Effective Performance Appraisal

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 12 November 2014
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered:

Caroline McEnery writes:

Performance appraisal is an important part of performance management and is used to assess performance and highlight areas of focus in regards to future objectives, opportunities and training needed. The process is for individual employees and those concerned with their performance, their direct line managers.

Performance appraisal is usually carried out by line managers in line with the HR Department. Therefore, the performance appraisal process is an important vehicle in developing and maintaining the relationships between individual employees and their direct line managers. It is vital that line managers understand their role in this process and how performance appraisal contributes to the overall aims of performance management.

There is no one right way to conduct an appraisal, it depends on the nature of the business and the people involved. However, best practise suggests that the performance appraisal meeting should take the form of a free-flowing conversation. Past actions, behaviors and conduct are reviewed allowing an opportunity to reflect on past performance.

The five key elements of effective performance appraisal are:

  1. Measurement – assessing performance against agreed targets, objectives, behaviour and attitudes.
  2. Exchange of views – an honest exchange of views about what has happened, how appraisees can improve performance, the support they need and goals for their future career.
  3. Positive reinforcement – emphasizing what has been done well, giving constructive criticism about what could be improved.
  4. Feedback – providing information to individuals on their progress, on what is required to continue to perform well.
  5. Agreement –an understanding by all parties about what needs to be done to improve going forward.

It is advisable that a standardised questionnaire is in place to collect information for each appraisal. The HR Suite advises the use of a tailored form which has space for appraisers to rate appraisees on specific work related aspects such as teamwork, absenteeism, achievement of store standards, sales, customer service etc. The HR Suite advises that all employees are encouraged to fill in this selfassessment form also in an attempt to assess and analyse their own performance. This promotes ownership of the process to the employee and allows them to take responsibility. Additionally, both parties should prepare for the review meeting in advance for it to be effective. For appraisers it is advisable to consider what feedback, both positive feedback and constructive criticism they would perhaps give. For appraisees it is advisable to consider what they enjoy most and how this could be developed going forward.

It is advisable that the meeting targets the below four elements to be an effective performance appraisal.

  1. Objectives: whether they were achieved or not and if not why? 
  2. Competence: whether individuals are performing below par, within or above the requirements of the role.
  3. Training: what training the individuals have received and which training they would like to participate in going forward.
  4. Actions: a record of any actions that need to be carried out by the individual or line manager.

The skills to carry out an effective appraisal are crucial and all managers expected to carry out performance appraisal should have some training. This is crucial in order for managers to know how to conduct themselves and the meetings.The key aspects are: asking the right questions, active listening and constructive feedback.

To ensure that performance appraisals are effective it is important for line manager to ask open and probing questions. Open questions are general and enable employees to talk freely. For example:

  • How do you feel about that?
  • How do you feel things have been going?
  • Tell me why do you think that happened?

Probing questions ask for more specific information on what happened or why. They should indicate support for the individual’s answer and ask for more information to allow a clearer picture. For example:

  • That’s very interesting. Tell me more about?
  • Why do you say that?
  • Have I got the right impression? Do you mean that?

Listening is a key element of effective performance appraisals. Appraisers must acknowledge and understand what is being said directly and what is not being said directly. To be a good listener appraisers should:

  • Be aware of what is not being said by acknowledging body language and tone of voice.
  • Be comfortable with silences and not interrupt the employee.
  • Ask only relevant questions to clarify meaning of what has been said.
  • Repeat what has been said by the employee in your words to clarify understanding.
  • Keep points short and concise – if a point drags on for several minutes the main focus of it becomes lost.

Feedback is helpful to employees for understanding the impact of their actions and behaviour on the business. It should be based on facts, not opinion and should focus on examples. Feedback should be used positively to reinforce the good aspects and identify opportunities for further positive action. Giving feedback is a skill and works best when:

  • Feedback is related to actual events or actions.
  • Events are described.
  • Feedback is accompanied by questions asking the individual’s opinion of why certain things happened
  • Employees are encouraged to come to their own conclusions about what happened and why

All performance appraisal meetings should end on a positive note and follow up is extremely vital to the process. Line managers should follow up on corrective actions outlined during the meeting including training and development opportunities. An action plan should be created and signed off by both parties following the appraisal. In addition the employee should receive a follow up memo from the appraiser outlining a summary of the appraisal and areas for improvement.

It is vital that employers recognise that performance appraisal is not just about assessing the past but also about driving behaviour that will sustain exemplary performance in the future. If you haven’t already conducted performance appraisals with your staff, we would strongly encourage you to do so now. It is never too late to start. Performance appraisals are extremely vital and can add untold value both to the organisation and enrich the experiences employees within the workplace.

This article is correct at 13/10/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

The main content of this article was provided by Caroline Reidy. Contact telephone number is +353 66 710 2887 / +353 86 775 2064 or email info@thehrsuite.com

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