Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching

Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching

by Donald L. Kirkpatrick

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"When Dick Grote, in the Foreword to this book, writes that “nothing’s changed,” he is not speaking to the state of the human resources field or the art of performance management, both of which have evolved continuously, profoundly, and for the better.

Nor is he describing the content of the new second edition

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"When Dick Grote, in the Foreword to this book, writes that “nothing’s changed,” he is not speaking to the state of the human resources field or the art of performance management, both of which have evolved continuously, profoundly, and for the better.

Nor is he describing the content of the new second edition, which, in fact, contains comprehensive material on a whole new generation of jobs in technology, customer service, and other rapidly changing fields, plus brand new examples and two full case studies.

What’s not changed is the fact that author Donald Kirkpatrick is one of the leading voices on human resources and training and development. For more than forty years, Kirkpatrick’s four-level performance evaluation model has been the standard throughout the world, and has revolutionized the way enterprises manage, monitor, and optimize employee performance.

The new edition of Improving Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching contains all the wisdom and step-by-step processes of the original, with all the guidance and tools you’ll need to implement a program that gets maximum results.

The book starts with a 40-question test about your organization and its processes and attitudes regarding performance appraisal and coaching. Taking the test both before and after reading the first section of the book will highlight exactly where your existing initiatives can be improved and new ones put in place. Kirkpatrick then goes on to describe in detail how a culture of coaching builds and enhances performance, and how to build this culture across the entire organization.

Examples and eye-opening Notes from the Field both reinforce and complement the author’s sage recommendations, illustrating how his approaches can be adopted in their entirety or deployed piecemeal, depending on your organization’s specific needs. The case studies, both from major employers, prove the overarching value of a proactive performance appraisal program and vibrant coaching environment.

The book is packed with ready-to-use forms and, more important, instructions and observations on their effective use. Plus, every chapter is designed for practical application, featuring accessible charts and figures, lists of key points, specific suggestions, cause-and-effect relationships, and much more.

While workplaces and jobs have changed dramatically, some truths seem everlasting. One is that in order to obtain exceptional employee performance, you need to build a thorough and consistent appraisal mechanism and coaching program. The other is that there is no one more knowledgeable about how to do it than Donald Kirkpatrick."

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Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Second Edition
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.57(d)
Age Range:
17 Years

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Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching

By Donald L. Kirkpatrick


Copyright © 2006 Donald L. Kirkpatrick
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-0876-1

Chapter One

Introduction and Overview

How to Get Maximum Performance from Employees

The major challenge that faces managers in all types of organizations is how to get maximum performance from their employees. First, they need to motivate their employees to get maximum effort from them. This means ensuring that people will try their best to do the job; whether the manager's effort is successful can be measured by the energy and time employees expend. If only motivation guaranteed maximum results! Unfortunately, much of this energy and time is wasted. Therefore, the second requirement is for managers to get maximum accomplishments and achievements from their employees. This twofold challenge-effort plus results-faces every manager.

Ways to Improve Employee Performance

On a recent visit to India, I was asked by the manager of a small clothing shop in the Chola Hotel in Madras, "What is the one thing that managers can do to get their employees to do their best?" I replied that it isn't as simple as "just one thing." He repeated the question: "What is the one thing that managers can do to get their employees to do their best?" I hemmed and hawed and started to tell him that there are eight things.

Heinterrupted and said, "Don't tell me eight, tell me one!" I said, "I can't." He replied, "Then I'll tell you!" I answered, "O.K., you tell me."

And he did. "You have to give your people encouragement. It doesn't mean just money, although that's one of the ways to encourage your people. It also means a pat on the back when they do a good job. If you rub them into the ground with your heel, you won't get the best work from them, and they won't like you, besides."

I was supposed to be the expert who was conducting seminars on leadership for managers in business and government in India. And I received a good lesson in motivation from a shopkeeper in the basement of a hotel.

It isn't quite as simple as encouragement, but that's a good start. Here are the eight conditions I was going to describe to the shop owner that will get maximum effort and results from employees:

1. Make the job important in the eyes of the employee.

2. Select a person who has the potential to perform the job.

3. Clarify what's expected of the employee in the job.

4. Train the employee in the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

5. Evaluate performance, and communicate results and expectations to the employee.

6. Help him improve performance.

7. Build and maintain rapport with the employee.

8. Reward for performance.

These eight conditions are developed further in the following paragraphs.

Make the job important. People who feel their jobs are important are more apt to try their best, because they realize that it does make a difference how well the job is done. When the manager increases the scope and importance of the job, people are more apt to put forth maximum effort.

