Conducting Staff Appraisals
Many small business owners aren’t too excited by the idea of conducting staff appraisals. There’s often a pre-conception that delivering a staff appraisal is a process to be dreaded, and one that takes up valuable working time. However, appraisals are an essential tool for managing staff performance and – when delivered in a planned and constructive way – bring a whole host of commercial benefits to a business.
Appraisals centre on delivering both positive and constructive feedback to employees, as well as providing the opportunity for employees to talk about their own performance and to explore how and where they would like to develop in their role. Appraisals also provide the perfect opportunity for employers to let individual team members know how they are performing, and what’s expected of them going forward. Objective setting is also a large part of the appraisal process, and the simple act of spending one to one time with an employee to share wants, needs, aims and objectives can lead to improved motivation and employee engagement.
When deciding how often to conduct staff appraisals, there are no hard and fast rules, but a minimum of once a year – in conjunction with regular, more informal meetings with team members – is a good place to start. The regularity of communication and dialogue is important and means there shouldn’t be any surprises at the annual appraisal.
Don’t just wait for the employee’s formal appraisal to give feedback; sharing feedback regularly outside of appraisals means employees are receiving recognition for their work, which goes a long way to improving staff motivation and engagement. Plus, giving timely developmental feedback regularly can nip potential issues in the bud and ensure employees head in the right direction.
When preparing for an appraisal, taking some time to properly prepare will help everything go to plan and get the best result from the meeting.
Ahead of the appraisal, give the staff member plenty of notice that you’re inviting them to their appraisal meeting. Allow plenty of time to look back at the entire time frame that you want to review with them, trying not to focus simply on their recent performance. Gathering a well-rounded review of their performance over time is key.
Not down plenty of examples of both positive and developmental feedback to share and discuss during the meeting. For example, “customer x was really pleased with the service you gave them” or “we’ve talked about what happened when we caught up last month. Have you had chance to think about what you could do differently? What have you learnt from what happened?”
Also, note down future business plans, aims and objectives – and share these with the employee during the appraisal. Discuss what the employee needs to focus on to help the business meet those goals.
Asking the employee to prepare for their appraisal is also key to the process. Their preparation doesn’t have to be anything formal, although resources such as the ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) website do have free downloadable templates that are useful and will help them.
Ask them to think about – and bring to their appraisal – examples of what they feel has gone well, where they could have done something differently, what they have enjoyed, and what has stood in their way. Also, ask them to think about suggestions for the coming year, and any support they feel they will need.
Creating an appraisal document or template to follow in the meeting will help keep things on track and provide a documented record of the conversation. ACAS is a great place to start for free downloadable appraisal templates, or you can create your own appraisal form.
Think about what sections you want to cover and allow space to write comments next to each. It’s important to include a section to review the previous period; if objectives were set for the employee, have these been achieved? If objectives weren’t set, include space to review what has gone well and where things could have been done differently for the period being reviewed.
Make sure you capture employee comments, and then discuss and set three or four SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) objectives for the coming period – and use a simple table to set out who needs to do what and when by. Also, list any support and/or training required for the employee, and finish by agreeing a date for review.
Author: Cath Crane, HR Growth Partner