Six tips on how to conduct an effective performance appraisal

7 min read  |   13 October, 2017   By Melissa Jones

A man and a woman are sitting at a wooden desk with laptops and paperwork in front of them. They are having a meeting in one of their office rooms, smiling and chatting to each other.

Leading a performance appraisal with an employee that is generally performing well can seem like a relatively straightforward task.

It's still important for that meeting to be well structured, productive and useful for the employee.

Therefore, as a manager or employer, it is down to you to ensure that the performance appraisals that you are conducting are as effective, and valuable, as possible.

Here are six tips on how to conduct an effective performance appraisal.

1. Be prepared

We hate to state the obvious, but it’s clear that during a performance appraisal, you will appraise an employee’s performance. However, just knowing this fact is not enough preparation. Your lack of preparation time doesn’t go unnoticed either as research found that one in ten employees feel that their manager isn’t well prepared for their performance appraisal.

In order to be prepared you need to establish a purpose for the appraisal meeting above discussing performance.

To do this you should review the appraisal notes from the employee’s last few appraisals, are there any patterns in terms of challenges that they are facing? Could this be a potential area for development if the tactics that have been put in place haven’t been resolved in the time since those previous appraisals? If so, communicating this to the employee and agreeing actions could be the purpose of the appraisal.

2. Create a joint agenda

Once you have prepared and established a purpose for the meeting it is a good idea to create an agenda for the appraisal. Just like in any other meeting, an agenda will help to guide the direction of the discussion and act as an aid to ensure that you cover everything that you intended to.

After you’ve collated yours, send it to the employee and invite them to add any additional points they would like to discuss. A performance review is not a one-way conversation, and it may well be that an employee will go into the appraisal with their own purpose, asking for a pay rise for example, so it’s important to allow them to have the time to fulfill theirs.

Likewise, by each sharing your agendas, it allows you both to further prepare for the discussion. For instance, knowing that your employee wants to discuss their pay prior to the appraisal gives you the opportunity to look back at when they last received a pay review, rather than be blindsided by the question when it comes up.

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3. Discuss challenges and successes

You will inevitably have highlighted areas that the employee can improve upon to reach their objectives, and improve results, during your preparation phase. However, before you divulge these it’s important to ask the employee for their thoughts first. They may have come to the same conclusion and already have some ideas for how, or what they require from you, to improve.

Its crucial to ensure that when discussing the employee's’ performance that you do so in relation to any objectives or targets that they have been set. Understandably, if you evaluate an employee’s performance against a standard that they were unaware of they will, quite rightly, be shocked. Here are some ideas on what to say in an appraisal if you’re struggling for ideas.

It can be too easy during a performance appraisal to focus on what improvements can be made. Take some time to reflect on the successes, discuss what worked well and see how this can be mirrored across other aspects of the employee’s work.

4. Discuss ideas for development and action

The majority of the performance appraisal should be focused on future development and action. Whilst it’s good to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked well, those elements are in the past and the appraisal should mostly focus on what the employee can do moving forward to achieve their objectives and contribute towards the company’s goals - that’s what motivates many people to work.

However, a recent study revealed that just 20 per cent of small business employees are motivated by the appraisal process in their company, showing that employers aren’t putting enough emphasis on employee development.

During this part of the performance appraisal you should find out the plans that the employee has for their career, skills they feel they want to learn to enable them to do their job better and if these align with the goals of the company.

5. Agree actions that need to be taken

With the employee’s future development in mind, both the employee and the manager should come away from the performance review with an action plan. This needs to be an achievable plan with actions for each individual, including deadlines, to be able to facilitate the growth and development of the employee.

6. Summarise the meeting and express support

Conclude the appraisal by summarising what has been discussed and who is responsible for actions moving forward. It would also be a good idea to plan when you will meet again for the next performance appraisal. This gives the employee clarity and allows you to start to develop a regular feedback habit. You can take this opportunity to ask the employee to give you feedback.

When it comes to feedback and appraisals it’s important for small businesses to get the process right from the outset. Attracting and retaining talent has never been a more prevalent issue for businesses and a well executed performance appraisal is the key to showing your employees that they have a future within your company.

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Author: Melissa Jones

Mel is the Content Manager at breatheHR. She regularly contributes insights into the current small business climate with a focus on how HR is crucial to the success and growth of UK startups.

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