Role of Appraisal
Appraisal is a process of feedback about individual performance and organisational performance throughout an organisation to develop individuals, improve the organisation, and benefit its members and clients.
According to management guru Peter Drucker, all volunteers (including union committee members) need three things in their work design - somebody to train and mentor them, somebody to encourage them, and somebody to judge them and provide with feedback. Appraisal is an effective way to provide the benefits of feedback.
Appraisal usually takes the form of a half hour, or hour long, meeting between an appraisee (the person being appraised) and an appraiser. The appraisee talks about how they are doing at their job, what they plan to do, and what they think should change, both with the organisation and with their own performance. The appraiser listens and gives suggestions for things the appraisee could do. After the appraisal session, the appraiser gives feedback to those running the organisation in a sensitive way, that will help the appraisee but not create any problems for them. The organisation and the appraisee then take certain steps to improve.
The higher the level of reporting back within a Jewish student organisation, the more focused people will be in their jobs. This works in two ways: firstly, because people realise that others are observing how they are doing, there is more of an incentive to perform; secondly, people will be given help and advice with things that they aren't comfortable with.
The first thing to do to ensure that activists receive feedback is to create a culture where people ask for and give advice informally. This involves setting a good example and asking others how you are doing, what you could do better. Hopefully this sort of 'good behaviour' should be copied.
To ensure that feedback systems really work though, it might be necessary to create something more formal. The simplest way is to ask members of the committee to give reports, in writing or verbally, to the chairperson, or ideally to the rest of the committee, every term. Additionally, after any event is run, a well run organisation ought to get feedback on how the event went for the organisers and for the organisation.
Appraisal has a number of benefits above and beyond informal feedback procedures. First of all, appraisal forces people to think clearly about what they are doing with their time, so that they can ensure that they are doing the right things and not just the fun things, or the things that seem to be important. Secondly, appraisal ensures that people are clear about what their objectives are, and whether they are meeting their objectives. Ensuring that people focus on objectives means that activists spend their energies on activities tied into organisational goals. Making activists think about how whether they are meeting their objectives focuses their minds. Appraisal also allows feedback to be given to individuals, so that they can improve in areas of weakness, and also to the organisation as a whole, from activists, ensuring that improvements can be made.
Although informal feedback could do these things, appraisal is designed to make sure that they do happen, and doesn't leave anything to chance.
A successful system of appraisal for a union committee will hopefully be part of a strategy of investment in people that improves the way the union runs. A focus on sharing information and helping volunteers to improve will rapidly improve any union's work.
WHO, HOW, AND WHEN
The union chairperson ought to be responsible for arranging appraisal. They do this by deciding who needs to be appraised (perhaps just the chairperson themselves), when, and by whom. If possible, appraisal should be provided for anyone who has a reasonably large job within the organisation.
Appraisal ought to be spread through the year, probably arranging three meetings a year (one at the start, one at the end, one in the middle). This allows the appraisal to really consider objectives, and whether they have been met or not. If appraisal is arranged too often it will become too big a drain on time.
Appraisal works best if it is with someone external to the union, so the chair ought to find somebody who is prepared to set aside a few hours to listen to union committee members. The reason why it is best to use somebody from outside the organisation to run appraisal is that if people have a working relationship with their appraiser it can be intimidating and make working together harder. Resist getting the chair to appraise other committee members - it doesn't inspire trust and is usually unhelpful, and can easily develop into a situation whereby people feel as if they are being spied upon, and unfairly criticised. An appraiser from outside the union can bring perspective, and detachment, that is very valuable.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE IDEAL APPRAISER
The main challenge in finding a person to appraise people within a union is that on the one hand they need to understand the issues and problems faced by the organisation, and on the other hand they ought not to be too personally involved. Even if you do manage to find people who fit this bill, it is also far from assured that they will agree to do the job - especially as it is probably for no money, little thanks, and will take a bit of time to do properly.
The ideal kind of people to use include:
The person running appraisal needs to be patient, a good listener, non-threatening, and intelligent. They need to be able to empathise and provide support. The appraiser needs to be able to read between the lines, and try to ask questions that get to the bottom of things. It is important that the person running appraisal doesn't have too big an ego, and doesn't go on about 'how I did it in my day'.
The first stage of appraisal is preparation. The person who is going to be appraised ought to answer certain questions that will serve as a basis for discussion. These questions should be written by the chairperson, with input and guidance from the person running appraisal. The questions should be e-mailed or sent to the people being appraised. Such questions might include:
The major part of appraisal is the appraisal meeting. This should take place in a relaxed and nonthreatening atmosphere, where there is no chance of being disturbed. The appraiser ought to ask the person being appraised to expand on what they wrote in their forms, and to explain things that aren't clear. The appraiser's main role is active listening, and asking clarifying questions. These questions ought to make the appraisee think about a number of things:
The person being appraised should talk about themselves openly. There is no point lying in appraisal. Feedback to the organisation ought to be anonymous anyway, again reducing the incentive to be dishonest. Asking for advice in appraisal is legitimate and useful.
The last stage of appraisal is the follow up. This is the stage where the person who was appraised and the appraiser act upon the points that were raised in the appraisal meeting. The first stage in this process is feeding back to the organisation, usually by writing some sort of report or having a conversation with the chairperson. This report ought to be anonymous in the sense that nobody should really be mentioned by name - rather, "some people feel they didn't get enough support, some people want training in communication skills." This works better than naming people by names, because people are reluctant to talk openly if they know they are going to be named personally, or might be blamed for what they said. Following up on the things that are raised in appraisal includes things such as: