The larger the gap between appraisals, the less chance of any action being taken. Appraisals should be about identifying ways to build on strengths and tackle new goals – if momentum isn’t carried on throughout the year, whatever’s talked about at the annual appraisal will soon be forgotten.

So, is it even worth it?

If anything, both parties are probably thinking the same thing. Let’s get this over with, so I can get back to work.

The feeling of dread

49% of people would take a pay cut to have a different line manager.

We’ve talked about this in the past – and it’s usually the result of someone being promoted based on skill set and job experience, rather than how good they are at supporting other team members.

That’s why we took the radical route of becoming managerless, and splitting the core job role into two – having department leads and coaches.

So, if half of the nation are fighting a losing battle with a manager they can’t stomach, it’s little wonder there’s a feeling of dread during any one-to-one – especially an annual appraisal.

Not to mention the format and questioning that surrounds the annual review.

Typically, these appraisals can have a negative outlook – especially when the focus is on:

  • Poor performance

  • Issues

  • Weaknesses or areas that need to improve

  • Targets that haven’t been achieved

It’s no surprise the average person wants to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Focusing on positivity

It’s not about sugarcoating.

It’s about creating a positive environment in which someone has the opportunity to really reflect on their experiences. You want annual appraisals to be something to look forward to, rather than feared.

And this can be achieved by being a lot more positive in the approach.

  • Focus on strengths, not weaknesses

  • Focus on achievements, not failures

  • Focus on the future, not the past

That’s not to say you’re simply meant to disregard any serious issues that have arisen in the past – but by changing the approach you can become a lot more positive on how to constructively change habits, rather than it being the sole focus.

How Reddico do it

To start with, we’ve unaligned appraisals with salary reviews. The two shouldn’t go hand-in-hand.

We’ve also increased the frequency of appraisals to once a quarter. This helps to build momentum, keeps people on track, and ensures goals aren’t stretched beyond 90 days (research suggests this is the maximum duration people can focus).

We also created a new template (inspired by our friends at Happy), focusing on:

  • Values

  • Company goals

  • Strengths

  • Successes

  • Achievements

  • Challenges

And this is all with the intention of creating a much more positive environment, where the team can get the help, support, motivation, empowerment and coaching they need to develop.

Take a look at our appraisal form below: