Despite what certain business leaders may have said in the past – staff appraisals (or performance reviews) are much more than a box-ticking exercise. When you’ve taken on staff, it’s vital to let them know how they’re getting on. That way you can better manage their development into the star employee that will really work for you.
Whilst there’s no law saying you have to appraise your staff, it is an opportunity for you to motivate and develop your employees, understand whether the role is meeting their expectations, or whether they might be getting ‘itchy feet’ and looking for work elsewhere.
So once you’ve decided to conduct appraisals, you’ll need to get a solid plan of action in place.
First of all – decide how often you want to conduct your staff appraisals. It’s best to hold them at regular intervals so that everyone can prepare for them in advance, make any notes they need to bring, and think about any issues that they want to discuss. Appraisals can be most effective on an annual basis, enabling you to review the previous year and set achievable goals. They aren’t something that takes five minutes, so you’ll need to find the time to conduct them properly – you may find that you can only do this annually anyway.
Whilst they take up a reasonable amount of time, it shouldn’t be seen as a waste, or something to rush through. Plan to give employees about one to two hours each – half an hour to prepare, a half hour meeting, and then time to write up the necessary paperwork and follow up.
To help with your paperwork, it may be sensible to follow a fixed format using an appraisal form (such as the one provided at the bottom of this article). These can vary from employer to employer, but will help you to structure any notes from staff, your notes, their feedback, and any goals off the back of your meeting.
Now you’ve decided how you’ll conduct the process, it’s time to get on with doing it:
Prepare for the staff appraisal meeting
You should prepare for the meeting by reviewing any notes you may have on file for the employee that you have made since their last appraisal. If you have used an appraisal form, or something similar, you should take a look over this too.
Refresh your memory of what happened during the review period, as this will help you to make a more rounded decision over the long term – rather than their performance just prior to their appraisal.
If the staff member has worked closely with any other managers or customers in particular, it may be worth your while asking their opinion on their performance.
Send the staff appraisal form to the employee
Before you add your own comments on the employee’s performance, send them the form. After all, you don’t want them to become defensive about any comments you have made, which may appear differently when out of context. This will help them to provide an honest and fair assessment too.
Give a deadline by which they should complete their form; two weeks is recommended. Then once you’ve received the form back, it’s time to set up the meeting itself…
Hold the appraisal meeting
The appraisal form that you choose can help you structure your meeting. As you and your employee will have used this to prepare, you should be familiar with it, and so it’ll help to make the meeting progress smoothly and in a more relaxed manner.
Discuss the comments that the employee will have left you, giving constructive feedback – for example, with any negative feedback start and end with strengths, so you aren’t just focusing on bad performance. But don’t shy away from any negatives, you need to discuss areas of performance to be improved, so that the employee has the opportunity to do so.
Try to spend about half of the meeting looking forward, discussing any training and development, or any objectives you have for the year ahead (or whichever length of time you may have chosen before the next appraisal).
At the end of the meeting, ask the employee if they are happy with how the appraisal went, or if there are any areas that they may disagree with. This way you have given the opportunity to raise any issues with the plan you have agreed on.
Complete the appraisal form
Once you’ve completed your meeting, you’ll need to update your appraisal document to reflect any decisions made. However don’t add anything that you didn’t in fact cover, as you haven’t given the employee a chance to respond.
This is your chance to draft an action plan for the employee’s performance, showing the goals you have both agreed to. This will ensure that you are effectively tracking their progress up to the date of their next appraisal.
Once you have all this information together, return it to the employee so that they can make any final comments, and add their signature. Once this has been signed keep it on file, as this will bring you back around to step one at the time of your next appraisal.
“Whilst there’s no law saying you have to appraise your staff, it is an opportunity for you to motivate and develop your employees”
Some final points to remember
To sum up, when performing an appraisal, remember to:
- Make it count – this is the opportunity for both you and your employee to take a candid look at their employment with you. Telling them they’re a great employee isn’t that helpful, whereas telling them why they are certainly is.
- Follow it up – If you have agreed goals and actions, on both sides, make sure plan to follow them up.
- Keep it private – make sure you carry out the appraisal in a private space that cannot be overheard.
- Don’t surprise the employee – tackle poor performance as it happens, don’t save it all up for the appraisal process, and chat regularly outside of the appraisals process too.