Skip to main content

How To Make an Appraisal Work

23 September 2013

Like many, I hear so many horror stories when discussing appraisals with my clients. For some, the fear is that the process is a glorified tick box exercise with little or no meaning back in the real world. Others dread the process as it will take a lot of time and for those being appraised, many have no idea if they are going to receive positive or negative feedback.

As the old saying goes however, ‘it doesn’t have to be this way’ and by following a set of simple guidelines, the whole process can be equally rewarding for managers and their reports alike, as well as being delivered in a timely fashion.

This is the first of two blogs discussing this topic. In this, the first, we will review what should and could happen in the build up to the appraisal in order to make it work.

Firstly, for the appraisal to be truly effective, the appraisee and appraiser must have a shared understanding of the purpose and value of the discussion and a shared commitment to both the Organisation’s objectives and the individual’s objectives. This can only come from the manager taking time to explain the procedure, reasons and benefits for all parties in a positive way. Some employees may have had a poor experience of appraisals with a previous employer or in some cases may never have received an appraisal before.

In truth, most appraisal meetings are in reality a glorified review of the past few months as it is difficult to remember much before this time. This can be disadvantageous to the entire process as the review should be a fair reflection on the overall year and can sometimes mean that some reports put in a ‘sprint finish’ as appraisal time approaches.

In order to ensure that the year as a whole is reviewed, we recommend meeting with each team member at least once a quarter, sometimes monthly depending on the level of support they require.

The simplest way of structuring this meeting is to ask your direct report to email you beforehand with three things that they feel they did well during this period and three areas where they have struggled or there could have been further improvement. Note that accountability does not just lie with the manager but with reports also.

By discussing these areas on a regular basis and getting them in writing, it will ensure that the process of filling in the final appraisal form will take significantly less time than it might do currently, as well as taking into account changes to the business or department. The process will therefore be fluid and remain linked to the current business climate.

It is also important to ensure that any objectives that have been set throughout the year are SMART. Please see our previous blog for further information on setting meaningful objectives.

In the build up to the appraisal itself, it is recommended that managers meet and discuss the appraisal form at least ten working days prior to the interview. They should be given a copy of some guidelines for completion alongside the form itself and be allowed the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have. The date, timing and venue of the meeting should also be fixed at this stage and not be moved for anything other than exceptional circumstances. It is worth considering what these exceptional circumstances are because whatever they are, you are essentially saying that they are more important than your report.

The appraisal form itself should be completed by both parties separately prior to the interview and the appraisee should then be asked to pass a copy of their form to the appraiser at least two days prior to the appraisal itself. This is to ensure that you do not receive any unwanted surprises and have time to consider the content in full. This will also enable you to respond rationally rather than emotionally to anything that perhaps you do not agree with.

Appraisals-Part-2In our first part, we discussed the importance of the pre-appraisal process and how to ensure that both the manager and the appraisee are geared up to get the best out of the interview.

In this part, we will consider some tips for conducting the appraisal interview effectively and follow up to ensure it does not simply become a tick box exercise.

  1. It is paramount to try and put the appraisee at ease in the initial stages of the interview. You may wish to confirm how long the meeting will take in order to demonstrate the importance attached to the meeting. It is essential that you make clear that this is a joint planning session and not an opportunity to criticise. It will be a two way process and you are keen to hear their views so that you can set new objectives together. Explain that you will be making notes throughout and that they will have the opportunity to read these at the end. Your pre-appraisal meeting will have helped to establish these conditions.
  2. Discuss points arising from the pre-appraisal form, ensuring that all key areas of the job have been reviewed.
  3. Ask the appraisee to appraise themselves. Start on a positive note, by asking them what they are most pleased with in their performance over the last period before they move on to any areas they are less happy with. The employee should be encouraged to talk freely. This will show what the employee thinks of their own performance.
  4. Discuss the appraisee’s performance in each area, discussing strengths and weaknesses, positive and negative points.
  5. Summarise throughout, to demonstrate that you have listened and understand their point of view and to clarify your own understanding.
  6. Ask them for their views on future development and what objectives (to what standard) they feel should be set, before discussing your own ideas on this. Make this a joint discussion and hopefully a joint agreement.
  7. Agree an action plan.

The appraisal report should be kept in the employee’s personnel files and should provide an accurate account of what took place during the appraisal interview.

It is strongly recommended that the report should be completed immediately after the end of the interview when the details are fresh in your mind. You may wish to avoid conducting more than two appraisals in one day therefore.

It is worth remembering that the report does not need to be complicated. It could purely be a blank piece of paper with some headings. For example you could list the key areas of the job and write under the headings how the employee performed in each one, and then summarise their performance.

The report should contain:

  • Areas discussed
  • Conclusions reached
  • Targets and objectives set – i.e. the action plan with dates.
  • Any points not resolved.

The document should then be signed and dated by both the appraiser and appraisee. The report should be a working document, referred to regularly by both the appraiser and the appraisee, not carefully filed away to be produced in pristine condition a year later for the next appraisal interview.

For more tips on how to deliver meaningful feedback, both the good stuff and the not so good stuff, please see our previous blog. Alternatively, for a complimentary consultation, please contact us on 07887 994300

To find out more or to book a free consultation: