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Conducting effective staff appraisals

Updated: Jan 5

Conducting annual staff appraisals can feel like a mountain to climb, especially with the demands of the day job running alongside the annual cycle of appraisal meetings.

However, if managed well, appraisals can add real value to your business and your employee relationships.

The performance appraisal is a key part of the wider framework of performance management which includes regular touchpoints of feedback and individual meetings. Appraisals help employees feel engaged with the organisation’s aims and objectives, and how the job they do helps to achieve these.

Actions to take before the performance appraisal

Make notes well in advance. Preparation for the meeting ahead of the day is key. Being able to recall notes made earlier on in the year is very helpful when commenting on overall performance throughout the year.

Give your team enough notice. At least two weeks is usually considered fair notice for an upcoming performance appraisal, to allow employees to prepare for the discussion; providing a clear deadline for returning the document to you ahead of the appraisal discussion.

Provide employees with the appraisal forms. Send your employee a staff appraisal form to comment on their own successes and performance since their last appraisal and any achievements and difficulties that arose, and to reflect on their strengths, weaknesses and development needs. Self-assessment acts as a prompt to get employees thinking about their successes, and what they could perhaps do better. Invite them to think about any barriers to their performance, their plans and ambitions for the future.

Find a suitable environment. Somewhere comfortable, private and distraction-free is the perfect place to hold an appraisal. Tea and biscuits are also very favourable.

Schedule sufficient time. You should not rush an appraisal - give yourself and the employee time to cover everything you both want to. Ensure that you allow at least an hour to enable a meaningful two way conversation.

Plan and structure the meeting. Every appraisal will look different, but having a clear structure to the meeting will help everyone to stay on track. Before you have the appraisal meeting with your staff member you should have a pretty good idea of what you want to talk about. And you should also know what they want to talk about from their comments on the appraisal form.


If you have any notes on file for the employee, now’s the time to review them and if relevant bring them along to the appraisal with you. Refresh your memory of what happened since their last appraisal, if they had one, and try to assess how they have performed against any objectives you agreed on.

Think about their performance over the long-term. Analysing their performance over the weeks just prior to the appraisal won’t give you a rounded view of how they’re getting on and may mean you miss something.

Finally, it can be useful to get the views of those who work closest with the employee, especially if you have limited regular contact with them. This is known as a 360 review and can help you to further understand how they’re performing.

Holding the appraisal meeting

Come prepared with the appraisal form, completed with both the employee’s feedback and your own notes. Start by framing the conversation and explaining the purpose of the appraisal, for example setting objectives for future performance and identify any helpful development.

Ensure feedback is constructive, starting with the strengths that you and colleagues have observed, and then move on to any areas that may require some action.

Don’t shy away from discussing negatives, but these shouldn’t be areas that you’re raising for the first time - the process is designed to help you both identify areas for improvement.

Ideally you’ll spend about half the meeting discussing the employee’s future. This could include any training they might have identified they need, or objectives you both agree they can aim to achieve before their next appraisal.

Do remember to give your employee the opportunity to talk about what they’ve most enjoyed and what they’ve done well as well as raising any issues they might have. This way together you can identify anything that will help or hinder their progress towards their goals.

Completing the staff appraisal form

The appraisal form should be updated following your meeting to reflect any decisions, actions or notes you’ve made during the discussion.

Once completed, you should send the completed form to the staff member so they can make any additional comments and then agree to it with their signature.

This gives you a ‘paper-trail’ in the form of an action plan, helping you in the following months to review, refresh and monitor performance.

If you would benefit from additional advice about managing flexible working requests, please get in touch or call us on 01793 311937 to see if we can help you.

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The content of our blogs is intended for general information only and does not replace legal or other professional advice.

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