Financial Data
Updated 29 Sep 2020

Brace yourself: it is performance appraisal time

It is debatable who dreads performance appraisals more - employees or managers. But approached correctly, they can be relaxed, productive and valuable tools that benefit both parties.

01 April 2012  Share  0 comments  Print

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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 resulting actions.

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 it.
  • Ask their colleagues and internal stakeholders for feedback.
  • Review last year's performance appraisal form and ratings.
  • Review last year's self-appraisal and feedback from other people.
  • Review any development plans from last year, and ensure they have been completed.
  • Prepare your feedback and objectives for them for the coming year.

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 with.

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 way.

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 them.

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