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Seminar to focus on employee appraisals

Paul Loftus

The importance of carrying out a successful performance appraisal will be the focus for a seminar held at the Bermuda Insurance Institute next month.

The one-day workshop, which will be run by Paul Loftus, Montreal-based industrial/organisational psychologist and international authority on the topic, on October 8, is open to executives, managers and team leaders who give appraisals on team members' performance.

Looking at the appraisal as an ongoing process that can make a big difference in the productivity of an individual, department or whole company, it will centre on three main topics: performance planning, feedback and errors in performance appraisal.

Furthermore, the session will concentrate on the role of the appraiser, considering such topics as fair assessments, strengths and weaknesses, realistic objectives, constructive criticism, dialogue on performance and overcoming biases.

"I want to get the point across that it is an ongoing event and not just a one-off," said Mr. Loftus. It is a difficult thing to do and many managers just don't have the skills to do it.

"But this is a skills building course to provide them with the comfort level to do this appraisal."

Attendees will have the chance to put what they have learned to the test through a practice interview in a "risk-free" environment, according to Mr. Loftus.

He said it was very important for a business or organisation to have specific objectives for what they want to achieve, in line with its mission statement, and to adhere to those from the outset of the performance appraisal process, from salary reviews to training and career development and even sorting out performance problems.

Mr. Loftus said that too many managers focused on the negative aspects of the appraisal, when it could be turned into a powerful motivating factor instead, while looking back at a previous performance to provide feedback and making future projections.

"It is all about what can you achieve and what can the organisation achieve," he said.

"You, as the manager, need to provide effective feedback to get maximum performance from the individual and help them with their career, at the same time as being aware of the organisation's system itself and having the skills to do this process effectively.

"My major concern is that the performance appraisal is done effectively.

"The idea is that you provide constant feedback throughout the year, so that the individual walking in there will know pretty clearly where they stand and what their rating will be, so there are no big surprises."

Mr. Loftus recommends managers keeping a log of their appraisee's performance over the past year so they have a fair and accurate record of how they have done during that period and are not affected so much by recent events concerning that individual.

Above all, he said it was key to remember that you are appraising the performance of the individual rather than the person themselves, but added that there were several courses of action in the event that someone was unhappy with their meeting, such as signing off to acknowledge the appraisal had occurred, even if you did not agree with some of the points made during the process or following a grievance procedure as a last resort. To make sure the appraisal was properly carried out, he said a follow-up meeting should be conducted at a later stage.

The seminar will also look at dealing with defensive communication in performance appraisal, prevent defensiveness through effective delegation of work assignments, give and receive feedback effectively, set performance objectives and pick up on and deal with errors that affect performance management.

Participants will receive a certificate of attendance that can be used as seven hours of continuing professional development credits.

To enrol or for more information contact the BII on 295-1596 or visit the website at www.bii.bm