Question: Performance appraisals during reorganization and downsizing

Reflecting the fluctuations in local economy and client project pipeline, our engineering services firm has been through a few rounds of downsizing, hiring bursts and reorganization in last 1 year.

How can our managers compensate for the lack of proper baseline or performance against set goals, while doing employee appraisals?

2 Expert Insights

Well, there are several answers here...

1. Recognize and use existing baselines lightly - hold them in the context of the fluctuations of the last year. You don't expect a person to be as masterful and standing their ground during an earthquake, so give them the appropriate level of recognition for whenever and wherever they did stand their ground.

2. Identify new skills that may have been required during the same period and evaluate on those, i.e. adaptability, alignment with change processes, perseverance and mastery in chaotic circumstances. This may even illuminate newer baselines for future given that the economic climate doesn't look to stabilize all that quickly.

3. As the people being appraised, what do they feel would be best to be appraised on given the circumstances? They may reveal their values of what they hold to be important under those conditions which gives the managers clues about how to interact for future performance.

Wow, this is a tough one.  Frankly, and I know I'm being a bit of a heretic on this, I would throw the baselines out.

There is a reason that you are downsizing, and for that reason (and probably other good ones) new baselines must be established.  At the same time, employees must have something to strive for, so helping them set goals going forward is a good thing.  

In downsizing, employees look at two things.  First, is my job safe.  Second, and sometimes even more important, how have my friends been treated when they were let go.  THAT is generally what will keep your continuing employees loyal.

Back to the question.

People support what they help create, and if you want their buy-in post-reog, you need to (1) take care of their friends and (2) give those staying a say in how things are going forward.  I personally would recommend you work with employees and you jointly develop new baselines that are in line with the new strategic plan.   People must have goals to strive for, so helping them do this (and then supporting them as they strive to achieve them) is very important.