Today, the companies that are thriving, no matter their size, are the ones that are building high-performing cultures. They are creating work spaces where employees feel enabled and encouraged to carry out purposeful performances. Appraisals are a critical element of that building process as they provide employees with the opportunity to share and receive valuable feedback. This in turn makes a positive impact on job satisfaction and helps to reduce turnover rates.
To ensure that this process does not end up being ineffective or stressful, you need to create and set up a solid plan.
Use the following four-step guide for a successful and effective appraisal process that will benefit both your people and the business.
1. Take time to organise your appraisal process.
Solid planning paves the way to a successful appraisal, so spend some time building a strong foundation. Start by answering these key questions:
Who will be participating in the appraisal?
Choose whichever method works best for you, that might include one, two or a mix of the following:
- Manager feedback is a direct conversation between the line manager and the employee, with a focus on reflecting on the employee’s previous performance and the setting up of new targets or goals.
- Self-assessments enable employees to share their own perspective on their performance first. Their responses are then shared with the manager so they can be discussed together in a one-to-one session.
- Peer-to-peer feedback relies on the relationships colleagues have with one another by creating an opportunity for teammates to share constructive criticism and praise.
- Upward feedback gives employees the chance to assess their managers and their leadership team.
- 360° feedback includes insights from a variety of stakeholders who interact with the employee, this could include colleagues, clients, service partners and the manager.
How frequently will appraisals be conducted?
Different factors like the size of your company, what stage you’re in and how rapidly the business is growing can influence what would work best for you. It is up to you whether an annual, bi-annual, or quarterly approach would be best.
Will compensation be tied into the results?
This really depends on what side of the fence you choose to sit on, either way always make sure expectations are realistic and clear when communicating compensation to your employees.
Do I keep giving real-time feedback?
Yes, and do not stop! Continual feedback is important including outside of the appraisal process as it can be referred to within it. Encourage managers to set up regular 1:1 meetings or to run formal and informal recognition programmes to help build individual confidence and boost employee morale. Once these opportunities for dialogue and recognition are well-embedded, performance reviews should no longer come as a surprise as the structure and practice of continual feedback will already be familiar.
2. Give your appraisals a clear structure.
How do you determine your key competencies?
In order to measure performance, you need to have clear, key competencies that can be observed and evaluated. Try to spread these competencies across different aspects of an employee’s role and include both strategic company-wide competencies, as well as execution-based ones.
Some examples of competencies to look at might include:
- Accountability and dependability
- Attention to detail
- Creative thinking
What kind of questions should be in the appraisal?
Assemble a list of open ended and closed questions, based on the competencies you will have established, to ask during the appraisal that focus on getting the most important and insightful information from your employees with regards to their performance. Write the questions so that they are clear and invite participants to provide examples with open text boxes.
Some example questions could be:
- How well does this person prioritise their workload?
- How well does this person embody our company values?
- How much initiative does this person take when it comes to problem-solving?
Could a rating system help?
Decide if a rating system is something you want to explore. There are both pros and cons to them as different managers will interpret the scores differently with interpretations varying across what constitutes a 5 versus a 4. This can muddy the process and may even open the door to bias. Employees, for their part, may obsess over the numbers instead of the qualitative feedback. On the other hand, ratings supply valuable, concrete data and can offer a fully measurable view of the employee’s performance, while also setting clear objectives for the team to strive for.
What comes after the appraisal?
An appraisal should give a snapshot of where an employee is at in their career, where they can improve, where their strengths lie and what their goals or ambitions are. Once this information has been gathered, they can be supported in creating a pathway towards achieving their new goals, working on their areas of improvement, perhaps through training or a mentorship programme, and maximising their strengths. Managers should be encouraged to carry out a follow-up one-to-one to ensure any lingering questions or issues are ironed out. It is also helpful if learning and development resources are made available so they can point the employee in the right direction.
3. Get your appraisal program going.
When launching your appraisal program, you need to ensure there are no surprises for anyone in the company. Clarity on expectations and timings is a must, and these should be shared with managers and employees with reasonable notice.
Decide on how long the appraisal process should take. This could be a full month or a few days depending on the size of the company, either way, let employees know - by making company-wide announcements and getting your HR team to check in with each department to make sure they are aware and on board. This will help to ensure maximum engagement and participation.
The HR team should also be on hand to support everyone throughout the entire process.
4. Follow up with next steps.
Once the performance review process has been fully completed, it’s time to analyse the data. This step is important for understanding how the managers have approached the appraisal. Hold calibration meetings with them to determine this in order to maintain consistency. You will need to understand how different managers assessed employee performance - were they more strict or more lenient?
Following up at least two weeks after a formal appraisal is highly beneficial as it gives the employee an opportunity to ask any lingering questions they might have. Encourage managers to engage with employees on a regular basis in order to make constructive feedback more effective and purposeful.
Introduce learning and development resources if needed, to offer support tools to an employee. Having the right tools and learning resources can motivate and direct employees to take actionable next steps in their career, improve skills and facilitate growth — all of which create added benefits to your organisation.
Lastly, ask managers to keep their employees on track by setting up performance development plans. These plans act as a reference point to help identify performance issues as well as goals and give the structure or direction needed to improve an employee’s performance at a company.