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The reputation of the assessment interview is currently under heavy fire. In the media, the interview is disregarded as the cause of a lot of irritation and frustration. In many cases this is correct, but does this justify the conclusion that the assessment interview should be gotten rid of?
The assessment interview is not the issue. The problem is the way many organizations conduct the assessment interview. If we get rid of the assessment interview, we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It is much better to wonder what we might do to turn the current disadvantages of the assessment interview into advantages.
No getting out of it
Let us go back to basics. What is it all about again? Organizations want to achieve certain objectives. It is therefore understandable that, in the context of performance management, organizations also want to check whether the objectives have actually been realized. And there is more.
The last thing we want is that everyone will get the same yearly wage increase, irrespective of how they are performing. Furthermore, it is important to the continuity of an organization to have insight into which employees are perform wonderfully and which are performing below average. This can only be determined if employees are assessed on an individual level. This is why the assessment interview between manager and employee was first invented.
What are you talking about?
Employees´ frustration with regards to the assessment interview is mainly caused by the complete surprises that they might have to face during the discussion. While they hear their manager speaking they are thinking: What are you talking about? I have never heard that before. That is because many managers do not know how to deal with an assessment interview. They are just playing it by ear.
Complicated assessment form
In many organizations, the manager will only start to focus on the performances of his or her employees once the assessment interviews start showing up in the diary. What was John up to again this year? The last 2 or 3 weeks of John´s performances are still vivid in the manager´s memory, but what happened before then…
As a consequence, the manager will feel obliged to summon all manner of arguments to be able to fill in the complicated assessment form. If that is the way the assessment interview is used, we might indeed as well get rid of it.
You can also make the assessment interview work to your advantage, in a way that motivates managers and employees alike, and really benefits the organization. That is why two things are important:
Avoid surprises with continuous feedback
Ensuring that employees are not surprised during the assessment interview, starts with clear rules. These are created by making clear agreements at the start of the year regarding the achievements that the employee may be assessed on at the end of the year. Subsequently, the discussed achievements need to be monitored and feedbacked during the year.
This way, the assessment interview becomes a summary of the feedback from the past year and can no longer come as a surprise. Moreover, the additional benefits of this way of giving feedback are worth considering. Firstly, the manager meets the employees need to know what is expected of him or her during the year. Secondly, regularly continuous feedback yields much better results. Recent research has indicated that specific micro feedback is much more powerful than general feedback about someone´s overall performance.
All in all, we need not all get on the barricades to shout that the assessment interview should be gotten rid of. Turn it into a dialogue that is profitable for managers, employees and the organization itself.