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How to conduct an effective staff appraisal
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Staff appraisals may feel like a chore, especially with so many other jobs to do running a business. However, if managed correctly, they’re a great way to get the best out of your staff, and to add real value to your business.

We’ve conducted staff appraisals galore for our own business, and advised many other businesses about how to conduct theirs.

Here’s a tried and tested way to conduct performance reviews to ensure they’re productive.

1. Send across the staff appraisal form and set a time to meet

First things first. Remember to give your employee ample time to prepare for the appraisal meeting.

Send your employee a staff appraisal form. This will usually take the form of a questionnaire asking them to reflect on the time period since the previous appraisal and any achievements and difficulties that arose, and to reflect on their strengths, weaknesses and development needs. Our software comes with a customisable appraisal form that you can adapt to suit your needs.

Don’t include any of your own feedback on the form at this point as this could affect how the employee responds. They could get defensive about remarks taken out of context, or they may omit saying something that is important for you to know about.

What you’re looking for is an honest, fair, and objective assessment of how they think they’ve performed.

Ideally, you should give the employee a couple of weeks to fill out the form with a deadline for returning it to you. We also recommend booking a meeting time to discuss the feedback for a few days after you’ve received the form, to make sure the activity retains momentum. Concise planning actions like this make the employee feel valued and important.

When you are booking the meeting, be sure to choose a location where you won’t be interrupted or overheard, set aside adequate time to talk through the entire form and any further issues the employee may want to raise.

2. Prepare to hold the meeting

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.

3. Hold the appraisal meeting

Come prepared with the appraisal form, completed with both the employee’s feedback and your own notes. It can be useful for the employee to have a copy of their feedback to refer to.

The form will help you structure the meeting and will make things more relaxed, as both you and the employee will know what is to be covered.

Start by framing the conversation and explaining the purpose of the appraisal. This usually covers the agenda and timing of the meeting, and that you hope to agree on some objectives for future performance and identify any training needs.

When discussing your employee’s feelings and their feedback it’s a good idea to try to put yourself in their shoes to see things from their perspective. Give them constructive feedback, 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, 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. These could be easily quantifiable objectives such as sales targets, or you may like to look at improving communication, organisation or time management; whatever will help them thrive in their role.

Once you’ve discussed how to improve their performance, give your staff member 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.

4. Complete the staff appraisal form

The appraisal form should be updated following your meeting to reflect any decisions, actions or notes you’ve made with the employee. Be careful not to add any goals that you didn’t agree upon. It’s crucial that you always gain agreement on future goals. That way the employee feels involved and is more likely to stay motivated.

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 should the employee’s performance or attitude not be up to scratch. The more time and effort you put into this process, the fewer employee issues you are likely to encounter, saving you time and money.

Staff appraisals aren’t a legal requirement, but are good practice and employers are encouraged to do them. Some HR software, like ours, helps you manage the process too, which takes much of the admin side out of it and keeps your paper trail safe, as well as keeping your employee happy.

If you’re struggling with managing your staff, get in touch with us on 0333 444 0165 or email info@citrushr.com. Our HR support service is designed to make it easier for employers to manage their HR processes and admin – and our software manages the appraisal process from start to finish!

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