The Investment Conversation

May 8, 2016 Published by Scott LaCoss

The employee appraisal conversation, however often you hold them, presents a fabulous opportunity to discuss investing in the employee as a feature of development and performance improvement.

Supervisors frequently face the responsibility to have performance appraisal conversations with their employees, but rarely seize this as an opportunity to discuss investment in the employee as a means for performance improvement.  These conversations generally are intended to give an employee information about how the supervisor assesses their contributions over the preceding period.  They may also include information about where the employee stands as compared to other employees in that work group, and information about pay raises or bonuses associated with the employees performance assessment.  While most organizations rely on these types of feedback conversations to address employee performance strengths and areas that need improvement, the inclusion of compensation and employee striation as well as ranking/grading standards works against the stated intent; affecting employee attitude and workplace satisfaction, rather than performance.  The employee really only learns how he stacks up in that supervisor’s eyes, and the quality/content of that feedback can have negative workplace impacts, particularly as regards the view of the employee towards his supervisor and organizational leadership roles.  The conversation becomes less about performance (and how to improve it) than about future compensation and/or rewards in the form of bonuses.

There is, however, an opportunity in the employee appraisal to have a completely different conversation.  A skilled supervisor will use this opportunity to talk about the investment he intends to make to help the employee become more productive, more skilled and to assist him/her in improving those areas that may be underdeveloped.  In this conversation, the supervisor becomes the employees partner, sharing responsibility for future performance improvements.  This also affirms the employee’s value to the organization as well as to the supervisor and work unit.  This type of conversation truly offers an opportunity to improve the productivity of the team.  It does, however, require significantly more insight from the supervisor.  It depends on that supervisor having opportunity to observe the employees performance under a multiplicity of conditions, to have the courage to call out the areas that require improvement and to develop a strategy to invest in the employee’s improvement.  This is a radically different performance conversation; one that actually offers hope to positively impact the employee and the performance!