How to conduct staff appraisals

Appraisals play a crucial role in assessing staff performance and morale and ensuring talent is maximised, but few CIOs receive any training on giving feedback.

CIO UKreviews the best practices to regularly report on individual performances for the benefit of both the employee and the organisation they work for.

Read next: 7 ways to improve your IT team's productivity

Review the appraisal process
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Review the appraisal process

Appraisals are often conducted annually, but organisations are increasingly conducting them more regularly due to the speed with which things can change for the organisation, role and individual.

When a timetable has been established, notify the employees about the purpose of the appraisals and how they will be conducted. They should also be directed towards any relevant support and guidance.

Choose the right time and place
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Choose the right time and place

Schedule the appraisal for a convenient time and location. The very word "feedback" can put employees on edge. Offering them a choice of times could ease their nerves and ensure that the eventual meeting takes place in a relaxed and productive atmosphere.

If a self-assessment form is being used, send it to the employee with plenty of time for them to complete it before the appraisal.

Review the employee’s performance
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Review the employee’s performance

Examine the job information around each role prior to the appraisal, including the required skills.

Go through the previous appraisal forms and any performance metrics and note which objectives have been met, and how the individual performance, development, and behaviour stacks up against the job description and the goals set for the employee.

For those objectives which have not been met, assess why that may be. This can be more complicated than assigning fault to an individual as external factors, new priorities, and changes to the business could be decisive factors.

Plan thoroughly
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Plan thoroughly

Go through the current appraisal form and consider the comments you will make to the employee. Prepare to discuss the skills they may need to develop in future, whether in this role or their next one. Print any relevant documents and block out a long slot in your diary in case you overrun.

Your feedback may be met by resistance, so plan how you will react to any extreme reaction from the employee. Seeking professional guidance for this could be a wise move, both for the benefits it gives you for conducting future appraisals and the help it will provide to the employee.

Beginning the appraisal
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Beginning the appraisal

Explain the purpose and scope of the appraisal and try to put the employee at ease by beginning with some positive feedback and emphasising the benefits of the appraisal process to their career.

Start with open-ended questions and open body language to create a relaxed atmosphere and a sense of rapport. The appraisal should flow like a conversation rather than a lecture.

Offer specific advice
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Offer specific advice

Vague advice such as "be more open" is difficult to turn into results, as the terms of reference constantly move and there's no specific objective. Focus on the facts and the previous objectives that were set.

Instead, make clear statements based on observations of the employee’s working practices and the impact it had on the organisation and colleagues. Explaining the effect substantiates the comments and can reduce the risk of it being felt as unfair.

Be open to their response
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Be open to their response

Ask for their own assessment of their performance and their response to your comments. They might have a different perspective on your comments and examples.

Giving them the chance to give their side will boost their morale by showing that the appraisal is not solely didactic, and will also give you the chance to get a fuller picture of their individual situation and of the organisation in general.

Aim for a positive outcome
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Aim for a positive outcome

Balance any criticism with praise. Acknowledge effort as well as result, as the failure to meet the objective doesn’t mean their contribution had no value. Identify the cause of any shortcomings and a strategy to remedy them

Earn the trust of the employee to ensure that assess their successes and failures openly. Add your own comments as the discussion progresses, and suggest possible ways they can improve and offer any training that could help them. Try to agree to a set of objectives to achieve before the next appraisal.

Follow up

Follow up

Complete the appraisal form immediately after the meeting and finish the appraisal process in line with the organisation's requirements.

This will typically involve the employee adding their signature and comments to the form before a senior manager signs it off and it's added to the employee's personal file. If the employee feels it is unfair they should be advised of the appeals process.

Commit to the pledges made in the appraisal and to achieving the objectives on an ongoing basis. Review the progress at one-to-one meetings and at any formal mid-year reviews at scheduled times.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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