As well as providing legal representation and advice on employment law, we are often asked to assist organisations maximise employee performance. One of the topics we get asked about most is how to carry out a worthwhile performance appraisal.
At the outset, it is important to note that an appraisal by itself is not performance management. Performance management should be a day to day matter. Employees should not be surprised by comments from managers as part of their appraisal. If there are issues that the manager is not happy with, the employee should be aware of these before the formal appraisal meeting takes place. Similarly, if something the employee is doing is appreciated and adding value, the employee should be made aware of this on an informal basis and not just at the annual appraisal.
While performance management and development of people should be a day to day and week by week focus for leaders and managers, the performance appraisal process is an opportunity to have a more formal review of performance and to take a note of targets for the future.
Broadly speaking, performance appraisals should do two things:-
- Review performance / progress from the date of the last appraisal
- Agree targets for the future for review at the next appraisal
One of the most common questions around this issue is “do you have a form for a performance appraisal?” While appraisal forms can be useful, it should be noted that the form of the appraisal document is less important than ensuring that the process involves two-way communication between the appraiser and appraisee where the employee feels that they have been listened to and supported and any necessary interventions are identified and plans put in place. As long as that remains the focus, the appraisal process should be a positive experience for all concerned irrespective of what forms are filled in as part of the process.
Before the appraisal meeting
If there has been a prior appraisal, employees should be provided with a copy of the report from the last appraisal and asked to come to the meeting prepared to discuss what progress they feel has been made. Employees should also have the opportunity to comment on the performance of their department and to make suggestions for how things could be improved in the organisation as a whole.
The appraiser should take some time to reflect on his/her assessment of the employee’s performance, having considered the employee’s comments. Where possible, specific examples should be identified as they can help to achieve agreement on a matter that may otherwise prove difficult to find agreement on.
The appraisal meeting
The appraiser and appraisee should discuss the employees’ views on their performance and the appraiser should provide his or her own observations. Any objectives set in the past that have been met by the employee should be formally recognised and the reasons for any targets not met should be explored. Remember however that performance management is an ongoing process and the employee should already be aware if there are matters relating to their performance that need work and so nothing should come as a surprise to an employee in an appraisal meeting.
Where possible, agreement should be reached on targets and objectives going forward, to be kept under constant review and to be formally reviewed in the next appraisal process. Where possible, make aims / targets capable of objective assessment.
Any comments or suggestions that the employee has made regarding how the department or organisation is performing or could be improved should be discussed and, if appropriate, implemented.
After the appraisal meeting
It is important to ensure that any actions that are identified as required during the appraisal process are implemented as soon as possible. Communication should remain open and the appraiser should try to assist the employee in the weeks and months following the appraisal to meet the targets set. If the employee has made comments or suggestions that could benefit the whole department or organisation, consider implementing these.
A leader or manager conducting a performance appraisal should always ensure that the employee is encouraged to actively engage in the process for their own benefit and the benefit of the organisation. The employee should be given every opportunity to develop their skills and potential. It is also important that employees understand the important part that their role in the organisation has to play to the overall success of the organisation. By ensuring that these matters are at the heart of the appraisal process, an employer can help to make the process a positive one for all involved.
Collective Questions is intended as a guide and for general information only and is not a substitute for taking specific advice relating to your situation. For specific advice regarding this or any other issue relating to employing people, please do not hesitate to contact us.