Making employee appraisals work for you

Published on February 7, 2013 by Fiona Sanderson

Appraisals are often viewed as a yearly hassle involving tick boxes and paper work. They are then rarely thought of again until the following year. However, if executed correctly, appraisals can prove invaluable to both the business and its employees.

Benefits of performance appraisals for employees

An appraisal is an opportunity to sit down and discuss an employee’s performance and their areas for development. They are also a time to review goals set. They allow you to:

  • Improve employee performance by identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • Discuss ways to overcome areas of weakness
  • Give positive feedback
  • Talk about methods for increasing motivation
  • Reveal problems that may be restricting employee’s progress

The challenges of appraisals

The primary challenge managers face is the amount of time involved in appraisals. Without preparation throughout the year, the task of reviewing a whole year can be daunting. Other challenges might include:

  • Previous goals not having been set out clearly, making it difficult to review them
  • Giving negative feedback. Many managers are reluctant to do this, as they do not want to cause upset
  • An employee challenging negative comments
  • An employee becoming visibly upset
  • Managers feeling uncomfortable or threatened
  • An employee requesting a pay-rise that the employer was not intending to give

Staying on top of employee appraisals

Consider whether you will do annual appraisals, quarterly reviews, or weekly one-to-ones. Who will be responsible for carrying out appraisals – the employee’s line manager or someone more senior?

Most employees receive appraisals annually, though more frequent meetings may be necessary for new members of staff, those who have entered a new job role, or for those who are performing poorly.

In smaller organisations, appraisals are often informal; with senior staff working more closely with the employees there is greater opportunity for informal conversations that encourage employees, and also address any problems. For small organisations, the simplest systems are the most effective.

For both large and small organisations alike, here are some ways you can stay on top of appraisals:

1. Take notes throughout the year

By noting down observations about employees throughout the year, you will save time when it comes to preparing for appraisals. This also ensures you are evaluating them on the entire year, rather than letting your judgement be biased by more recent events (positive or negative).

2. Prepare for the meeting

It is vital that both parties enter the meeting well prepared; if a manager is not equipped to carry out the interview effectively then it may leave the employee feeling undervalued.

3. Have a written form to guide the review

The form would include basic details about the employee and their job description. The main body of the form contains a detailed review of the employee over the set time period, assessed against a set of job related criteria. This would follow on to a plan of how to develop strengths and methods to overcome weaknesses. A section for comments by the senior manager, and by the employee is also recommended.

4. Both parties complete the form prior to the meeting

This ensures that both are well prepared, and gives the employee a chance to self-assess their work. You may start the interview by comparing your completed forms, allowing the employee to go first.

5. Don’t avoid the negative

Even thought it can be difficult to give negative feedback, avoiding it gives the employee no opportunity to improve.

6. Summarise

Write down a summary of the main points discussed, and any methods of moving forwards; give a copy to the employee. It is important that managers follow up on agreed actions so that the appraisal remains a credible review tool.

Create a more flexible and intuitive approach to performance management and appraisals with an online performance management system!

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Written by Fiona Sanderson

Fiona is Marketing Manager at myhrtoolkit. Her areas of expertise include HR systems, productivity, employment law updates, and creating HR infographics.

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