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Annie Hayes



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Feature: Getting the most out of appraisals



Graham Yemm, founding partner of Solutions 4 Training looks at the appraisal procedure and what can be done to make the experience more worthwhile for everyone involved.

Does your organisation have one of those annual ‘occasions’ that few look forward to: the annual appraisal or performance review? How do you look forward to it? I wonder how people talk about it before and after? Whichever side of the desk you are looking from, the chances are that your view is not entirely positive! Why is this?

Some of the typical problems perceived are:

  • It is an annual process

  • Nothing has happened with the outcome of the last one

  • There is no on-going feedback or review of progress

  • Things can change in between, may it be the manager or the job!

  • The process is not taken seriously from the top

  • The organisational culture views the whole process as a chore to be endured

  • Insufficient preparation

  • The ‘recency’ effect where only the previous 6-8 weeks are reviewed

  • Too much focus on the negatives or problems of the year

  • It is too subjective and too much is based on opinion

  • It is too time consuming and interferes with day-to-day work

  • Appraisals are just part of the salary negotiation

I am sure you can add your own comments to this list based on your own experiences, which is a shame. With a little more effort the process can be rewarding for all involved. You have to spend the time on it so think about how much more productive the process could be with a few changes in attitudes and behaviours.

Everyone involved has to take their share of responsibility for making things work. While the tips below will not guarantee success, they will help you to get more from the process, whatever your role.

If you are the ‘appraiser’

1. Make the time to prepare properly!

2. Set a time for the review – and stick to it! Do not move it around – what message does that send out? Allow anything from 1 – 2 hours.

3. Choose a place where you can have the privacy for a proper, open meeting with no interruptions! Turn off mobile phones.

4. Have a short meeting with the interviewee a few days before and outline what you want them to do before the meeting and during it.

5. Look at last year’s review and identify what progress has been made.

6. Think about the good things the employee has achieved and done – do not just look for the negatives.

7. Be specific with the points you want to discuss and review – with evidence not just opinion.

8. Set an agenda or structure for the meeting and stick to it.

9. Make sure they do a lot of the talking, it is THEIR review not yours! Also, LISTEN to what they say and build on it.

10. Remember to give feedback on performance or behaviour – not personality!

11. Note where job changes might have impacted on achievement of the goals from last year and identify successes.

12. Set and agree clear, SMART goals, both short and medium term.

If you are being reviewed or appraised:

1. Remember to ‘own’ the process – you have a responsibility to make it work for you, it is not just down to your boss!

2. Make time to prepare by reviewing what you have done and how even if there is no formal self-assessment process.

3. Obtain a copy of the previous review from HR or your boss if you don’t have one.

4. If your role or responsibilities have changed since the previous appraisal, identify the goals you achieved up until the change and those after.

5. Make notes of the key points you want to mention.

6. Be honest in your self-assessment about what you could have improved upon.

7. Be specific about the things you have done well.

8. Think about what you want for the short, medium and long-term. What support, training or development would you like?

9. What might be sensible areas to set goals for the future? Be willing to suggest these to your boss.

10. Ask for clear and specific feedback.

11. If you would like your boss to manage you differently, use this as a time to ask, giving reasons about why it would benefit all of you!

12. Ensure you are clear about what the boss thinks and why – and whether it fits with your own self-assessment. If there is a difference, explore why this is the case. Work to reach agreement.

Finally, there should be a sense of agreement about what has happened, what will happen and how. To reinforce the effectiveness, avoid making it just an annual event. Set on-going reviews to monitor progress towards the goals, to support any training or development and to improve communication between bosses and teams.

An idea for all is to keep some notes throughout the year of successes and any particular challenges or events you want to recall later. It will help to reduce some of the subjectivity of poor appraisals and also makes sure things are remembered throughout the year!

Appraisals or reviews can work – and be of benefit to the organisation, the managers and the teams, provided they are thought of as something which is positive and constructive. Make time to do them properly – otherwise they will be a waste of time for all involved!

Graham Yemm is one of the founding partners of Solutions 4 Training Ltd.

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Annie Hayes


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