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Conducting an Effective Staff Performance Appraisal

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Staff performance appraisals are sometimes viewed as a daunting task or a tick-box exercise. But they are a vital performance management tool. If properly managed, they can be hugely beneficial for employees and the business. So we include below our guide and tips for managers to effectively managing staff appraisals.

The Importance of Performance Appraisal

The appraisal process has two main purposes – to look back at an employee’s past performance and to look ahead to their objectives for the future.

It is important that the appraisal process is a two-way conversation between an employee and their line manager that encourages employees to perform their role as best they can. This has benefits for the employee and the organisation. From the employee’s perspective, they are given the opportunity to receive recognition for past performance as well as the chance to discuss their training needs and areas where they may need further support. For the organisation, staff appraisals bring benefits such as enhanced communication and the opportunity to discuss succession which will inform plans for the future of the organisation.

Appraisals are an important feedback mechanism, but it is important to remember that in some cases, it is more appropriate for feedback to be delivered immediately or on a more regular basis. With that in mind, feedback shouldn’t be ‘saved up’ for the appraisal meeting.

Top Tips for Effective Staff Appraisals

Before the Appraisal

The key to a successful appraisal process is preparation. Ahead of the meeting, the appraiser should review past appraisal notes if they are available. This allows you to understand the key challenges that the employee has faced in the past and whether this is a pattern. If there is, this will also help inform the employee’s development plan. The employee should also prepare for their appraisal in advance and this could be done by asking them to complete part of the appraisal form in advance of the meeting. They should think about what has happened since their last appraisal – their successes, challenges and areas for further development, as this will inform the appraisal discussion.

Appraisals should be held at regular intervals to ensure everyone involved has enough time to prepare. You may find that annual appraisals are the best way to do this.

During the Appraisal

Tips on what to do during an appraisal
  • Ask effective questions. Well-planned, incisive questions will enable you to get the most out of the discussion. Be aware of when to use open or closed questions and encourage the employee to be as open and honest as possible. Ask probing questions where necessary to dig deeper and encourage the employee to expand on their experiences and feelings.
  • Give constructive feedback. One of the main purposes of the appraisal process is to give constructive feedback. When giving feedback, it is important to focus on evidence and actual examples rather than subjective opinions. This can be tricky, and it is human nature to focus more on the negatives, so it is important to be aware of this and actively try to focus on the positives too. When delivering feedback, you could start and end with a success or strength and provide negative feedback in the middle. By ending the feedback on a positive note, you will ensure that the focus does not stay on the negatives, which could hinder the rest of your discussion. 
  • Develop an action plan. While it is important to discuss past performance and what worked well and what didn’t, the key focus of the appraisal should be future development. Much of the appraisal discussion should centre around setting objectives for the following year (or the period between your next appraisal) that will enable the employee to develop while also working towards achieving the company’s goals.

After the Appraisal

Follow up with the employee after the appraisal to summarise the discussion and to confirm the agreed action points and objectives. This ensures everyone is clear about what is expected of them and gives the employee the chance to raise any questions they may have after they have had the chance to process the appraisal meeting.

It is important to keep in touch with employees to support them in achieving their objectives. While it probably isn’t practical to have appraisal discussions more than annually or bi-annually, you should schedule regular 1-2-1 meetings with employees in between. Monthly or quarterly 1-2-1 meetings are the most reasonable and practical, however, you can set regularity to suit your business and staff.

Further Support

If you would like help to explore your organisation’s approach to appraisals in more detail, we are happy to help. Please contact enquiries@fdpeople.co.uk or call 0141 221 2984 or fill in our online form.

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