How to Avoid the Dread of a Staff Appraisal



How do you structure your performance management system so that your employee appraisals are helpful, relevant, and terror-free?

When conducted in the correct way, staff appraisals can be beneficial for both the employee and employer. Appraisals shouldn’t be seen as some annual, tick-box exercise which causes a collective sigh around the office. Research suggests that 90% of performance appraisal systems are a failure, with both managers and employees dreading the impending discussions.

Staff appraisals should involve constructive feedback between managers and employees. The role of an appraisal is to gain and give feedback, discuss the development of a staff member and, overall, lead to a more positive and efficient workplace.

It’s important to try and avoid the dread that many people feel with a staff appraisal and turn it into a positive experience for both sides, but how can this be achieved? Consider the following to improve your staff appraisal process going forward.

Be Prepared

There’s nothing worse than having a flustered morning and then having to spend the afternoon in staff appraisals, when you haven’t had time to read over what the employee has written beforehand.

You need to know exactly who you’re seeing and what you’re going to say. Having time to prepare beforehand means you know what language to use and how to construct your feedback in an appropriate way. In addition, make sure that you know the employee well and you’re not in a staff appraisal with a member of staff that you hardly see.

Have a Clear and Open Agenda

On the theme of preparation, having an agenda which both yourself and the employee can look at before the meeting is a good idea. This means there is a clear structure and you can both plan what to say to make the most out of the review. Using a one-to-one meeting template can be a huge help when creating an agenda for an appraisal or performance management meeting.

Conduct Regular Staff Appraisals

The mere thought of more than one annual staff appraisal may fill hearts with fear, but turning the whole system upside down and changing it can be worth the time and effort. More businesses are moving away from annual appraisals and promoting continuous performance management, which can be much more effective. An efficient performance management system is beneficial for employees, managers and businesses. Conducting regular meetings with staff to engage with them about issues or feedback means nobody has to bottle up issues for an annual review. It’s a strategy that can also make an employee much more familiar and comfortable with managers.

Use Performance Appraisal Software

Times have moved on from the days where everyone needs to fill in a form prior to a performance review. There are now different types of performance appraisal software available to make staff appraisals a seamless, stress-free affair. Having useful software means all the information and records can be kept in one place and both managers and employees can update it prior to an appraisal.

Give More Positive Feedback

Research indicates that even employees who perform well can dread their performance review, because they take negative feedback and constructive criticism to heart. The last thing you want to do is beat down your positive and hard-working employees. Therefore, finding a way to give feedback on improvement to employees should be surrounded by extra positivity.

Use Appropriate Language

When talking with members of staff, using the right kind of language can help to ease a discussion. If somebody has done some great work, be sure to tell them that. Words convey a lot of meaning and can carry different connotations. Simple words such as “good” or “satisfactory” rarely help guide or inspire employees, as they are too generic, despite being positive. Using words such as “excel” and “achieve” are more effective. Using words like these is particularly useful when filling out a staff appraisal form which the employee will be reading.

Discuss Career Progression

It’s important to use performance reviews to discuss progression within the company and career development overall. This shows that you have a vested interest in the person and their development. It’s another great way to focus on positivity and engage the staff member in finding out if they are invested in the company.

Set Goals for Both of You

The purpose of a staff appraisal is not simply to discuss how the employee is performing, but also what the manager can do better as well. Both parties should leave the meeting having goals going forward. Communication works both ways and the manager needs to know how they can best support their employees to achieve their goals.

When creating the goals, it’s important to make them challenging but achievable. Goals should be monitored and brought up in the next performance review to see how the employee is progressing and performing in their role.

Photo credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Stuart Hearn

Stuart Hearn has twenty years of experience in the HR sector. He co-founded plusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy, and previously worked as International HR Director for Sony Music Publishing. Stuart is currently CEO of Clear Review, an innovative performance management software system.


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