Conducting a performance appraisal

Two business women conduct an interview.

Conducting a performance appraisal

Two business women conduct an interview.

A well-managed performance appraisal process has significant benefits for employers and employees alike. Here are some tips for preparation, appraisal meetings and follow-up.

A performance appraisal, or performance review, is a process an employer can use to assess an employee’s performance so that personal and organisational goals can be achieved.

It is also a great opportunity to recognise an employee’s performance and reward success or, alternatively, develop plans to address underperformance.

Preparing for the appraisal

Performance appraisals should occur regularly—at the very least on an annual basis.

To prepare for the appraisal meeting, the performance appraiser should develop the criteria on which the appraisal will be based.

The best way to do this is by reviewing the employee’s job description.

Their job description should clearly outline the duties they are engaged to perform, allowing the appraiser to assess the competency levels required to perform the role.

 Going through the employee’s duties, the appraiser can assess at what level the employee is currently performing.

If there have been previous performance reviews, their current performance should also be measured against any previous agreed upon goals.

Objective measures of performance such as key performance indicators should be used where possible.

This minimises bias, or accusations of bias, so that it’s clear that the appraiser has formed their assessment based on objective facts rather than on their own opinion.

Where possible, make note of specific instances of high or low performance that can be referred to in the appraisal.

The employee also needs to prepare for the meeting.

Specifically, they should be ready to compare their current performance to previous development goals as well as to provide insight into training needs and development or career goals.

Some performance appraisals involve the employee completing a self-evaluation form prior to the meeting.

The performance appraisal meeting

If this is the first appraisal, both parties should review the employee’s performance in light of their job description and other competency measures.

If previous performance appraisals have taken place, both parties can also evaluate whether previous goals have been met.

Where an employee has met or exceeded performance standards, the appraiser should recognise this.

Exceptional performance should be celebrated and the appraiser should ideally note specific examples.

A performance appraisal should be used to commend and reward an employee as much as to highlight deficiencies in performance.

Nevertheless, an appraiser must be willing to provide honest criticism.

If an appraiser is not willing to be honest, they risk being unable to properly deal with performance issues before they become much more serious.

An appraisal should also consider other aspects of an employee’s performance.

This includes examining the employee’s current motivation and attitude when working as well as their fit within the team’s culture.

While these are more subjective measures of performance, they can often have significant influence on the employee’s performance and the organisation as a whole.

After this, the employee and the appraiser should collaborate on performance and development goals for the future, settling on a development and improvement plan.

These goals, which should be discretely measurable and reasonably achievable within the time frame, will form the basis of future performance appraisals.

Additional training or assistance the employee might require should also be discussed.

At the end of the meeting, the employee and appraiser should sign off on the appraisal.

This can also serve as documentation that the employee was made aware of any performance issues as well as of steps that were taken to address them.

Finally, the two parties should agree on the date of the next performance appraisal.

Monitoring the outcomes

It is important to critically evaluate the effectiveness of performance appraisal meetings.

As such, it could be appropriate to schedule a follow-up meeting after the appraisal to monitor the employee’s progress and make any necessary adjustments.

Benefits of performance appraisals

Benefits of performance appraisals include:

  • a stronger employer/employee relationship
  • feedback from the employee that can improve job design, the working environment and career planning
  • the identification of training needs, including encouraging employees to take the initiative with steps to improve job performance
  • the opportunity for grievances to be raised and resolved before they escalate
  • regular documentation of high performance or underperformance.

In summary

Performance appraisals are an important part of managing employees and they shouldn’t be left until the employee is underperforming.

Implementing regular performance reviews improves communication with employees and helps maintain strong performance across your team.

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