Staff appraisals and employee performance reviews can be an effective way for employers to support and guide their workforce through their journey with the business, enabling them to continue to learn and improve their skills.
When we feel that our work and contribution are both valued and valuable, we also tend to feel motivated, and ultimately become more productive and improve our contributions to a business’ growth.
In this blog, we will take you through what a staff appraisal is, how to prepare and how to make sure they achieve a positive outcome that suits the agenda of both you and your employer.
What is a staff appraisal?
Far more than a HR tick box exercise, staff appraisals, also referred to as performance reviews, are formal, structured discussions that usually take place once or twice a year. They provide an opportunity for both employers and employees to give feedback and identify your strengths and weaknesses, before formulating a plan to continue to build on these.
Staff appraisals should be underpinned by regular informal meetings that keep lines of communication open between employees and management. This regular contact also helps to join up the wider process of performance management.
Why are appraisals important?
Staff appraisals enable a business to communicate its wider targets and objectives, to its workforce, and how the employee’s work, values and behaviour contribute to these goals.
It also affords employees a clear channel of communication to discuss their professional goals and what they would like to achieve professionally, along with where they think improvements could be made.
Both parties can use these meetings to highlight any training and development requirements.
How to prepare for a staff appraisal
In order for both parties to get the most out of staff appraisal meetings, preparation is crucial. At this point, you should also revisit your company mission statement and values and highlight any areas of your performance where you have demonstrated these.
Prior to the meeting date ask for a copy of the meeting agenda. Familiarise yourself with each item on the agenda. If there are any further points that you would like to discuss, add them to the agenda before returning the revised document to the team member leading the appraisal.
Request a copy of your managers’ written evaluation before the meeting to give you an idea of the direction and tone of the meeting so you’re able to address any issues.
The idea of reading this evaluation prior to the meeting means that you have complete awareness and can engage in a productive, open and honest conversation, whilst preventing you from the risk of getting defensive.
If there are any questions that you have about the business, your role or your evaluation – make a list of these before the meeting.
The appraisal form
It’s likely that you will be provided with an appraisal form, in advance, allowing you time to consider each point and your thoughts on the question or statement. Appraisal forms often include questions such as –
What have been your best achievements this year?
When answering this question, look at every piece of work that you have carried out. Ask yourself about the results, how has this contributed to or impacted other areas of the business.
Avoid using vague responses, instead always use examples that can be tracked or measured and use data and statistics where possible.
These measurable examples could be used as evidence if you are expecting a salary increase.
How would you rate your performance?
You may be provided with a scale to evaluate yourself with, such as a scale of 1-5. The best way to respond to this point is to use constructive language in an honest answer. While it’s tempting to give yourself a 5-star rating each time, it’s unlikely that you are hitting this result in every area of your performance.
Consider your work, behaviour, how you interact with colleagues, and your contribution to work culture and environment.
As well as highlighting your successes, acknowledge your challenges and weaknesses and address how you think they could be improved upon and how this can be measured.
What objectives would you set for yourself?
This is an opportunity for you to improve on your weaker areas or continue to build your positive attributes and skill set – both areas will help you to strengthen your future career prospects.
Using any rating scales and highlight the areas that need improvement. Also consider mentioning any new areas of work you feel ready to move into.
Are there any courses, workshops or seminars that you would like to be a part of to help build and solidify your current skillset and improve your knowledge? If so, these will be at a cost to the business so, to help your case, summarise where you will be able to apply this knowledge or expertise and how it can be measured.
What to expect in the staff appraisal meeting
The appraisal meeting is a two-way conversation for you and your employer to discuss your performance and workload. They will also express their perspective and where they feel your direction is going, before going through your appraisal form and discussing any actions or next steps.
The manager taking the meeting may begin by asking you to share your thoughts on your performance. This is often an opportunity to gauge how you are feeling in general, rather than go into detail at this point, so you might not need to refer to the form so soon.
Each point in the form will be a discussion between you and your manager, where they will share their thoughts and feedback too.
Your performance shouldn’t be compared to other employees, but instead against previous targets and objectives, or expectations set against the job role.
It is perfectly acceptable to discuss areas in which you are unhappy or have been affected by. The best way to tackle these issues is to speak constructively and express how it made you feel, before focusing on a solution.
By the end of the meeting, you and your line manager should agree on the areas that you want to improve on and areas you want to grow in. You should have identified training needs and set new targets and goals.
What happens after the staff appraisal?
The staff appraisal should be followed up with a written summary of your meeting, feedback from your manager and a formal write up of any training and development needs, new targets and an action plan.
The action plan should include an overarching goal, broken down into manageable steps with milestones to gauge development and barriers.
It’s important to schedule regular informal meetings with your line manager to consistently measure the progress that has been made. This also demonstrates that you are taking accountability for your development as well as meeting targets and seeking your employer’s support to action this.
Seek a date for your next official review and ensure that you gather evidence each month to support the points in your next appraisal form.
Your staff appraisal should serve to provide clarity and direction for your role and career, motivate you and help you to see how you contribute to the wider business goals. Weaknesses shouldn’t be viewed as a negative, as they provide the opportunity for growth and development, aiding you in your career progression. If you would also like to explore other ways you can further your career, speak to a member of the Anne Corder team today.