HR RESOURCES:

Performance Appraisal

By Gareth Westhead – 26th June 2018

Performance appraisals are a fairly polarising subject. Some question their effectiveness, whilst others consider them to be more important than ever. The CIPD suggest that criticism of performance appraisals, whilst often justified, can stem from a misunderstanding of what makes an appraisal effective.

What is a Performance appraisal?

A performance appraisal is a review of an employee’s performance, skills and overall contribution to the progress of a company. It is a chance for an employee and their manager to discuss achievements, identify areas for improvement (and any associated training opportunities) and plan future objectives.

Appraisals are still seen by many as an annual event; one in which an employee’s performance over the last 12 months is reviewed and new ‘objectives’ set for review in 12 months time, with few other reviews in between. The annual review still has its place, but in modern businesses its impact will be fairly limited.

Performance is an ever evolving area within a business, and employees should be given measurable targets, aligned with business objectives that are reviewed regularly. Ongoing, open conversations about performance against clear and measurable targets are far more valuable to you as an employer, and to your employees, than a once a year meeting.

How to carry out an effective appraisal

Whether conducted annually or more regularly, an appraisal is an important meeting for you as an employer, so it is vital that you should be prepared.

Before the performance appraisal

Before an appraisal meeting, both you and your employee’s should think about objectives and write them down so that there are clearly defined areas for discussion.

If you are making use of 360 degree feedback, collect this ahead of the meeting to allow time to digest any feedback. This will allow you to attend the appraisal meeting with defined topics for discussion and reflection.

During the performance appraisal

During the appraisal the manager should:

Assess an employee’s performance against measurable targets, e.g. revenue, and softer targets associated with professionalism and conduct

Provide clear and honest feedback tied to previously set objectives. What went particularly well and what could have gone better?

Make recommendations as to how an employee can improve. When doing this, make sure you offer clear suggestions and back them up with access to relevant training and resources that could help.

Encourage open and honest feedback from your employees. Employees can be distrustful of the appraisal process, but actively encouraging and listening to their feedback could help to engage them and make appraisals more constructive.

Discuss and agree objectives moving forward. These should again be clear, measurable and linked with the business goals.

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After the Performance Appraisals

After the appraisal, you should write up an appraisal report and send this to your employee and keep a record yourself.

The report should detail your assessment, your feedback along with your employee’s feedback and your suggestions for improvement, including any agreed training. Finally, you should include agreed objectives so that your employees can work on their actions and you can both track progress simultaneously.

Making appraisals effective

Performance appraisals should be a productive use of time, dedicated to helping employees improve their performance with the aim that this helps improve business performance. Our top tips are:

  • Keep them simple and measurable. If an appraisal takes too long or doesn’t link back to clear and measurable targets, then there will be no real basis for improvement.
  • Make them about two way conversation. As mentioned above, it’s important to get employee feedback about their targets, performance and work in general. This will improve how appraisals are perceived and encourage employees to participate fully.
  • Adapt the process. Collect feedback about the appraisals themselves, check they’re happening and adapt the process if needs be to keep it fresh and engaging.
  • Keep records so you can refer back to them and keep track of agreed objectives. Feedback can then be given on a regular basis and not just at an annual meeting.

Whether you believe that appraisals are a process-driven, form-filling activity that takes away creativity and adds more administrative pressure to managers and HR managers, or you think a standardised appraisal system is key to company performance – the importance to get it right, whatever approach you take is fundamental to success.

You might have a brilliant employer branding strategy, excellent onboarding processes and a strong organisational culture, but does every employee understand their role, their objectives and how they align with the overall strategy and what they need to do to support it?

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