7 Quick Tips – Conducting an Effective Appraisal and Setting Objectives

So it’s the beginning of the year and a good time to give some focus to your staff for the year ahead so that everyone is aligned towards achieving your business goals.

Appraisals are a great way to engage your employees which leads to them taking pride in their job and going the extra mile.

But why does the word ‘appraisal’ makes everyone groan?

Managers see it as an additional task to complete with much form filling. The staff themselves often dread the discussion particularly if they’ve had poor experiences of appraisals in the past where it has been purely a paper exercise of no value, or they’ve received criticism that they see as unjust.

So, here’s some advice by way of quick tips that will make conducting appraisals simple and effective for you and your managers.

1. Don’t obsess about having the perfect form – An appraisal is about reviewing objectives and setting new ones for the year ahead, reviewing competence and performance, and discussing training and development needs. So yes it may be useful to have a structured form to record the information, but as long as you write it down then this will suffice. There are many templates available on-line, but be careful not to download one that’s over complicated. Feel free to use our template:

Staff Appraisal Form

2. Do some preparation – it sounds obvious but often gets missed. For each person, you need to be ready to talk about the objectives you’re setting them (see 4. below) and be able to give them feedback on how they’re performing against their previous objectives (see 5. below). If they’ve had a previous review then take time to recap on this before your meeting. Think about talking to other managers or even customers, if appropriate, to get their perspective and feedback.

3. Listen to your employee – although you’ll have already prepared objectives and feedback, remember the appraisal is a 2-way discussion. Be prepared to listen to your employee about any ideas or concerns. Being involved in the objective setting will have a positive impact on your employee’s engagement with them.

4. Set challenging objectives for the year ahead – which align to the overall goals of your business. Think beyond just the day to day tasks of the role. When you set your objectives, ensure they are ‘SMART’:

Specific – state a desired outcome. What the employee need to achieve?
Measurable – how will you and your employee know when the objective has been achieved?
Achievable – is the objective something your employee is capable of achieving but also challenging?
Relevant – does the objective relate to those of your business?
Timebound – when does the objective need to be achieved?

5. Give constructive feedback and lots of praise where it’s due – telling people when they are doing a good job sounds so obvious, but is often overlooked. Yet receiving praise and endorsement that you’re doing well is a powerful motivator. Where you need to let your employee know about concerns with their work, competence or behaviour, make sure you provide specific examples to back up the criticism. This will help your employee understand your concerns and to be more accepting of the issue. Talk about ways that your employee can improve. Remember though, the appraisal meeting should not turn into a disciplinary meeting to address specific issues.

6. Discuss training needs and area for development – Discuss any training and development needs that your employee may need to support with achieving objectives, developing in their current role, or preparing for future roles in your organisation. Remember there are lot of ways to learn, not just attending training courses. Define how the training need will be met and set timescales for it being completed.

7. Write up and ongoing review – End the meeting by summarising the key points and actions agreed. After the meeting, write up your notes from the meeting on a template if you have chosen to use one. Let your employee review the notes and add any comments. And most importantly, agree when you will review the document again. It’s useful to have regular informal catch ups with your employees about their work, but you may want to have a more formal quarterly or 6 monthly review of the appraisal objectives. This will help both you and your employee to monitor whether he/she is on track with achieving the objectives, to agree any necessary changes and to align further support if required.

The Benefits in a Nutshell
• Your employee receives valuable feedback
• Your employee learns what is expected of him/her
• Your employee gains recognition for his/her efforts
• Problems are recognised and addressed
• Your employee can contribute to discussions about his/her training