How to conduct a successful staff appraisal

It’s crucial that employers, and those in management positions, understand the role, objectives and benefits that staff appraisals offer. Rather than be a tick-box exercise that takes up valuable time, staff appraisals establish key results and objectives for employees and act as a basis for human resource planning.

There’s some excellent advice below, but we have also created an appraisal toolkit, complete with performance appraisal forms and tips and advice on completing an appraisal. You can download it here.

The purpose of a staff appraisal

It’s not only those conducting the appraisal that misunderstand their true purpose and value, employees can often see them as a bureaucratic exercise and a cause for concern and worry. However, appraisals should be an opportunity for staff members to gain an objective view of their performance and the areas they can improve upon, ultimately reaping the benefits with regards to career progression, and personal and professional growth.

For staff appraisals to be perceived positively by the workforce, they should be well-constructed, organised and put forward as a two-sided exercise, in which the employees’ input is crucial to the success of the meeting.

How often should you conduct these meetings? Traditionally appraisals have been an annual affair, but more regular reviews enable employees to remain focussed and feel supported.

Review your current appraisal system

Your appraisal system should have a clear purpose, but it could be the case that it has been in place for so long, that the original objective and ambitions have become diluted or forgotten. So, it’s important to review what your appraisal system is setting out to achieve.

It should be aligned with your company values and mission, along with helping you accomplish your key business objectives. Consider the following:

Once it is clear what you want the employee appraisals to achieve, you can shape your approach, the questions you want to ask, and any other points for discussion in the process. You will also be able to link relevant rewards and next steps.

Establish your appraisal style

Many businesses are releasing themselves from the out-dated and inhibiting shackles of formal appraisal styles and instead opting for more fluid, informal discussions.

This doesn’t detract from the official nature of the staff appraisal, but it enables you to create a rapport with the individual, building a comfortable environment that encourages active participation. Your appraisal should strengthen relationships with your employees – while they will no doubt follow a structure, it is incredibly important to remember the human element too.

Consider the following to show you are engaged and encourage employee participation:

Ultimately, your appraisal style should reflect your employer brand and business identity.

Be prepared

To conduct a thorough appraisal, take the time to familiarise yourself with the employee’s job description, previous appraisal notes, along with objectives or expectations prior to the meeting.

By reviewing these documents, you can identify any patterns of behaviour and areas in which the individual excels or requires any further training. It’s crucial you are well-equipped with this information before the meeting commences, otherwise neither party will gain the benefits that staff appraisals have to offer.

Set the agenda

Sending an agenda ahead of the appraisal will provide direction for the meeting, but also allows both parties to adequately prepare, as well as ensuring everything has been covered.

Invite your employees to add any additional points for discussion, which helps reinforce the idea the appraisal is a two-way conversation. Any additional areas of discussion added to the agenda gives you an opportunity to review its history. For example, if an employee would like to discuss his or her salary, you can check when he or she was last given a pay rise.

Embrace discussion about challenges, as well as successes

An appraisal should be an active conversation between the line manager (or whoever is taking the meeting) and the employee.

Ask employees where they feel they have been successful and which aspects of the role have been challenging. Your preparation should have highlighted these areas to you, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to understand how your staff think they are performing.

It is equally important to focus on successes and how this can be mirrored in other areas of work – don’t just focus on areas of improvement, although these should be seen as an opportunity for personal growth and to develop and learn new skills.

Consistency is key

Establish your appraisal style and ensure it is carried out in every meeting. Each employee should experience a fair and consistent appraisal process every time.

Making sure meetings follow a structured agenda, coupled with a checklist of documentation required, you can be confident appraisals and scoring systems are conducted in a fair and consistent manner.

Agree actions and timeframes

Agreeing key actions during the appraisal is crucial to employee development. Consider the following points:

  • Employee development: some businesses are beginning to think about personal, as well as professional development. Are there ways you can support the person and not just the employee?
  • Key actions – what and when: after the appraisal, there should be a tangible action plan that highlights who is responsible for each action as well as including realistic deadlines. This allows for measurable employee growth and development, and sets expectations ready for the next appraisal.

It’s time for businesses to be proactive and take responsibility for creating a motivated and focused workforce. By regularly conducting staff appraisals, you will be able to ensure all employees are supported with the necessary training, have structured progression plans and contribute to the growth and success of your business.


Appraisals are a vital tool for line managers and HR departments. If they’re done well, appraisals prove invaluable to both employers and employees.

That’s why we’ve produced an appraisal toolkit, complete with performance appraisal forms and tips and advice on completing an appraisal.

Download appraisal toolkit

About the Author

Anne Corder

Anne Corder


Whilst still actively handling recruitment assignments, Anne specialises in Human Resources with many years of experience in that sector. She blogs on wider recruitment issues affecting both candidates and clients, commenting and offering tips and advice to help achieve the right outcomes.