Employee Life Cycle: Step 4 Appraisal

1. Put a time in your diary, book a room, and notify the employee

Whilst I appreciate this may be common sense and sounds simple but as you all know meetings and priorities change. Meetings move around and the times change. Most employees are likely to be nervous about their review, or they may be waiting for the meeting to discuss things with you. Chopping and changing the time of the meeting hinders not helps as it can give the employee the impression that they are not important or a priority, that the appraisal is a waste of time, and it can cause a breakdown in the relationship before the meeting even starts. Managers and employees commonly dislike appraisals and try to avoid them. The appraisal is daunting and time consuming and such action only prolongs these feelings. The process is seen as a difficult administrative chore and emotionally challenging, so set the date and time and stick to it. The annual appraisal may be the only time you have had to sit down with your employee to have a meaningful one to one discussion.

Add an extra half hour both before and after the expected meeting slot to give you time to prepare and reflect on the meeting. It also gives you some grace if something crops up.

Pick a time that is convenient for everyone. Try to avoid deadlines for targets or projects that you or the employee may have. If not, it may lead to both of you being overly negative.

Ensure that you have a quiet free space to conduct the meeting where no one else can over hear you.

Send or give the employee the appraisal form and/or any self-appraisal form when booking the appraisal with them.

Make sure your employee understands the process particularly if they are new and they have never had an appraisal before.

 2. Manage the appraisal discussion so that both parties can effectively contribute

Give the employee a self-appraisal form and get the employee to summarise their thoughts on their performance ahead of the appraisal meeting:

  • This enables the employee to prepare for the meeting and it can aid your discussion as the employee will have reflected on the last 12 months as well as ahead to what they want to achieve and/or what they need to enable them to progress in the next 12 months;
  • The employee may think of positives and negatives about their performance which you may not have considered;
  • It gives them a chance to reflect and consider whether there are any issues or misunderstandings regarding their role;
  • For them to reflect on their accomplishments; and
  • Makes them consider any areas of their role they are experiencing difficulties with or that they would like support with to enable them to carry out their work more effectively or any training and development they would like to undertake.

You should gather the following information in preparation of the appraisal meeting:

  • Review goals set in the current period;
  • Review and familiarise yourself with the Company’s appraisal system;
  • Gather any feedback from the employee’s work colleagues/customers;
  • Have a copy of the employee’s job description and performance objectives;
  • Note any current disciplinary issues;
  • Ensure you have your notes of the employee’s performance since the last appraisal; and
  • Review the previous performance review.

This enables you to prepare for the meeting and it can aid your discussion as you have reflected on the last 12 months as well as ahead to what you need the employee to achieve.

3. Do not skirt over or fail to deal with any conduct or capability issues – address these

For example:

“Jon has an appraisal with Jess. Jon is reluctant to bring up Jess’ timekeeping. Jess is frequently late for work, however other than this she is a very good employee and a hard worker. Jon does not want to rock the boat with Jess so decides against raising the issue with her. Furthermore, Jon does not see the problem with her timekeeping given that she is a hard worker. So Jess has a good appraisal and is none the wiser that there are any issues with her time keeping. Jess continues to be late for work.

Another employee Ian on another team is also a hard worker but is also frequently late for work, however, his supervisor, Will, brings this up in his appraisal and Ian is given a warning and time limit within which to improve. Jess continues to be late and Ian finds out that Jess has not be reprimanded and Ian is aggrieved by this. He raises grievances and he states he is being treated unfairly due to his sex! Ian also becomes disruptive in work and his work starts to decline. It also causes problems between the teams.”

This example shows the affect your actions have in terms of employee relationships and how failing to deal with any misconduct, poor performance or capability issues can lead to grievances, it can cause difficulties in disciplining and even result in claims! This situation could have easily been avoided if Jon had addressed the issues with Jess at her appraisal.

Whilst it is not easy, and we appreciate that it is difficult, your actions or failures have consequences. Your actions can have consequences for the individual as well as for the Company.

