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How Project Reviews Coupled With Performance Appraisals Support Employee Success

Why and how CPA firms should conduct project reviews.

October 20, 2011
Sponsored by Halogen Software eAppraisal Professional Services

by Nancy Wilkinson, regional manager, professional services, Halogen Software

Annual performance appraisals are the standard method most accounting firms use to evaluate employee performance. But because employees often work on projects or engagements that are led by someone other than their manager, this might not be the best method for giving employees the feedback and development they need to progress and succeed.

To address this challenge, many accounting firms now also conduct reviews at the end of each project or engagement. There are numerous benefits to this approach, including:

Employees Getting Immediate Feedback From Those With Whom They Work Most Closely

When they work on a project or engagement, employees rarely work in close contact with their manager. A project or team lead more typically supervises and directed their work. So doesn't it make sense for this project lead, and even the team members themselves to provide the employee with feedback on their performance?

And rather than wait until a predetermined period to conduct an annual or semi-annual review, many firms are finding it more effective to have the project lead give each employee feedback on their performance at the conclusion of a project or engagement. In this way, feedback is more timely and specific, and has greater impact on performance. Lessons learned can be applied right away, resulting in improved performance. Any performance issues can be identified and addressed immediately.

Some firms are even gathering 360-degree feedback from project team members as a way to further enrich the feedback each employee receives. This way, the employee, team leader and manager all get a broader perspective on the employee's performance and can better coach and develop the employee.

Addressing Development in a Timely Way

By evaluating an employee's performance after each project or engagement, the team lead can identify any performance gaps or developmental needs, and assign appropriate development activities immediately. This gives employees better context for their learning, and also accelerates performance improvements. Skill or knowledge gaps are addressed in the short term, so the employee and the firm can reap the benefits of training more quickly.

Providing Fairer Annual Performance Appraisals That Are More Representative

The feedback and ratings from these project reviews are then used to inform the ratings a manager can give their employee in their annual performance appraisals. The manager can cite the details and examples from the project reviews to support their performance ratings, or even consult the various project leads to gain a better understanding of the employee's performance, potential and development needs. The result is a performance appraisal that is fairer, more richly detailed and better represents the employee's body of work over the course of the year.

Increasing Employee Engagement and Retention

Getting regular feedback, direction and the opportunity to develop are known contributors to employee engagement. As firms continue to compete for scarce talent, it remains important to create a work environment that supports employee engagement and retention. Project reviews coupled with annual performance appraisals are two of the tools that leading CPA firms are using to help attract and retain the talent they need.

Conclusion

All employees, but especially younger ones, need feedback and direction to help them develop, improve and succeed. By conducting reviews at the end of each project or engagement, and using these reviews to form the employee's annual performance appraisal, your managers can better support their employees' performance and progression, and your firm can attract and retain the talent it needs to compete and succeed.

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