Performance Appraisals

29 Sep Performance Appraisals

Performance Appraisals:

A Guide to Conducting Effective Reviews


“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”- James Humes

“Communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life.”- Catherine Pulsifer


The basis of any relationship, employment or otherwise, is communication.  Managers are often not trained to have difficult conversations in a productive and motivating manner, and employees don’t know how to approach these discussions, and as a result, minor issues are not discussed until they have escalated, and often there is a complete breakdown in the employee/ employer relationship, resulting in disciplinary action or good employees resigning.

Performance appraisals are a crucial component of any well-functioning organization. These assessments provide an opportunity for employers to evaluate their employees’ job performance, set goals, and discuss career development. Communication and feedback is especially important when employees are on probation.


Understanding Performance Appraisals

Performance appraisals are systematic evaluations of an employee’s job performance and contributions to the organization. They serve several purposes:


Feedback: Performance appraisals provide employees with valuable feedback on their strengths, areas for improvement, and achievements. This information helps individuals understand their performance from the employer’s perspective.

Goal Setting: These assessments are an opportunity to set clear performance goals and expectations for the upcoming period. Goals can be aligned with the employee’s role, team, and overall organizational objectives.

Recognition and Rewards: Effective performance appraisals acknowledge and reward employees’ accomplishments, boosting morale and motivation.

Development and Growth: Performance discussions are a chance to identify areas for growth and development, including training and skill enhancement opportunities.


Conducting an Effective Performance Appraisal

Follow these steps to conduct a successful performance appraisal:

  1. Prepare Thoroughly:

It’s a good idea to have a standard template for all probation periods, that keeps the discussion on track, and ensures that all topics are discussed.  Have notes from previous appraisals, job descriptions, and a list of the positive and concerning feedback that you would like to mention.

  1. Choose a Suitable Time and Place:

Select a quiet and comfortable location for the appraisal meeting. It is essential that the appraisal is free of interruptions and distractions, and that both parties feel relaxed and able to communicate freely, without fear of other people listening in.

  1. Initiate the Discussion:

Begin the conversation by acknowledging the employee’s efforts and contributions. Put the employee at ease, and encourage them to share any concerns or suggestions that they may have.

  1. Discuss Performance:

Address both strengths and areas needing improvement. Use specific examples to illustrate points. Constructive feedback should be framed in a way that encourages growth and development.  As the aim of an appraisal is to make the employee better in their roles, ensure that all appraisals are ended on a positive and motivating note, while still relaying your concerns and what corrective action is required.

  1. Set SMART Goals:

Collaboratively set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals for the upcoming period. These goals should align with the employee’s role and the organization’s objectives.  If the employee is on probation, these goals should align with the outcomes you desire from the probation period.

  1. Seek Employee Input:

Encourage employees to share their self-assessment, concerns, and career aspirations. This promotes a two-way dialogue and a sense of ownership in the appraisal process.  In John Doers’ book, “Measure what Matters” he suggests that the employee should initiate the appraisal, draw up an agenda and run it, giving feedback on their progress and asking for support where needed.

  1. Provide Development Opportunities:

Discuss training, podcasts, literature or projects that can help the employee enhance their skills and advance in their career. This demonstrates the organization’s commitment to professional growth.  Don’t may offers that you are unwilling or unable to keep.

  1. Address Concerns:

If the employee has concerns or challenges, listen actively and offer support. Problem-solving together can lead to a more productive work environment.  If you commit to take action, ensure that you do and give the employee feedback.  If you do not agree with the matters raised by the employee, explain to them why you will not be taking action.

  1. Document the Discussion:

Record key points from the appraisal conversation, including goals set, dates to follow up and areas for improvement. This documentation serves as a reference for future appraisals and can help in tracking progress.  It is also legally an important aspect of the dismissal process, should a probation period, or permanent employment, be terminated for poor performance.

  1. Follow Up:

Traditionally appraisals are conducted monthly during probation periods, and annually for permanent staff.  Ideally, you need to have these discussions more frequently.


Performance appraisals are a valuable tool for fostering employee growth, aligning goals, and enhancing organizational success. When conducted effectively, these assessments contribute to a culture of open communication, learning, and development. By following the steps outlined in this guide, organizations can conduct performance appraisals that inspire employees to excel and contribute to the overall success of the business.