Speak the word ‘appraisal’ to your employees and they will most likely turn and run away –commonly seen as a chore that has to be endured rather than a useful means of development. However, given the appropriate structure and preparation, they can be a really constructive process for both employer and employee.

The successful operation of any organisation depends primarily on using the full potential of its workforce. This means that certain criteria need to be met which are to the benefit of both the organisation and its employees, and requires a strategy to be put in operation to achieve this aim.

Large organisations can benefit specifically from a well structured and considered, formal appraisal procedure. Small businesses may find the same kind of procedure to be a little heavy handed and may well work better with a less formal exercise. The same general principle should be applied though, regardless of size of organisation.

The aim of appraisals should always be positive and should comprise of some discussion about past performance, but the main focus should be on future development. Paying too much attention to the past performance of an employee, particularly where it has not been up to scratch, may sound to the employee like he is being reprimanded and this is not the purpose of an appraisal.

Don’t spring any surprises on the employee during the meeting. If you have concerns about the employee’s conduct or capability, don’t store it all up and use the appraisal meeting as a way of offloading your concerns. Where you aren’t happy with performance, bring it up with the employee as and when your concerns arise and use your conduct or capability procedure to deal with them. It is important to remember that an appraisal meeting is not a disciplinary hearing and should not be treated as one.

The input of the employee is vital in an appraisal, and they will benefit from having been given time to prepare what they want to say. Let them know in advance the areas you wish to talk about, and give them plenty of time to plan. A large part of the appraisal is coming to an agreement about how the employee’s employment will develop and grow, and employees may well need time to be able to gather their thoughts about goals for the future.

Discuss together reasonable targets and objectives for future performance/output, and where appropriate, suggest training opportunities to help them get where you want them, and where they want themselves, to be.

Arguably the most important factor for an employer to remember about appraisals is to follow up any actions that are decided on during the meeting. Employees will lose respect in the process if they feel their effort was arbitrary and that the employer doesn’t take their own role in their advancement seriously.

5 top tips for appraisals

  • Allow time to prepare for the occasion – and that means both employer and employee;
  • Do not use the appraisal meeting as a disciplinary hearing;
  • Combine a system of tick boxes and written sections to grade the employee’s performance so you can compare from year to year;
  • Build in a long term plan of targets and objectives;
  • Follow up decisions that are made during the meeting.