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While you should be communicating regularly with your employees
about positive and negative aspects of their performance
(appraisals should hold no surprises for anyone), annual appraisals
are a great opportunity to formalise this feedback and any
Use appraisals to:
- Gain understanding and clarity. Define
expectations, including attitude and goals or targets that support
your company's objectives; track progress; agree timelines; and
identify and address particular issues.
- Reduce employee turnover. Employees are
happier and more productive when they know what is expected of
them, and what their goals are. Happy employees stay longer, saving
you money in recruitment and productivity.
- Recognise and reward top performers. Track
progress against previously set goals to identify top, average and
low performers, and reward (or act) accordingly.
- Ensure you operate legally. If you do need to
fire someone, appraisals create a paper trail that makes sure you
are following the correct procedures.
How to prepare for a successful appraisal
- Arrange a date and time for a private meeting in a relaxed
environment, giving your employee ample notice.
- Ask them to prepare a list of accomplishments over the last
year, assess their own performance, draft some objectives for the
coming year, and think about career goals.
- Think about your and their social and communication styles, and
how to approach the appraisal accordingly to get the best out of
- Ask their colleagues and internal stakeholders for
- Review last year's performance appraisal form and ratings.
- Review last year's self-appraisal and feedback from other
- Review any development plans from last year, and ensure they
have been completed.
- Prepare your feedback and objectives for them for the coming
How to conduct the appraisal
Discuss each problem, concern, goal and success fully, before
moving on to the next one. Ensure that problems are assigned
solutions that you both agree with; goals are mutually felt to be
attainable; successes suitably acknowledged; training and
development programmes plotted; and any other issues dealt
Bear in mind that this is an opportunity for the employee to
give feedback too, so set aside time for this and listen
constructively and openly to their comments, even if they are about
you. Performance appraisals are not one-way streets. Just as you
expect your employee to take on board any negative feedback, so you
need to be able to do the same.
Be aware of the language you use
This can be a real deal-breaker. Vague criticisms about an
employee's attitude or personality could be misconstrued as a
personal - and unconstitutional - attack on someone's age, gender,
race or physical ability.
Always use clear, non-emotive, non-judgmental words in a
friendly but even tone. Instead of saying, "Your work has not been
very good recently", try being more positive and specific with,
"Your work/reports/presentations have contained too many mistakes,"
and discuss particular errors.
Or, replace, "You need to improve the quality of your work" with
"Let's figure out now how we can ensure you eliminate the mistakes
you have made recently," and go on to discuss positive ways of
improving their output.
Record the appraisal
Performance appraisal records do not have to be complicated or
refined. They can simply be paper files in a folder or a Word
document on a computer. But they must be recorded in some formal
This will cover you legally should you need to prove ongoing
behavioural or performance problems. But it will also help you and
your employee track how well (or not) they are doing over time, and
if they have reached the goals that have been set for them - and by