How to Conduct Effective Appraisals

In this post, we look at how to conduct an effective appraisal. Performance appraisals have been part of business for a very long time, but as businesses become leaner, for many the appraisal has lost its impact or is no longer completed at all.
How to Conduct Effective Appraisals
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What Are Appraisals?

In this post we look at how to conduct effective appraisals, but what are appraisals? Performance appraisals have been part of business for a very long time, but as businesses become leaner, for many the appraisal has lost its impact or is no longer completed at all.

Appraisals may be seen as a time-waster, adding no value.  It might be seen as a process that created dead time as whilst conducting appraisals people are not being productive.

But, is there any value in completing appraisals?

Why should a business complete performance appraisals and reviews?

Performance appraisals may be time-consuming, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Why Complete Appraisals?

Appraisals allow an organisation to communicate the vision, helping team members to see what the business is aiming for.  Without this, it is hard for team members to buy into the vision and know what their role is in helping the business realise the vision.

Appraisals allow managers to set their team members clear goals and objectives.  This helps focus the team members efforts on what they should be working on and what they should be leaving.  It also motivates the team member to get out there and get things done.

Appraisals help people to check their progress.  Having clear objectives means everyone should be able to measure progress.

Appraisals help the business identify its top performers.  This means that the business can work on a succession planning programme, as well as learning more about what these people are doing that makes them such high performers.  These lessons could then be shared with others.

On the other hand, appraisals can identify those that are struggling or those that are consistently underperforming.  They help the organisation identify training and development needs, meaning training budgets are focused on the right areas.  They also provide evidence should the need to progress the individual through an HR process arise.

The big benefit is that conducting regular EFFECTIVE appraisals show individuals that the business is investing time in them, this is highly motivational.

The list of benefits could go on and on.  The benefits certainly outweigh the negatives, and this is why businesses should complete performance appraisals and reviews.

The Benefits of Effective Appraisals?

The thing is, Appraisals are perceived to be a long-drawn-out process that doesn't really lead to anything, especially if they are not linked to performance-related pay or bonus.  But, even if they are not linked to anything, they should still be seen as a vitally important process in any business for many different reasons, here are just a few:

  1. They allow you to measure whether everyone in the business is pushing to achieve the organisation's objectives.
  2. They help the business to identify training and development gaps, meaning you can focus your training budget on the right areas.
  3. Used in the right way they can be very motivational for people, therefore driving high performance and productivity.
  4. It's a great way to identify top performers in the business who may be ready to move onto the next level, or on the opposite side, where your areas of risk are that may leave you short of expertise if an individual or group of people leave the business.
  5. It shows employees that the business is investing time in them.

So, why do Appraisals just become a tick in the box exercise?  Simple, the meaning behind them has just been lost.  People don't clearly understand what the purpose of Appraisals is.  It may be that the business has done them for years and they have just lost their appeal, or they were introduced into the business without any real strategy or thought - just a 'we'll do them because we should be doing them'.

How to Conduct Effective Appraisals

We’ve had many conversations with people who we have worked with and it seems that a high percentage of organisations are not using the appraisal process to the best of its ability.  For many it’s an unwelcome distraction from a high workload, for others it’s now just a tick in the box process that has to be done because it has to be done.

What we really should be focusing on is the value of appraisals, helping staff who have maybe become disillusioned with the process to see the value in the appraisal process.  But for this to happen, the business has to sell the benefit of the process to help others see the value in it.

People need to be engaged in the appraisal process.  Here are some ideas to help you engage people into the appraisal process and to make appraisals more engaging:

  • Understand, then sell the benefits of the process – Appraisals are a great opportunity to show employees that the business is investing time in them, something that maybe has been difficult during tough economic times when we are all expected to do more.
  • Appraisals should be used to review progress towards objectives that were set at the start of the process and agree on objectives for the next year.  They should also be used to understand skills gaps that the individuals and the business has.
  • The leadership team needs to show enthusiasm for the process – If the leadership team are not bought into the process, then why should everyone else be?  This needs to come from the top.  If appraisals are to become more engaging, then everyone needs to be engaged in the process.
  • Make it a two-way process – Yes, the term appraisal implies that we will be appraising our employees; however, engagement in the process can be generated by making it more two way.  Inviting employees to share how they think they have done rather than tell them shows that you are taking interest in them.
  • Agree on objectives that are SMART – Using SMART objectives means that everyone is clear on what needs to be achieved.  Coach employees towards what their objectives should be rather than dictate them.  This will generate buy-in to the objectives and make the appraisal process more engaging overall.
  • Set a personal development plan – Help employees generate a personal development plan which will help them to close any skills gaps.  Make them responsible for keeping it updated.  Make it a live working document, not just something that is set then gathers dust until next year.

Appraising the Appraisal System

Most businesses today use some form of process to review staff performance. This is either done using a performance management approach or appraisal process. But, if you have an appraisal process in place in your organisation, is it actually doing what it's supposed to be. Ask yourself the question - There is an appraisal process in place but what is it actually doing for the business?

If it's doing little or nothing, then maybe it's time for a revamp; however, before you go off and reinvent the wheel with a whole new process, there are a few things to consider about the existing process. Let's face it, introducing a brand new process could have more of a negative impact on the business than what the current one may be having.

Depending on the job you may depend on how you feel about appraisals. Don't get me wrong, I'm not insinuating that everyone has a negative view of appraisals but some research that has been carried out in organisations will show that there is a difference of opinion.

For example, let's say you are a Trainer. Your view of the appraisal process may be that it's there as a development tool. It's there to encourage motivation, help people to understand what they need to achieve and a great opportunity for an employee to sit with their line manager and get some feedback to help them improve. From the appraisal process, you should be able to identify what the businesses training and development needs are. You should be able to see who the top performers are and prime for development into a higher role.

Now, ask the same question to a manager. Depending on their view of the world and the type of manager they are will depend on what answer they give you. They may give you the answer described above; however, their view may be very different. There is potential that they may totally dislike the process and give you feedback such as 'Appraisals are always at the wrong time for me', I feel uncomfortable doing appraisals', 'the process is too long', 'what difference does it make', 'we have enough to do without filling in all of these forms', 'appraisals are unfair' etc.

Does the Appraisal Process Need to Change?

So, if people in the team feel this way about appraisals, maybe it's not the process that needs changing, but the people who apply the process. Re-educating them on the purpose of the appraisal process and helping them to see that appraisals are about the first answer may be all that is required to re-invigorate the process in your business. If the feedback you are getting suggests the documentation is too complex, can you change it? Is there some way that you can simplify the whole process so that it's not so labour intensive? This will surely get you some more buy-in to your process.

If the feedback you are getting shows that the process simply isn't working then maybe it's time for a change. It's so easy for the person developing the new process to go out and build something that suits them. Doing that will probably give you the same results as what you currently have. You need to get feedback from the business and consult with them to understand what they want the process to do. Ask them questions such as 'Why should we have an appraisal system?', 'What should the process deliver?', 'What do you want people to do that they most probably won't do without an appraisal process?

This will give you a great indication of what to add to your process and how to tailor it to your individual business needs. So remember, it may not be the process that needs changing, but maybe the way people think about the process.

Appraisal Skills Training Course

If you would like to learn more about running effective appraisals and performance management discussions then our Appraisal Skills training course will provide lots of helpful tips and advice.


David Lumley04-07-2021

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