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8 tips for a successful staff appraisal

5 min read | 7 May, 2020 By Laura Sands


Consistently reviewing the performance of your team is absolutely key to keeping your people engaged, motivated and productive.

But what makes a "good" staff appraisal? And what should you be doing to get the most out of them and make them successful?

In this guide, we delve into:

- What a staff appraisal is

- Why staff appraisals are important

- 8 tips for a successful staff appraisal

- Staff appraisal forms 

What is a staff appraisal? 

A staff appraisal is a formal way of assessing a team-member's performance against their objectives and sharing that information them directly.

Typically, a staff appraisal includes details of how they can continue to perform well. It gives them “redirecting” or “developmental” feedback to help improve performance where needed.

what is a staff appraisal

Why are staff appraisals important?

Staff appraisals are more than a 'nice-to-do' extra. Here's why:

  • They’re an important tool for helping you determine pay increases, promotions and other rewards.
  • They give you a starting point for career development discussions.
  • They act as a line in the sand to monitor progress over a period of time.
  • They help you manage the performance of your employees and reward them for their hard work.
  • You'll be able to strengthen relationships between managers and and their teams by improving communication and creating a deeper bond of trust.
  • Your people will be more engaged with their role and the business' growth.
  • They help develop your managers too. With support from HR and their managers, staff appraisals give managers tools to provide praise and feedback, making them more experienced and confident.

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8 tips for a successful staff appraisal

Ready to formalise staff appraisals in your SME? Or perhaps you just want a refresher to share with your managers?

Here are our top-8 recommendations for successful staff appraisals. 

  1. Make them regular

Although staff appraisals used to be annual events, it’s better to do them more regularly.

This means you can course-correct behaviour and actively help your employees achieve their objectives.

And remember, no matter how frequent your appraisals, you must give feedback as close to the event as possible for best results.

  1. Use a clear structure

Using a set structure for your staff appraisals makes the manager’s job easier and helps the meeting run smoothly.

It means you’ll cover off all important details, helping you do a more thorough job.

  1. Right time, right place

It’s so important to find a mutually-convenient time. It's a good idea to book out more time than you need - rushing a staff appraisal is a real no-no.

Choose a private location where you won’t get disturbed, and remember that a remote appraisal is just as valid if logistics are difficult.

This tells your employee their appraisal is important and that you value discretion. In turn, this helps establish trust and will encourage them to open up more, helping them – and you – get more out of the meeting.

  1. Provide varied feedback

A strong staff appraisal uses input from a range of sources.

These should include an employee’s team-members, internal and external customers and other managers.

Known as 360° feedback, this does three things:

  • It helps provide rounded feedback for your employee;
  • it helps managers avoid their own unconscious bias; and
  • it can reinforce points that if made by just one person would be easy to ignore

All in, it means a fairer, more balanced appraisal. Which is just what you, your SME and your employees want.


one to one appraisal meeting

  1. Make it 2-sided

Both manager and team-member must be able to explain their perspective. Allow the employee to share their perspective first and give them enough time to respond.

Not everyone thinks well on the spot, so be prepared to book in a follow-up meeting to give your team-member enough time to digest their feedback.

  1. Discuss the how

Some people criticise performance appraisals because they focus too much on the goals instead of discussing how to actually achieve them.

This can create an unhealthy culture that focuses on performance at the expense of softer skills.

Incorporating an element of “how we expect our employees to behave” into your staff appraisals can help keep this in check.

  1. Focus on the positives

For the best results, use appraisals to deliver praise as well as developmental feedback.

With guidance throughout the year, your employee should have made good progress on their objectives. Use their appraisal to give them a pat on the back and motivate them to keep up the good work.

  1. Agree next steps

Whether you discuss next steps there and then or book in a follow-up meeting, use your discussion to reinvigorate your employees’ enthusiasm.

From evolving their objectives for the year ahead to discussing possible job changes or future training needs, here’s your chance to motivate and inspire them to drive your SME forwards.

What is a staff appraisal form? 

A staff appraisal form details your employee’s objectives and lets you capture their progress against those objectives. It includes space for a performance rating, manager comments and employee comments.

Having a form prepared means you and your team can fill out information before appraisals and have time to reflect before the meeting.

There are several formats available for staff appraisal forms. You can create your own or use a template version. ACAS have a few handy templates for you to choose from. 

Once completed, it's best to keep your forms in a safe, central location, like Breathe. Find out more about the document management tool here

Manage Performance

Posted on 7 May, 2020

By Laura Sands

in Employee Performance

Tag Employee Performance

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