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Conducting Appraisals


There is no single path to conducting better appraisals but the following six steps should help you make the meetings more interactive and productive:

1. Continual assessment.

   Conducting Appraisals

Giving timely feedback to employees on their performance, as soon as it needed, is the best way to praise / discipline them. If it is left until the annual appraisal, an employee may feel it is unfair and it may become ineffective. So the best policy is to address an error or praise a success when it happens, not save it for the appraisal. This way you are also addressing two common fears that managers have about appraisals, i.e. confrontations and surprises, which is usually because there has been a lack of communication during the year. (It is, however, a good discipline to also log such discussions, they can then be recalled as examples of good work at the annual appraisal or, if there has been no improvement be used to remind the employee that has or she has been “warned” before about a particular behavior.)

If the appraisal is the only time you talk to your staff about how they are doing, and especially if this one meeting has an impact on salary, then employees’ expectations of the meeting will be high. With all this tension in the room, how can it be a successful discussion? Ongoing communication throughout the year between you and your employees is the key to reducing the fear and anxiety associated with appraisals.

2. Preparation.

Good preparation is about creating SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-related) objectives for next year so that every employee knows what is expected of them. Getting some input from the employees on their objectives will help increase their commitment to achieving these goals.

3. Reviewing documents.

Before you sit down with an employee, review all your documentation from the year. Look at the objectives that you and the employee agreed at the last appraisal as well as any information received about the employee during the year. Review your notes from all previous meetings that you have had with the employee and then write a draft of the performance review.

4. Use an appropriate setting.

The most commonly used location, is your office, but this is often the worst place as it is not neutral territory; no matter how much rapport-building you do or how long you have worked with the employee, it is still "your territory”. Also, getting someone out of your office when the appraisal is over, particularly if the employee thinks there is more to discuss, can be difficult. If possible, a conference room is good but if one is not available then find somewhere else. Be creative or go off site. Some managers choose to do appraisals over lunch as a way to reward the employee, but restaurants at lunchtime are far from private and even employees expecting a positive review often do not feel particularly hungry when they go into an appraisal.

5. Deliver your message clearly.

Deliver the appraisal in simple language. The purpose of the meeting is not to renegotiate the objectives or the standards for performance that were set at the beginning of the year but to review what has happened. Do not use jargon or mince your words and do not dance around a performance issue. If you are nervous about delivering bad news, the employee will pick up on it and may believe there is hope of a last-minute chance to improve the scores.

This advice goes for both good and bad news! Some managers avoid giving good news because they are wary about telling an employee that he or she has done a good job in case, later on, they have to discipline the same employee. However, the two things will be separate matters and should be dealt with that way. Conversely, some managers feel a need to hide bad news in case they hurt an employee's feelings. Some fear there will be an argument or just do not like to talk about a person’s shortcomings. If an employee has not performed as well as expected then you owe it to the employee and, yourself, to let the person know.

By not addressing an employee’s poor performance issues and awarding higher ratings to spare their feelings, you are actually exposing the company and yourself to a potential liability. If you have been carrying out regular assessments and feedback throughout the year, then you will have reduced the likelihood of confrontations at the appraisals. Telling employees directly where they have performed well and where they need to improve is much better and they will respect you for it, and your credibility and standing as a manager will rise because of it.

6. Encouragement.

At the end of an appraisal meeting, your job is to encourage and motivate the employee to continue to do well the things they do well and to improve in the areas where there is room for improvement. This is the best way to make appraisals productive and positive and demonstrate the end of one performance appraisal cycle and the beginning of the next. Whether or not the appraisal has been as good as an employee was expecting, it is important to confirm that the employee is still a valued member of the team and that you are there to provide support. Arranging a follow up meeting to discuss development is a good way of re-assuring employees that you do support them and are willing to invest your time in this way.

Try it next year and see if there is any improvement in the appraisal at the end of next year.

If you need any help planning for your appraisals we can help, click here to contact us.

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