by Kate Russell

In a nutshell

1. What is an appraisal?

It is the process of assessing and developing the work performance of an employee. A well-run appraisal system will

  • Achieve improved future performance
  • Set SMART goals
  • Establish understanding and clarity between manager and employee
  • Link personal and organisational objectives
  • Give encouragement
  • Include an element of coaching


2. Job description, competencies and goals

If appraisals are to be effective, the process should begin with a clear job description, of which the employee must have a copy. The employee should also be fully aware of

  • All the competencies required to do the job
  • The organisational goals
  • His role, objectives and targets within those organisational goals


3. Standards of performance

The performance standard defines how well each function or task must be performed in order to meet or exceed expectations, thus providing a benchmark against which to evaluate work performance. New employees should receive a written explanation of the key standards of performance within the first month of employment. The standards should be

  • Realistic
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Consistent with organisational goals
  • Challenging/motivating
  • Clear and understandable
  • Dynamic – evolving as circumstances change


4. Appraisal ratings

In addition to checking against standards of performance, there are two main methods of determining an employee’s progress:

In assessing success in achieving targets, appraisers should take all the relevant factors into account:

  • Weighting – some objectives will be more important than others
  • Degrees of difficulty
  • External factors
  • Mitigating circumstances


5. Observation and feedback

Throughout the appraisal period – a three-month period is often best – observe and provide feedback on your employees’ performance, helping them to achieve successful performance.

  • Observing employees should be part of an on-going routine.
  • Carry a notebook with you and note down matters that arise.
  • Give and receive informal feedback all the time.
  • If you are not present to observe performance, you may be able to obtain feedback from customers, peers or someone else who is present daily.


6. Delivering feedback

During the performance appraisal period, provide feedback about performance regularly.

  • Avoid assumptions, interpretations, generalisations and judgements about what certain behaviour or facts mean.
  • Be specific, so the employee knows which behaviours to continue or repeat.
  • Feedback about performance in need of improvement is best delivered in private.
  • Never allow an appraisal to degenerate into a disciplinary discussion.


7. Preparing for the appraisal meeting

The preparation process involves review and data gathering, holding a preliminary meeting with the employee, and employee preparation of a self-appraisal.

  • Before the meeting, assemble all the data, including the job description, work record, your observations, feedback from others and points for discussion.
  • Prepare your comments in draft form, to be discussed with the employee before the final draft is prepared.
  • Give the employee advance notice of the performance appraisal so that he has the chance to review his performance and prepare his own discussion points.
  • Before you write or deliver the formal performance appraisal, hold a preliminary meeting with the employee in private.
  • Close the meeting by scheduling a second meeting for the formal appraisal meeting.


8. The appraisal meeting

Try to hold the meeting somewhere apart from the daily routine and set the scene to break down barriers. Structure the discussion so that all relevant issues are discussed and objectives agreed.

  • Start with a friendly opening making it clear you expect participation.
  • Discuss progress, including some positive feedback.
  • Focus on facts, not personalities.
  • Discuss how goals may be met, adjusted or even further exceeded, as appropriate.
  • Discuss future objectives.
  • Schedule the next session.
  • Say thanks and wind up.


9. Performance development plan

An important component of the performance management process is the development of an employee’s work-related skills, knowledge and experience. The performance development plan will emerge from informal feedback sessions and the formal appraisal meeting.

  • Discuss training, education or development opportunities with your employee.
  • Consider a wide range of activities that might help the employee to develop their skills and contacts.
  • Keep employees informed about career options and barriers.
  • Refer employees to useful people or other sources of information.
  • Assign challenging roles or tasks as part of the development process.


10. 360 degree assessment

The 360 degree assessment/appraisal involves collecting data from a variety of sources, which can give a broader and therefore less personal outlook on the employee’s performance and capabilities. As well as from his manager, feedback may come from

  • Peers
  • Subordinates
  • Suppliers
  • Internal and external customers