The art of management: nine steps to appraisal success

Ernest Richardson explores the role of the performance review, and how to maximise its effectiveness.

The appraisal: possibly one of the least-relished events of the working year. For many a manager and employee, it’s simply another hoop to jump through, another box to tick, another job to add to an already-full workload.

But despite this, it’s an essential part of any job. So, why not make it count?

When executed effectively, appraisals bring a host of benefits to employers and employees alike. They increase staff performance, motivation and efficiency. They identify gaps in knowledge, and ways to fill them. They pinpoint potential.

That is why the appraisal should be something to embrace, rather than dread. View it as an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience, and you’ll reap the rewards.

Here are nine ways to ensure you make the most of every staff review:

    Rather than dwelling on what’s gone wrong, focus on improvement.  

1. Prepare

As with anything, preparation is the first step to a task well executed. Do some legwork in advance, and the appraisal will be a worthwhile experience for all concerned.

“Review the employee’s job description and previous appraisals, and encourage them to do likewise,” recommends Abi Webb, a Business Manager at Just Recruitment Group Ltd. “For you, it’s an opportunity to identify where an employee is doing well, and where improvement is required. It prepares you for issues they may raise, and helps you identify training and development needs.”

She adds, “For your employee, it’s a reminder of the expectations of their job, and a chance to reflect on whether they’re meeting them. It’s the perfect chance for self-evaluation, and to plan for the future.”

2. Set the right tone

The approach you take to an appraisal is a crucial part of its success. It’s important to put your employee at ease, encourage them to be honest, and make them feel comfortable with the process.

If you start the review on a positive note, this can make the difficult subjects easier to broach. Begin by drawing on the appraisee’s strong points, and congratulating them on their successes. Try to end the review positively, too – this should leave your employee feeling enthusiastic and motivated, rather than disheartened and downbeat.

3. Seek the opinions of others

Where appropriate, consider requesting the views of the appraisee’s colleagues and/or clients. This will give you a range of perspectives, and a fuller picture of their performance.

What’s more, positive feedback from third parties will make an employee feel even more valued, and give them a real confidence boost.

4. Remember that it’s a two-way process

An effective appraisal is a conversation, not a monologue. Allow the appraisee to talk freely, and be sure to take on board what they say. Ask open and probing questions, and make them pertinent. Perhaps most importantly, ask the employee for feedback, and don’t be defensive when they provide it.

As Abi points out, “Where action is required, this should emerge out of the discussion, rather than being unilaterally imposed. Avoid preconceptions, and be open to the appraisee’s ideas. That way, they’ll emerge from the process with a sense of ownership over, and responsibility for, their own development.”

5. Give praise where it’s due

Make sure you recognise your employee’s achievements and successes. Even if you’ve praised them over the course of the year, do so again now. It’s a motivator like no other.

6. Be constructive

As difficult as criticism can be to give, it’s a necessary part of any appraisal. No employee is perfect, and honest feedback is essential to staff development.

“The key here is to be constructive,” suggest Just Recruitment’s HR lead, Lisa Grant. “Rather than dwelling on what’s gone wrong, focus on improvement. Help the appraisee to identify how they could approach things differently next time, and draw on their past successes where possible. Also consider setting measurable objectives, such as filling gaps in knowledge, developing skills, and offering experience in areas where it’s lacking.”

    Your employees will thank you for it, and so will your clients.  

7. Avoid surprises

Performance management shouldn’t be an annual event. Rather, it should be an ongoing process, involving regular dialogue with your staff and the recording of successes and problems as they occur.

Adopt this approach, and there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises when appraisal time comes around. Both appraiser and appraisee should know what to expect from the performance review – making the whole process much easier to manage.

8. Avoid bias

In the role of appraiser, it’s essential to avoid favouritism, and to maintain a professional distance.

“Unless it has an impact on their professional behaviour or performance, you should ignore the personality of the employee you’re reviewing,” says Ms Grant. “Whether you’d choose them as a friend or not is irrelevant in this context. Focus simply on how their carry out their job.”

9. Be sure to follow up

Once the appraisal is over, it can be tempting to put the forms in your drawer and forget about it for another year. But that defeats its purpose.  

“If training is required, be sure to organise it as soon as possible,” recommends Lisa. “Where action needs to be taken, do so, and where concerns have been raised, act upon them. This will reassure the appraisee that you have taken their feedback on board, and that you’re committed to furthering their development.”

Whether you’re responsible for a staff of one or a team of 20, follow these tips for an appraisal that’s constructive, productive and effective. Your employees will thank you for it, and so will your clients.


Published 24 October 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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