Failure to address workplace issues when they arise can cause:

  • A reduction in work;
  • Grievances;
  • Disputes;
  • Disruption;
  • Unhealthy even toxic environment;
  • A break down in relationships; and
  • It can make it difficult to discipline the individual later on down the line.

4. Remember an appraisal is not just for you it is for your employees too

  • It is a time when employees can highlight any issues they are experiencing. For example:

“Jon undertakes Staci’s appraisal. During Staci’s appraisal Staci makes Jon aware of issues between her and Ali. Staci lists 20 incidents of Ali’s nasty behaviour towards her.”

  • It is a time for them to inform you of any accomplishments you may not be aware of or thought of.
  • It is a time for them to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses.
  • It is a time for them to inform you of any help or assistance they require.
  • It is a time for them to reflect on their Line Managers as well as the Companies strengths and weaknesses.
  • It is a time for them to express their visions for themselves as well as for the Company.
  • A time for them to indicate what opportunities they may be interested in or how they would like to progress and develop.
  • Ask for feedback – this is a valuable opportunity for feedback on your management style.
  • Ensure the employee can see that you are taking on board their feedback and lead by example by not becoming defensive when receiving feedback.

5. Remember it is a time for employees to understand how they are performing

Employees can get disheartened and lose motivation when they do not get feedback. They can become demotivated and disgruntled when they do not feel appreciated or know how they are doing. For example:

“You are in a bowling competition, with a £1,000 prize to the one with the highest score. There is a curtain halfway down the alley so that you can’t see the pins or the scoreboard. Tony bowls for about three frames but then becomes frustrated and losses motivation not knowing how he is doing. His bowling gets worse.”

Why do employees need to understand how they are performing?

  • To learn;
  • Perception;
  • To keep motivated;
  • To feel appreciated;
  • Clarity;
  • Refining our potential; and
  • Maximising returns.

6. Be balanced! Ensure that there are positives as well as any negatives. Do not view appraisals in isolation

  • Keep a record of positive and negative behaviour throughout the year. Keep a diary or notebook on the employee setting out accomplishments and issues.
  • Following the appraisal monitor the employee’s performance on an ongoing basis.
  • If you are happy with something an employee has done – tell them.
  • Positive reinforcement is a great tool to ensure an employee does what they have done well repeatedly.
  • Use what they have done well as an example when explaining how something else might be done better.
  • Be constructive – you should have had regular feedback conversations throughout the year, so nothing within the review conversation should come as a surprise. Revisit conversations you have had.
  • Do not just leave it to just before the appraisal.
  • Do not be completely negative it will leave the employee deflated, disheartened and it is likely to affect their motivation.
  • Do not let your personal feelings cloud your judgment.
  • Do not let a recent incident or event affect the appraisal.
  • Try not to be biased.
  • Do not rush the appraisal. Take the time to listen to your employee.
  • Do not just go through the motions to tick a box.
  • In order to be effective, appraisals should be conducted honestly, managers who provide unduly positive or flattering feedback, which does not reflect the employee’s true performance can cause problems for you later down the line and undermine your argument that there is a performance problem or issue with their conduct. It can lead to claims of unfair dismissal if the employee is dismissed for that action.
  • When you fail to tackle performance issues through an appraisal system this can hamper future business decisions in other respects, for example, redundancy situations where you want to give an individual a lower scope for performance or attendance but this is not corroborated by past appraisals.
  • Appraisals should not be seen in isolation but should be closely linked with policies and practices.

7. Set SMART objectives

Smart stands for:


  • Clearly state what is to be achieved e.g. increased time recording, sales, or production.
  • Consider what you want the employee to accomplish and why you want them to complete this task e.g. to improve profits.
  • This criterion stresses the need for a specific goal rather than a more general one;
  • This means the goal is clear and unambiguous.
  • To make goals specific you need to let the employee know exactly what is required.


