When to Do Performance Appraisals?

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A landscaper from New Jersey called me the other day to talk about the entangled nature of doing performance appraisals on each employee’s anniversary date.  She conveyed that it seems like the company never really gets caught up, the employee reviews take up too much time throughout the year especially during the busy season, and constantly involve budget considerations based on anticipated pay raises.  Having witnessed that chaos for many years, my professional recommendation is to do all employee performance appraisals at the same time each calendar year.

I know many landscaping companies that conduct formal performance appraisals in late November, to coincide with the end of the landscaping season, prepare for season-end layoffs, and shift emphasis to snow activities.  While that schedule has appeal, I strongly urge that all performance appraisals be completed my mid-February.

Here is my rationale.

With this year as the example, most landscaping companies finalized their 2020 fiscal year-end close by January 10th, 2021.  Shortly thereafter, maybe January 20th, 2021, those companies will have convened an annual strategic planning meeting at which time the Management Team will evaluate the year-end results from FY2020 relative to the goals that same Management Team established at last year’s annual strategic planning meeting on January 20th, 2020.  Based on that cursory analysis, the Management Team will determine if FY2020 was a success or not.  

True to form, the Management Team will then quickly pivot its focus from FY2020 to developing a new set of company-wide empirical goals and key initiatives for FY2021.  Thus, by January 20, 2020, the company has evaluated its previous year performance at the company level and department level, established FY2021 departmental goals, and rolled them up into a composite FY2021 annual company strategic plan.  

With the company and departmental levels formally approved, the next focus is the employees.  As such, each employee should have his/her FY2020 performance evaluated based on his/her FY2020 departmental results and his/her individual goals from last year’s performance appraisal, by mid-February 2021.  In the same breath, those employees should also have their individual performance goals established in complete alignment with his/her departmental goals and key initiatives for FY2021, which are necessarily linked to the overall company-wide FY2021 goals and key initiatives.

At that magical moment in time, mid-February of each year, the entire company is completely aligned, focused, and on the same page regarding key accountabilities for a given fiscal year. By way of contrast, if performance appraisals and tandem goal setting are administered on an anniversary year standard, each individual employee is operating on his/her own unique frame of reference, relegating departmental or organizational objectives to the periphery.  That asynchronous planning implicitly promotes fragmentation, inefficiency, and a selfishness all of which undermine company success.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.