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Hooray, it’s appraisal time again!

Hands up who loves appraisals! Come on, don’t all rush to raise your arms enthusiastically.

If you’re sighing and feeling it’s something you have to do, because your boss and HR are hassling you about it, then here’s some quick advice:


1 You have to do it – so make an effort

If you manage people, they expect an annual appraisal. So cutting corners, delaying for ages and possibly having a really short appraisal meeting where it’s obvious you aren’t going to put much time and thought into it sends out a clear message – and not a good one. The employees won’t be sympathetic because you’re busy. They will think you cannot be bothered to spend time on them. It’s not a tickbox exercise (at least it shouldn’t be): it’s an important part of your working relationships.


2 Don’t spring any surprises

Nobody likes being told they’re less than great, if they think they’re doing well. For employees, finding out during an appraisal meeting that their understanding of how things are going is wrong and suddenly hearing you think this, when you’ve kept it a secret for some time, is far from ideal. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure people know how they’re getting on – so don’t wait until the annual appraisal to give them feedback, good or bad. It also gives people a chance to improve, if that’s what you require, before scoring their performance at appraisal time.


3 Be honest

If you’re tempted to say everything’s fine and gloss over any tricky conversations, it will backfire. Let’s say you have someone who’s good in some areas but less than great in others – or even causing problems. Saying “you’re great” doesn’t help either of you. Whatever the problem is, it will just continue and potentially get worse until you’re forced to do something about it… at which point the employee will ask why you told her or him that everything was going well and gave a glowing appraisal. Saying “you can develop and improve here” or even “please don’t do this” are much better options.


4 What do they think?

I regularly hear managers say they know how employees will react to a discussion – and frequently it doesn’t play out that way at all. Normally because they base their views on a couple of things but haven’t really spoken about whatever the issue is, until they have to. I’ve been there myself: worried how a low score for an argumentative person will go down and then had the pleasant surprise of that person agreeing with me. So find out: you can discuss things before the appraisal – ask how they think they’re doing – or ideally the employees can self-assess their own performance, so you can see what they think.


5 It’s not a school report

Scoring performance is part of an appraisal. But that’s looking backwards and you also need to work on what happens next. What needs to change? Is the employee looking for some kind of development, either for the current role or career progression? It’s an important part of the appraisal and skipping over this part sends out a message that you just want people to keep their heads down and work, without any chance for them to develop their skills – and that increases the risks of people moving jobs, even if it’s just because they get bored with more of the same for another year. You can see some useful advice about developing people here.


Now set aside a couple of hours, do the preparation work properly, invest some time in the employees you are appraising and enjoy the experience!


By Brian

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