Select the right person. The well-known Peter Principle states that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence. One reason for incompetence is that people are promoted on the basis of performance. Where the old job and the new ones are alike, performance is a valid basis for promotion. But where the jobs are different, performance may be a poor criterion for promotion. This is especially true where the promotion is from "doing" to management. Management, according to Lawrence A. Appley, past president of the American Management Associations, is "getting things done through others," rather than doing them yourself.

When you are considering a person for a job, whether it is an entry-level job or a promotion, the problem is to match the person to the job. Usually the match is not a perfect one because the candidates have never done that exact job before. Therefore, the potential of the person must be determined. In other words, you should ask: "With the proper training, would this person be able to perform the job successfully?"

Potential is a difficult thing to measure. Typically, the candidates' backgrounds are analyzed with special emphasis on education and experience. Next, interviews are conducted, and the candidates are evaluated on the basis of their answers to questions, as well as their appearance and the impression they make on the interviewer. Often references are checked to find out from former supervisors or acquaintances how the people performed in previous jobs. Some organizations also use testing and assessment centers. The higher the job level, the more time and money an organization should spend to determine potential.

There is good evidence that many people are promoted to supervisory positions who never should have been. The typical selection process places undue emphasis on performance, years of service, and cooperative attitude. A more systematic approach stresses the importance of desire-wanting to be a supervisor-as well as leadership qualities.

Clarify what's expected. Many frustrations and failures occur because employees don't understand exactly what's expected of them by their supervisors. They put forth much effort doing what they think is wanted, rather than what is wanted.

When I worked for a large chemical corporation, my friend Ken worked for Michelle, a vice president. One day Ken and I had this conversation:

Ken: I think I'm in trouble with Michelle, my supervisor.

Don: What do you mean?

Ken: I don't think Michelle is happy with my performance.

Don: What makes you think so?

Ken: I just have a feeling.

Don: Has she told you she's unhappy with your performance?

Ken: No, she hasn't told me anything about my performance since I started working here nine months ago.

Don: Then why do you think she's unhappy?

Ken: Well, she gave me a three-page job description when I came, and I can't do everything that she expects.

Don: What are you doing?

Ken: I'm doing the things I think are most important.

Don: And?

Ken: I'm not sure she thinks they are the most important.

Don: I have a suggestion.

Ken: What?

Don: Go and see Michelle and tell her your problem. Take the job description with you, and show her the things you are doing and the things you aren't doing. And see if she agrees.

Ken: I can't.

Don: Why not?

Ken: Because she's not available. She's either up in the president's office or else she's out of town or busy entertaining some important people.

Don: Then the only suggestion I have for you is to try to do the things that she thinks are important instead of those you think are important.

About three months later, I learned that Ken had been terminated for "poor performance." Because of our conversation, I was most interested in learning more about the termination. I got my chance one noon when I saw Michelle sitting alone in the company dining room.

Don: Michelle, can I talk with you for a few minutes?

Michelle: Sure.

Don: I understand that you terminated Ken a couple of week ago.

Michelle: That's right.

Don: Would you mind telling me why?

Michelle: Not at all. He just wasn't doing his job.

Don: Can you be more specific?

Michelle: Sure. He was spending his time and energy on the unimportant parts of his job and wasn't getting the most important things done.

Don: Did you ever tell him what the most important parts of his job were?

Michelle: I gave him a job description. I expected him to be smart enough to know which things were most important!

Then I related to Michelle the conversation that Ken and I had had several months earlier. Michelle replied, "Well, that's life. If he wasn't smart enough to separate the important things from the unimportant things, that's his problem!"

I was very disappointed in Michelle, not so much for actually terminating Ken but for her attitude about it. I had hoped that Michelle was feeling some guilt and might have learned something from the incident.

There are many Michelles in management who do not clarify what is expected of employees. And there are many Kens who suffer the consequences even if they have the necessary qualifications and try their best. I only hope that most of the Michelles who read this book will look at their own situations and either take the initiative in clarifying what's expected or at least make themselves available to employees who have the courage to ask for clarification themselves.

Train the person. No matter how well the person matches the job, some training is always necessary. Training includes the teaching of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The first step is to decide who will be the trainer. The qualifications are:

Knowledge and skill in doing the job

A desire to teach

Communication skills


A positive attitude toward the organization and the job to be learned

A knowledge of teaching methods and procedures

Time to train

Many supervisors like to do the training personally. They are usually the best ones if they meet the other requirements listed above. But some are too busy or lack one or more of the qualifications, so they delegate the training to someone else. If this is done, the supervisor should be sure that the chosen trainer is qualified; even then, some checking is necessary to be sure that an effective job has been done. The supervisor may delegate the task to another person, but the supervisor has final responsibility and must live with the results.

