How to make an appraisal work – part one

Appraisals-Part-1Like 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.

In our next blog we will consider the appraisal interview itself and how to follow this up. For further information, please contact us on 07887 994300.

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