Effective performance appraisal system
Businesses of all sizes have used an appraisal process in various forms for many years,
most to great effect. The idea is a simple one; present an employee with a safe
environment in which they feel at liberty to speak their mind, in the certain knowledge
that their thoughts and ideas will be listened to and acted upon. At the same time
constructive criticism and advice in any area of their working life is providing where it is
felt that the employee could improve.
The outcomes of these appraisals can affect a person's salary as well as their training,
promotion prospects, personal development and even their redundancy selection. Why
then, are so many of these processes entered into so lightly?
When one considers the amount of time and money spent in the recruitment process, it
would make sense to invest a significant amount of time in employee personal
development. In today's climate it makes real commercial sense to get everybody on
board, on side and aligned with the company's objectives.
An appraisal is designed to review an employee's performance over a set period of time,
most commonly, a 12 month period and may contain a mid year review to identify any
improvements and changes which need to be made. Training needs should be addressed
and the relevant training identified and sourced either in-house or externally. These
training requirements can range from the simple "shadowing" of a work colleague to the
attendance of an externally provided training course.
Setting SMART Objectives
Objectives should be set in bite-size pieces with clearly defined goals. They should also
be SMART, which means:
Specific - Clearly defined
Measurable - Results Targeted
Achievable - Not beyond employee capability
Realistic - Based on previous achievement
Timely - To promote further development
It is important not to set too many objectives as this can swamp the employee and have a
de-motivating effect. Equally care must be taken not to set too few, as this can lead to
complacency, which is similarly de-motivating. An ideal number is between 5 and 10.
The appraisal process is an ideal forum for the discussion of salary increases and
opportunities for promotion. As such it is an excellent tool to further develop employees
and encourage company loyalty, if handled correctly.
If handled incorrectly however, the exact opposite is true and it becomes a de-motivating
and destructive force. There are many examples of companies loosing great and
committed employees through a misplaced word during an appraisal. This highlights the
need for training in this direction.
To ensure that an appraisal gets the best from the employee it is important that it be
carried out in an open, friendly and private manner. This time is often the only
opportunity in which an employee feels able to openly discuss their aspirations and
concerns; therefore it needs to be carried out in a quiet space away from other members
of staff. In addition, an appraisal should never be rushed. Time must be given for the
employee to prepare items they wish to discuss, and for the manager to do the same.
Appraisals need not be office based
The key to a successful appraisal is to ensure that the employee is as comfortable as
possible throughout the process, enabling them to properly and fully express themselves
without fear of impacting on colleagues. This may involve removing the appraisal from
the workplace environment. A recent case saw an appraisal venue moved to a local coffee
shop on the basis that there were no phones to interrupt the meeting. Also importantly for
this individual, there was no desk in this environment to act as a barrier between the
parties. In these relaxed and informal surroundings the employee felt at ease and able to
express himself more easily. It enabled frank and open discussion on mutual ground.
Appraisals need not be 1-2-1's
Another appraisal method, increasing in popularity is the 360° appraisal. This involves
the employee receiving feedback from colleagues and managers, whose views and
opinions are considered helpful and relevant. This can be delivered anonymously if
Typically formed as a multi-choice questionnaire it rates job skills, attitude, ability and
behaviour by means of a scoring system. The employee is asked to score themselves in
these same areas resulting in an overview of the employee's performance as seen from
varying angles. The results are openly and rationally discussed with the employee,
helping to highlight areas of strength and areas that need to be worked on.
This can sometimes result in some quite telling and "hard to hear" feedback and it is the
responsibility of the appraiser to disseminate this, concentrating on and pulling out, the
positives rather than dwelling on the negatives.
This form of appraisal will not suit everyone, so it is useful to have a bank of tools at
your disposal enabling you to match the approach to the individual.
Although it is vitally important to perform measurable objective and training needs
analysis, it should not be forgotten that the most important aspect of the appraisal
process, is getting the best from the employee and motivating, retaining and improving
them as a result.
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