  • The desired outcome is a number value that can be measured, e.g. increase time recording by 10%, increase sales by 15%.
  • Consider how this will be achieved and accomplished.
  • This criterion stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal.
  • If the goal is not measureable it is not possible to know whether the employee is making progress toward successful completion.
  • Measuring progress is supposed to keep the employee on track, reach their target dates and enable them to show that they have accomplished what was required.


  • The employee is involved in discussing and agreeing the aim.
  • Consider how the goal can be accomplished and how realistic the goal is likely to be met with other commitments.
  • This criterion stresses the importance of goals that are realistic and also attainable.
  • Whilst an attainable goal may stretch a team in order to achieve it, the goal is not extreme.


  • The target is possible given the market conditions and the staff and financial resources available.
  • Consider whether the goal seems worthwhile, whether it is the right time, whether it matches your needs and whether they are the right person.
  • This criterion stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter to that employee and to their role e.g. sales is important to a salesman but not to a receptionist.
  • Relevant goals drive the employee, department and the company forward.
  • A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered a relevant goal.


  • The target will be met within a given period of time e.g. 12 months.
  • Consider when the employee needs to complete the task.
  • This criterion stresses the importance of setting goals within a time frame i.e. giving them a target date.
  • A commitment to a deadline helps a team focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date.
  • This criterion is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day to day issues that arise.

For example, a SMART objective would be ‘to increase time recording by 10% within the next 6 months.’ SMART objectives allow the performance of the employee to be assessed.

Jointly agreed and realistic targets are more likely to be met.

8. Follow-up

  • Following the appraisal complete the form ensuring both parties’ comments are on the form and give it to the employee for confirmation of the content and to add any comments. If any further comments have been made return the document to the employee for any final comments. Once they have reviewed and hopefully agreed both parties should sign the document. The employee should be provided with a copy of the appraisal and one should go on the employees file.
  • Following the appraisal monitor the employee’s performance on an ongoing basis.
  • Carry out agreed actions.
  • Follow up on anything you may have promised to do and encourage your employee to do the same.
  • Over promising and under delivering leads to a loss in credibility and demotivation when promises are not met.
  • If you determine that the employee is under performing arrange a separate meeting to discuss their performance and commence a performance improvement plan with them.
  • If you determine that the employee has undertaken an action that warrants disciplinary action arrange a separate investigation meeting.
  • If the employee has made comments that amount to a grievance invite the employee to a separate meeting to discuss their complaints/grievance.
  • Follow up and investigate any comments or feedback that you receive.
  • Help and ensure the employee is meeting their objectives.
  • Ensure any training promised is arranged and implemented.

9. Review the appraisal process

  • The appraisal process should be reviewed annually.
  • Get feedback from managers and employees regarding what is working and what is not.
  • The appraisal form should be amended and adapted to a form that works for all.
  • Make sure the appraisal form is giving you value and not causing you further problems.
  • Give managers training and ensure they are confident with the process.
  • Ensure staff understand the appraisal process.
  • Ensure you manage staff’s expectations in particularly if any bonus or salary increase is attached to your appraisal process.

10. Keep money out of it! 

We strongly recommend keeping money out of it. The majority of issues surrounding appraisals is as a result of attaching pay increases to appraisals or bonuses. It can lead to grievances, resignations, and discrimination claims.

Employees do not see the point in the appraisal process when they are not getting anything out of it, where they have not received pay rises for years despite their appraisal stating that they are performing above and beyond.

It can lead to grievances where one employee considers that they are doing exactly the same, or going above and beyond another employee but that employee scores higher than them and gets a 3% pay rise compared to their 1.5% pay rise. You then have to justify the difference and if you cannot do so it can lead to the employee resigning and you can lose a good employee.

We strongly recommend keeping it simple. Keep the appraisal process about performance and undertake a separate pay review. This avoids the appraisal process becoming a difficult time consuming process.

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