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Addressing resistance to performance appraisals

20th Nov 2018
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It is common for us in HR to be the recipients of general grumbles about performance appraisals. However, as is the case with our health, resolving the issue may require some careful diagnosis if we are to achieve a long-term solution and not simply divert or mask the symptoms. Here are some examples that we have come across and some suggested questions you can ask to determine and address the real issues.

Complaint: “I haven’t got time to carry out performance appraisals”

Possible causes: 

  • Lack of understanding about the value and importance of managing people
  • Poor sponsorship and/or role modelling from senior managers
  • Fear or lack of confidence in their own management capability

Questions to understand the potential cause:

“How important do you think managing performance through appraisal is in the eyes of your people?”

Answers: ‘Not really sure’; ‘Hadn’t thought about it’; ‘No one has ever managed me well’


  • Ensure you have visible Senior Role Models & Sponsorship of the appraisal process
  • Address any senior management behaviours that are undermining the value of performance appraisals
  • Ensure that you have clear definition of the role expectations of people managers e.g. one of their objectives might be to carry out monthly 1 to1’s with all their staff or to set objectives by a certain date. It needs to be clear that managing people is as important as doing the day job to all those who have that responsibility.

“What value do you think performance appraisals bring to the business?”

Answers: ‘Not much’; ‘It’s a tick-box exercise’


  • Better communication linking objective setting and performance appraisals to business strategy and outcomes
  • Make sure that appraisal completion is seen to be important by with clear communication about completion rates and management follow up
  • Ensure there are positive, visible consequences for people using data from your performance management or appraisal process like training or development plans

“How confident do you feel about delivering a good appraisal?/ What training or support have you had in this area?”

Answers: ‘General Mumble’; ‘I’ve never received any proper development’


  • Roll out management training aimed at ‘experienced’ managers and ensure it includes the ‘Why’ as well as the ‘How’ for performance appraisals
  • Collate a range of development content around performance appraisal and recognise those who use it
  • Set up peer mentoring or coaching groups with an emphasis on people management

Complaint: “The appraisal system is really clunky”

Possible causes:

  • Lack of knowledge/confidence/fear about how to use the system or managing performance
  • Poorly configured or designed workflows or templates
  • Multi-step or overly complex performance appraisal process

Questions to understand the potential cause:

“What training have you had in using it?” “How comfortable are you managing or appraising performance?” 

Answer: Little or non/non-committal


Offer training that integrates both the ‘Why’ of using the system and the ‘How’

Train up a team of Champions across the business and incentivise them to ensure everyone is confident in using and is bought into the system

Ensure sponsorship and communication continues around the importance of using the system effectively

“What specifically are you finding clunky?”

Answer: ‘Too many clicks or pages’ or ‘I can’t find the form I want’ or ‘I’m confused by what to use when’


  • Review the system set up with your provider (Actus offers this, for free with all clients). This enables you to simplify forms or workflows or to set up appraisal forms that are appropriate to a particular user or business area
  • Train up Champions in FAQ’s
  • Publicise FAQ’s and mini training videos

Answer: ‘Lots of stages, multiple sign off, unsure about the process’


  • Review and simply internal process e.g. reduced signatories or workflow stages
  • Better internal comms about value of process if it can’t be simplified
  • Develop reference material on how to follow the process.

So cynicism around performance appraisals is very often down to the 3 C’s:

  • Culture (sponsorship, role modelling)
  • Communication/Education (type or lack of)
  • Configuration – It is hard for us to comment on the usability of other performance management systems as some are less configurable or easy to use than Actus.

However, resistance to a system is generally down to Configuration or lack of education/training.

We support all our Actus Performance Management Software  Clients with Culture; Communication and Configuration support from the start and throughout their partnership with us. If you would like to know more about how we can help you overcome resistance and bring performance appraisals to life in your organisation, please get in touch

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