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Making the employee appraisal process about personal development targets

Making personal development a core part of the appraisal process has gone down well with staff

Rather than making the appraisal process about how staff are performing by measuring them against metrics and targets, SC Group is prioritising personal development.

Jim McKechnie is principal engineer at Supacat, part of SC Group, a manufacturer of military vehicles. The company employs about 120 people in the UK, with offices in Australia, and has acquired some smaller businesses to diversify into other sectors, including nuclear, renewables and oil and gas – areas where innovative engineering is needed to carry out work in harsh environments, such as in deep seas or extreme weather conditions.

The business leader is enrolled in the 12-month Productivity through People programme at Bath University Management School, a Be the Business initiative created to transform productivity and working practices within British SMEs.

There were two primary driving forces behind McKechnie joining the Productivity through People course. The first was for his own personal development, while the second was a desire to understand more about how he can get more from his team – particularly in terms of getting them more enthused about the work they do.

Hear from Jim McKechnie about the company’s new appraisal process

The course has already been a catalyst for change at Supacat, prompting them to use a staff survey to better understand employee views, which in turn led to a new staff appraisal process.

“The feedback from the employee survey was that the appraisal system wasn’t working,” he explained.

“People weren’t feeling that they were getting the development that they had requested. We could see that in the morale within the company, people weren’t necessarily as upbeat as they have been in the past – when times have been good and business has been stronger.

“With the way the economy is, everyone’s struggling a little bit more. You could sense that that the ‘good times’ were over, sort of thing. That’s why we felt that we really needed to get people back on board and to really feel part of the organisation again.”
Off the back of the survey’s findings, the company moved the appraisal process away from targets and metrics and focused it on employees’ personal development instead, a shift which McKechnie believes is already having an effect.

“It’s a much more positive experience and people can buy into that, they can see that that the company is listening to what they want to do and then helping them on their journey to become more productive and become how they want to be in the organisation.”

McKechnie isn’t the only employee from his company on the Productivity through People course at Bath, and he thinks having a group of colleagues on the same programme will help to embed changes in the business – with the aim of making it more competitive and keeping costs low.

“With a group of us, we can work together and get changes that are often quite hard to get through businesses normally accomplished, and see the productivity improvements at the end of it.”

“I’m hoping that the gain is in several areas from the business point of view – it means we’re a stronger business, we’re more competitive in the marketplace and we can look into other markets and compete, and just get a better foundation for the work that we typically do but also in those new markets.”

Jim McKechnie is a graduate of the Productivity through People programme, a Be the Business-led initiative that provides SME leaders with access to the latest techniques, thinking and research to transform company productivity and working practices. To find out more, visit our programme’s homepage.

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