How to get the most out of employee appraisals?

An effective appraisal system should form a key part of your organisation’s performance reviews.

Appraisals look back on past performance and forward to future goals and targets. Line managers will typically conduct performance reviews and use them to facilitate discussion around the employee’s achievements, performance and development. Employers should therefore focus on the wide range of outcomes that productive appraisals can generate. In this article we will take a look at popular and effective ways of conducting performance reviews.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

An appraisal brings to mind a one-to-one meeting between an employee and their line manager. The appraisal meeting should be one of the final steps in the appraisal process. The get the most out of your appraisal meeting, careful planning should be carried out in advance.

In advance of the appraisal meeting, the line manager should have: -

  • compiled the employee’s performance data; an employee will be much more amenable to receive criticism or indeed praise when the opinion is based on data rather than personal opinion. The performance data will additionally serve as a stimulus for discussion at the meeting.   
  • written account of the previous period’s appraisal; these records will reveal the performance and training and development goals set for the employee at the previous review. Additional notes of the previous evaluation will serve as discussion topics and yardsticks against which to measure progress.
  • set goals to discuss at appraisal; while some goals might emerge organically during the appraisal, it is preferable to have identified goals in advance of the appraisal that relates specifically to your business needs or performance issues you have already identified.

The appraisal form

Designing a template staff appraisal form will save you and your line managers a good deal of time if multiple appraisals need to be carried out.

A standardised performance review template will ensure appraisal meetings are based on consistent information to be provided by all employees. Employees are also likely view the process as being more fair and equal if the performance appraisal methods adopted are consistent. 

Areas to address in employee appraisals

By using a standardised form, your HR function can ensure that valuable performance review sample data is compiled. This performance management sample data should form the basis of the appraisal. Remember to schedule time during the appraisal for the following: -

  • evaluation of performance; against set KPI’s/agreed targets and a review of the employee’s attitudes and behaviour
  • line manager comments; reviewing the employee’s performance, development and measures to improve performance
  • praise; to get the most out of appraisals, offer encouragement to employees for jobs well done. This will reinforce good performance and behaviours
  • employee airtime; make time for the employee to ask questions, raise concerns or suggest ideas for how they can improve their performance. Listening to employees will go a long way to resolving any issues they may have. Remember it is an opportunity for employees to review their employer’s performance too!
  • setting goals; setting goals can clarify performance issues, identify skills gaps and instruct the employee on the nature of any proposed changes to their role. Goals that are properly communicated and understood are more likely to be achieved.

Record the outcome of the appraisal

The appraisal form should leave room for any comments the employee or line manager deem relevant. Both the employee and line manager should sign the appraisal form used to record the details of the meeting and the agreed future goals.

Completed forms and notes should be carefully archived as they will provide a valuable reference point for future appraisals.

Provide training for line managers

It makes sense for line managers to conduct appraisal meetings as they will be most familiar with the employees being reviewed and their level of performance.  

It cannot be assumed that line managers will have the skills or experience required to conduct an effective performance review. To get the most out of an appraisal meeting, a full and frank discussion of performance should be encouraged. Certain line managers may need relevant training to help ensure they get to the crux of any issues that are affecting performance.

Training for line managers should include the following: -

  • how to ask open-ended, probing questions
  • listening skills and setting parameters for a two-way conversation
  • sensitively providing constructive, unbiased and non-disparaging feedback

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