Performance appraisals that will help your firm succeed

Practice Management tax firm manager and employee

Cast aside any traditional views you have of performance appraisal – this is not just about rating staff performance, a one-way communication process, ambiguous goals, or general benchmark measures.

You want any performance appraisal to provide real benefit to your employee and your tax and accounting firm. The only way to ensure this is to design a process that can be tailored to each individual, based on a good job description that includes a clear job purpose, behavioral competencies and values, and key result areas.

Who should complete the performance appraisal?

In most cases, an employee’s direct supervisor or manager should carry out the performance appraisal process. I’ve seen supervisor assessment and employee self-evaluation work well together.

You may also wish to look more broadly, and involve clients, coworkers, subordinates, suppliers, computers (electronic review systems), and self-evaluation during the process.

How should a performance appraisal run?

A performance appraisal should run every six to 12 months. Frequent reviews provide greater opportunity for discussion and control. You want your staff to know exactly what is expected of them and work toward meeting their goals through meaningful work.

Nothing should come as a surprise to anyone involved, and the focus should remain around helping your firm more effectively reach business goals.

Here are some general steps to follow:

  • Select a mutually convenient time to meet.
  • Allow a reasonable amount of time for discussion, remembering that this is a two-way conversation.
  • Start with a focus on meeting your firm’s goals and outlining how key staff helping to meet those goals.
  • Share some stated firm goals and progress toward them.
  • Continue with something positive about the overall business performance and how the individual’s performance relates to this.
  • Ask open-ended questions, allowing staff to open up and talk freely.
  • Listen.
  • Be very specific if you have concerns about staff performance.
  • Seek to understand what is causing a particular performance outcome.
  • Identify roadblocks or challenges the staff member has that is stopping them from meeting certain goals.
  • Rate behavior and outcomes, not personality.
  • Review the staff member’s self-assessment with them (if offered).
  • Complete a performance appraisal form that includes resetting mutually agreeable objectives and adjustments as required.
  • Provide some solutions for overcoming their concerns, and take note of their feedback for management meeting resolution.
  • Set an additional follow up time if required for outstanding issues when a resolution or roadblock can’t be solved immediately.
  • Adjust job descriptions if required with the staff member.
  • End on a positive note.

Performance appraisal templates

Managers and employees need the opportunity to prepare for a review meeting. I’ve prepared some templates to help you manage the meeting and keep focused on what is important. Without structure, a performance review meeting might yield information, but is less likely to achieve agreed outcomes.

The first performance template is for managers and supervisors. Steps to review include the following:

  • Training/CPE point requirements.
  • Purpose of the job.
  • Whether the staff member displays the right behavioral competencies/values.
  • Whether the staff member is meeting the key result areas.

Additionally, the template provides:

  • An opportunity to have a discussion about how the business is going.
  • Uncover issues, challenges, or roadblocks the staff member is experiencing.
  • Uncover any client issues or concerns not yet discussed.
  • Reset goals and key performance measures..

The second template is a self-assessment to help staff members prepare. This provides a useful approach that helps staff members self-manage and take responsibility for their performance.

Remember, performance appraisals aren’t about measuring personalities; they are about reviewing behaviors and outcomes that help you work together to reach your business goals. With this approach, you can really have meaningful conversations with your staff and managers.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Karbon. Find out more about how Intuit® Practice Management powered by Karbon can centralize your firm’s contacts, automate tasks., collaborate in real time, and track your progress.

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