If the person being trained is a supervisor, the training should emphasize management knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This means that the manager usually has to call on outside help for the training, such as in-house management courses or those presented by outside organizations. And it's a good idea to begin the management training as soon as the new supervisor is appointed. As an example, a one-day conference at the Management Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Extension is called "Basics of Management for New Supervisors," and it is designed for organizations that do not have a similar in-house program. Other universities, associations, and consultants offer similar training programs.

In addition to courses, a management library should be available for new supervisors. The books should be carefully selected so that they are readable and practical for the supervisor.

The jump from "doer" to manager is a big one. Great care must be taken to ensure that the new supervisor not only knows the difference between a "doer" and a manager but also has the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for success.

Evaluate performance and communicate the appraisal. People want to know how they are doing on the job, and it is the responsibility of the manager to tell them. This requires the manager to evaluate their performance and communicate the appraisal to them. This process of appraisal and communication should be regular and ongoing; managers should not wait until the annual appraisal interview to do it. Nor should they rely entirely on informal day-to-day coaching. Instead, both formal and informal appraisals are necessary. This book covers in detail the process as well as the forms and procedures for an effective performance appraisal program.

Help the person improve. The appraisal should measure how well the various parts of the job are being performed. It should identify the employee's strengths, as well as the aspects of the job where improved performance is needed. When these have been identified and agreed on between manager and employee, a performance improvement plan should be developed and implemented. Methods for doing this are covered in detail in this book.

Build and maintain rapport. Rapport can be defined as a good working relationship or a climate of mutual trust and respect between manager and employee. To build rapport, the manager must try to understand and meet the employee's needs and wants, not just the organization's. Only when both are met has the manager really succeeded.

There are many ways to build rapport. An obvious one is for the manager to praise good work and give credit when due. Another is for the manager to take a personal interest in the hobbies, family, problems, and other things that are dear to the heart of the employee. Perhaps the most important thing that a manager can do is to make clear that he or she is interested in the successful performance of the employee on the present job. Also, the manager must show an interest in the future of the employee with the organization.

This consideration for the future presents a real challenge to a manager. Many organizations have developed formal approaches to career planning and development. They have found there are some advantages and some drawbacks to the formal approach. On the positive side, it demonstrates a concerted effort to see that employees move ahead in a systematic fashion. It shows that the organization is willing to spend time and money to be sure that promotions are made fairly. On the negative side, employees might get the impression that the promotions are going to come in a planned progression. The organization might give false hopes to those who aren't going to be promoted or to those whose promotion opportunity is far in the future. Advancement in an organization usually depends on three separate and distinct factors:

1. The interests, desires, and aspirations of the employee

2. The potential of the employee as determined by management

3. Openings

Some organizations ask employees to indicate their ambitions and goals. Sometimes this is done formally at the conclusion of a performance appraisal interview. Sometimes it is done informally in conversations between manager and employee. And some organizations do it as a separate project by sending forms for employees to complete. All these approaches can be effective in gathering this important information.

In addition to determining the interests, aspirations, ambitions, and goals of employees, management must determine potential for advancement. At best, the process requires some subjectivity and comes down to an educated guess. The attitudes of many unions, for example, is that you can't really tell whether a person can perform a higher-level job unless you give the person a chance to try. And in some cases they may be right. But management must determine potential with as much objectivity as possible. The assessment center approach is one of the best ways.

The final factor that determines advancement is the number of promotional opportunities that will occur. In most organizations, large and small, people can't advance unless an opening is created by retirement, promotion, death, transfer, resignation, or growth. In some organizations, these openings occur frequently. In others, they occur infrequently.

Career planning and development must consider all three of these factors. There are eight possible combinations of these three factors that a manager could face. In the examples, the term "management" is used to mean whoever inside or outside the organization assesses potential.

Situation 1: Kimberly wants to be promoted, management doesn't feel she has the potential to do a higher-level job, and a promotional opportunity exists.

Situation 2: Kevin wants to be promoted, management feels he is promotable, but no openings exist.

Situation 3: Kathy has no desire to be promoted, management feels she has the potential for promotion, and no openings exist.

Situation 4: Barbara has no desire to be promoted, management feels she has the potential, and an opening exists.

Situation 5: Neil wants to be promoted, management feels he has the potential, and an opening exists.

Situation 6: Chris has no desire to be promoted, management feels he has no potential, and no openings exist.


Excerpted from Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching by Donald L. Kirkpatrick Copyright © 2006 by Donald L. Kirkpatrick. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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