Sophie Bryan“Appraisals don’t really work,” argues Sophie Bryan. But is there a better way?

“Working in HR you get lots of negative feedback. People complain that they don’t agree with their manager’s rating [of them]. They especially resent getting feedback on something that happened long ago,[something] that they are now powerless to correct. They ask ‘how can I be rated about something he didn’t tell me about six months ago?’

“They also take up a lot of effort on the part of the manager and the employee, as well as HR, and they don’t really inspire high performance. There has to be a better way.”

I spoke to Sophie to discuss this idea further, and find out what the alternative to appraisals is.

About Sophie

Sophie Bryan is the Managing Director of Ordinarily Different Ltd, helping organisations “Put the WOW into work”. Prior to starting her own company, she was a Director of Workplace Culture (HR) within the social housing sector, and has over 16 years experience of HR, organisational development and culture change within local and central government, education, manufacturing and technology. She is a certified Action Learning Coach, a qualified NLP Practitioner, and won the 2015 Personnel Today Award for Excellence in Employee Engagement.

Sophie will be speaking at Happy’s next event – Creating Happy Workplaces in Charities and Social Enterprises, a joint event with ella Forums and Happy.

The alternative to appraisals

“The alternative is to create a coaching culture. You can give effective coaching and feedback regularly, in short discussions, to help people come to their own conclusions on their performance — for points of reflection and meaningful learning — instead of this six-monthly, one hour teeth-pulling exercise.”

Until this year Sophie was Director of Workplace Culture at a social housing charity. “We had got to the point of stopping appraisals and were putting in place a new processes. If there are organisations that want to adopt this approach, the crucial bit is figuring out how to align your coaching culture. You can’t just pull appraisals and expect it all to work.

“Everybody has to be bought in, with leaders and managers trained how to be coaches, staff having an understanding of what makes them a good coach, and a commitment to play to strengths.

“You have to build a culture where coaching is at the heart of business. For me, coaching is about what I’ve devised as the 3 Cs – Connection, Collaboration and Curiosity.

“More and more companies are moving from an appraisal based approach. Google does it well. Adobe have recently scrapped their appraisal process. Even General Electric – famous for forced distribution of staff – have abandoned appraisals.

“What do I love about this profession? I want people to walk into work and feel the ‘wow’ in work. I want them to wake up in the morning and be engaged and eager to go to work. And that’s about creating an engaged, strengths-based and happy workplace.”

Best advice I’ve received

“Whenever I was having moments of doubt, my colleague Denise would ask me ‘What can you learn from that?’ It really helped refocus and see the positive in every situation, and is now one of my mantras.”

The advice I’d give

“Build networks and see the opportunity in everyone you meet. When you need to look for advice or expertise, coaching or mentoring – you’ve got a really good network around you so that you can connect, collaborate and act on curiosity, that’s how you learn and grow.”

Happy’s next event

Sophie will be speaking at Happy’s next event – Creating Happy Workplaces in Charities and Social Enterprises, a joint event with ella Forums and Happy. With speakers from Christian Aid, the social housing sector and Happy, you will learn how organisations both large and small have implemented ideas around autonomy and trust, how to help your staff work to their strengths, and how to create workplaces with a no blame culture. Tickets are just £95 + VAT and the event is open to all charity and social enterprise leaders who holds strategic and budgetary responsibility, and wishes to create a happy workplace based on trust and empowerment of their people.

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