How to prepare for an employee performance appraisal

6 min read  |   2 April, 2024   By Aimée Brougham-Chandler

Two male colleagues are having a meeting - they are both looking at an ipad and talking calmly.

An employee's performance appraisal provides a regular opportunity for line managers and employees to review the employee’s performance and set objectives for the future.

The performance appraisal is a key part of the wider framework of a performance management system which includes regular one-to-ones and and frequent reviews.

Regular feedback and appraisals will help the employee to feel engaged with your company and the tasks they're required to do.


Skip to:

What is a performance appraisal?

6 actions for before a performance appraisal

During the appraisal

What to do after a performance appraisal

Employee appraisal FAQs



What is a performance appraisal?

A performance appraisal is usually a more formal meeting an employee would have with their line manager, reviewing their performance over a set period of time, e.g. 6 months or the past quarter.

The appraisal meeting needs to be structured in a way which encourages an open and honest discussion. The focus needs to be on evidence of performance, rather than personal opinions.

The discussion should lean towards positivity, placing an emphasis on the employee’s development and encouraging personal growth.

Here are some tips for before, during and after performance appraisals to help them run as efficiently as possible: 


6 actions for before a performance appraisal 


1. Make notes well in advance 

Preparation for the meeting in advance can go a long way. Being able to recall notes made earlier on in the year is very helpful when commenting on overall performance throughout the year.


2. Give your team enough notice

At least two weeks is usually considered fair notice for an upcoming performance appraisal, to allow employees to prepare. 


3. Provide employees with self-assessment forms

Self-assessment forms can act as a prompt to get employees thinking about their strengths, and what they could perhaps do better. Invite them to think about any barriers to their performance, their plans for future work and any training & development that could be useful . 

Ideally, these forms should be used as a tool to get the employee thinking about their own development, rather than being the sole focus of the appraisal. 


4. Find a suitable environment

Somewhere comfortable, private and distraction-free is the ideal space to hold an appraisal. Tea and biscuits are also very favourable.


5. Block out enough time

You don't want to rush an appraisal - give yourself and the employee time to cover everything you both want to. Ensure you're allowing at least an hour, plus time for wrapping up. 


6. Plan and structure the meeting

Every appraisal will look different, but having a clear structure to the meeting will help everyone to stay on track.


During the performance appraisal


  • Encourage your employee to share

Ask questions that draw out the employee's reactions and ideas. Leading questions or questions which only require a 'yes' or 'no' response should be avoided. Let your employee lead and explain what their biggest wins or challenges have been, and go from there. 


  • Make sure your employee feels at ease

Begin the meeting as you would any other meeting or one-to-one, by asking how your team member is doing. It's always a good idea to start with your employees' strong points and place emphasis on good work already done. 


  • Discuss strengths and weaknesses

If there are areas of performance that need to be improved, then these need to be discussed openly. Try to let the employee lead and acknowledge their own weaknesses if possible. You might find this is an easier conversation. 


  • Talk about development opportunities

Discuss ideas for training, learning & development. If both parties can put forward some suggestions for a development plan, this is a good start. 


  • Don't raise any concerns not previously discussed

There should be no surprises during the appraisal. If you have had any concerns about an incident or performance during the year, this should ideally have been raised at another time (e.g. at the time of occurrence). 


  • Set 'SMART' objectives

SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Time-based.

This is important, as it will help both you and your employee to monitor progress accurately and stay focused on deadlines & expectations. 


  • Good opportunity to discuss salary

The annual performance appraisal is often a good time to discuss a raise in salary or promotion opportunities, if either party should want to. 



What to do after a performance appraisal


  • Summarise

Hopefully you’ve been taking notes during the meeting? Your employee needs to own the objectives and goals you’ve set together so make sure they’re clear


  • Provide written feedback

Whether on old fashioned paper or electrically, let your employee see your notes and be able to take them away.


  • Discuss any next steps

Whether this relates to learning & development or training plans, provide details of what will happen next. If there have unfortunately been any disagreements, then make sure your employee knows what the next steps are, too. 


  • Book in the next appraisal meeting

Whenever you both decide this needs to be, make sure it’s in the diary.


Performance appraisal FAQs


What are 3 types of performance appraisal?

Different types of performance appraisals can include check-ins, 360 feedback or project-based reviews.

Sometimes you might encounter grading or rating appraisals, measuring other metrics to get a view of a person's work and progress in an appraisal. 


What are the most commonly used types of appraisal?

The most commonly used types of appraisal are normally ranking or grading appraisals, where employees are given a number on a scale to summarise their performance.

This can sometimes look like objective management appraisals (e.g. how well you did at achieving objectives x, y and z).

Some businesses operate behaviour-based appraisals, or 360 reviews, where feedback is given and received. 


What are examples of things said in performance appraisals?

Examples of things you might say in a performance appraisal could include "you're very organised in your tasks and you complete them on time, or in advance of the deadline", or "you show a strong willingness and motivation to achieve your objectives. Your efforts are noticed and appreciated - thank you for all your hard work."

If you want to improve something, you might ask the employee how they feel about a certain topic, or how they think a project went. If you have ideas about how this can be better achieved in future, you could open with "In future, I challenge you to think about... [detail your personal feedback]."


Find out how Breathe's easy-to-use HR software system can help you to manage employee appraisals and other aspects of performance by trialling for free today. 


Author: Aimée Brougham-Chandler

An IDM-certified Digital Copywriter as of February 2023, Aimée is Breathe's Content Assistant. With a passion for guiding readers to solutions for their HR woes, she enjoys delving into & demystifying all things HR: From employee performance to health and wellbeing, leave to company culture & much more.

Back to listing

Sign up to get the latest HR and people management insights straight to your inbox