by Kate Russell

What is an appraisal?

Performance appraisal is the process of assessing and developing the work performance of an employee. This topic sets out to describe some general elements of good practice in the appraisal process.

Many organisations are now calling the appraisal process something different, such as Personal Development Planning, to foster the idea that this is part of a development process rather than a judgmental one.

The process provides an opportunity for both you and your employee to discuss development goals and jointly create a plan for achieving those goals. Thus Coaching is the primary skill required. The outcome – the development plan – should contribute both to organisational goals and the professional growth of your employee.

Purpose of the appraisal process

The purpose of appraisal is to achieve better work performance from employees. A good appraisal process will bring this about by ensuring the following elements are included.

  1. Individual job objectives are linked to organisational goals.
  2. The organisation’s expectations of an employee’s performance are discussed.
  3. Performance is contrasted against objectives, and feedback is provided to the employee.
  4. The employee is coached on how to achieve job objectives/requirements.
  5. The employee’s strengths and weaknesses are analysed.
  6. The types of development activities that might help the employee to make better use of his skills and thus improve performance in his current job are identified.
  7. Performance expectations are clarified for the employee by providing a communications structure.
  8. The employee who has been trying to perform well is given encouragement.
  9. Employees are provided with the opportunity to indicate their career aspirations on a formal basis.

While appraisals will always contain an element of looking back over the past, remember that the purpose of the exercise is to achieve improved future performance by learning lessons from the past and by setting future objectives or goals.

Some employers tie performance appraisal to the employees’ salary review. Be wary of this – dealing with salary within an appraisal often blocks meaningful consideration of performance goals.

The appraisal process

The performance appraisal process typically consists of several steps:

  1. Establishment of a common understanding between manager and employee regarding work expectations
  2. Assessment of work performance against work expectation on an ongoing basis
  3. The formal performance and development appraisal discussion
  4. Agreement of an individual performance plan, including agreement on how the performance is to be monitored and measured
  5. Formal documentation of the agreements reached at the appraisal