Hays Montrose’s Robert Smith tells bosses how to organise the perfect employee appraisal.
“Appraisal” is a word guaranteed to make any employee’s blood run cold, but the appraisal has become an integral part of the success of a company. As an employer, you should use it to boost morale, build rapport and inspire achievement. It is also a powerful way to reaffirm corporate culture, set targets and develop ideas. How can you ensure that your appraisal will inspire rather than deflate?

Preparation is key

Get the employee to complete a pre-appraisal form so you can identify areas for discussion. This means neither party can spring any surprises. Don’t “wing it” unless you are prepared to look ridiculous in the eyes of the employee. When preparing feedback, do not rely on your own opinion. A good manager will back up his or her views with hard evidence. I find gaining feedback from third parties helps to form an objective view. And if you are conducting a reappraisal, make sure you are aware of the key objectives raised at the last one.

Get the seating right

You want to put your employee at ease, so arrange the seating in a non-confrontational way – there is nothing worse than sitting on one side of a table with the employee on the other. Sitting side by side or at a round table is more relaxed. You will both be able to see any paperwork and keep everything out in the open.

Opening the appraisal

Start by taking the employee through the appraisal process and what you both stand to gain from it. Show genuine interest in the employee, make sure he or she understands the process and is comfortable with it. But do not let this disintegrate into small talk – delaying the appraisal will only make both of you more nervous.

Honesty is the best policy

You can never over-emphasise the need for your appraisee to be frank. There is nothing worse than someone saying “Oh, nothing” when asked if they have any problems.

Avoid negativity

Start by outlining positive attributes. This will make your employee feel more comfortable discussing their weaknesses.

A constructive appraisal should focus on the formulation of solutions rather than simply pointing out weaknesses. When identifying the causes of underachievement, there is a strong possibility that you as manager may be the negative factor. If this is the case, you could both agree to work on the problem. This will gain you their respect into the bargain. An appraisal should identify not only what your employee needs to work on, but how you can best assist them.

Plan for the future

Once past performance has been assessed, you need to identify development needs and form a plan of action. This should very much be a two-sided discussion. Ask where the appraisee wants to be in a year and beware of any employee who does not have an answer.

The employee must be willing to, and capable of, implementing the action plan. Consider whether training is necessary and whether your plan will overstretch your human resources or training budget.

Do not discuss pay

An appraisal is not about how much you pay your staff; it is about how they do their job. Save the pay review for another time.

And finally …

Don’t rely on appraisals as your only means of contact with staff – communication and feedback should be a continuous process.

For further advice, call Paul France at Hays Montrose Consultancy Services on 0171-931 7714.