5 steps for making the most of staff appraisals

2nd May, 2016

Hands up who has jumped for joy when told a performance review is coming up?

While staff appraisals don’t necessarily have a great reputation in the business environment, when they are used effectively they can be a beneficial tool for employers and employees alike.

For a small business owner or self-employed person, the staff appraisal process can be an invaluable means of delivering feedback and constructive criticism. They also help to identify the areas and members of your business that are functioning well, so you can acknowledge and adapt learnings.

Where staff motivation is flagging, a carefully planned appraisal process can help to get progress back on the right track. This allows you to deal with issues and identify potential training requirements.

There should be inherent benefits for your staff too, including the recognition of contribution and achievements where praise is due. If necessary, it could be an opportunity for staff to air grievances and potentially resolve concerns.

These five steps will help you make the most of staff appraisals in your business.

Step 1: Be prepared

Get ready for the process by reviewing past appraisals and training records for each staff member respectively. Collate as much objective evidence as you can from the most appropriate sources. In larger businesses this often means from colleagues, but in smaller businesses key sources may be your clients, customers, suppliers, or other stakeholders.

While small businesses typically require staff job descriptions that are more flexible, each staff member should have a written position description and a list of duties. Failure to follow this step can lead to unforeseen problems or misunderstandings down the track.

A dynamic staff appraisal process should be a two-way exercise. Give each staff member a self-appraisal form to complete before you meet. This gives staff members an opportunity to evaluate their own progress, and it might bring forward ideas that you had not considered.

Step 2: Respect the process

An appraisal review should be timely, and should be carried out at the time for which it is arranged in an appropriately professional environment.

Once a meeting time or place is established, do not postpone or cancel appraisal review meetings unless absolutely necessary. If you want your staff to treat the review process with the respect and status it deserves, then you must lead by example.

Step 3: Provide ongoing feedback

Feedback for your staff members should be an ongoing practice throughout the financial year.

If a staff appraisal process throws up major surprises or feels like an ambush, then the staff communication channels have not been working as they should.

Maintain orderly staff files and records, and update them through the year.

Step 4: Point out the positives

The classic ‘sandwich’ model aims to start and finish its delivery with positive points. This can be an applicable strategy for a successful staff appraisal process. There are few things in life as demotivating as a long list of negative remarks or criticisms.

Aim to provide balance, and look to identify positive aspects as well as any areas where changes are required. Staff members may justifiably request specific examples to back up your points, so ensure that you have them to hand. Allow staff members the opportunity to communicate and respond to your points rather than talking at them.

Keep written record of what is discussed in an appraisal meeting.

Step 5: Make room for improvement

Each and every one of us has room for improvement in our performance.

The appraisal process should set and prioritise action points and goals, but these should not be demotivating. Remember that what gets measured gets done, so setting SMART goals can be helpful.

Always allow employees the opportunity to contribute and communicate. What are they enjoying about their role in your business? What’s working well? Is anything making them dissatisfied? What could be done better?

Make allowances for training requirements. If, for example, one of your employees needs to improve their customer relations skills, how are you going to make sure that they have enough time to take corrective action or training to overcome the perceived weakness?

Follow up on appraisals throughout year to ensure that action points are monitored and reviewed.

Wrap it up

If you prepare for it well, the staff appraisals process should be a boon for your business rather than a burden. They are an an opportunity to present constructive feedback with appreciation of staff contribution where appropriate.

Make sure that you follow up on the points raised to gain the most benefit from them. The staff appraisals process should enhance performance and help you to identify your star performers as well as who may be in need of training or a motivational lift.