Written on: 27 July 2022
Written by: Frances Hardcastle
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As a line manager, you'll generally be responsible for managing the performance of your team. Staff appraisals are a great way to evaluate individual performance, set goals, look at training and development opportunities, and learn more about your employee’s experiences, interests, and career aspirations.
A staff appraisal is a formal meeting between a manager and their employee where they discuss past performance and future goals, alongside any challenges they have experienced or opportunities that may arise in the coming months. Appraisals are sometimes referred to as a performance review or employee evaluation.
The purpose of a staff appraisal is to formally check in with members of your team and spend some time identifying successes, challenges, and opportunities for training and professional development.
Done correctly, staff appraisals can be a nurturing experience which motivates individuals in your team to achieve their potential and maximise their contribution within your company.
Doing an official staff appraisal for the first time can seem a little intimidating, but as a manager you’ll most likely have the skills you need from your day-to-day interactions with your team!
Appraisals form just one part of your line management technique, accompanied by regular feedback, recognition, and encouragement.
Although it’s a more formal meeting, nothing you’re planning to say within a staff appraisal – whether good or bad – should come as a surprise to your employee.
Many organisations use forms, templates or standardised questions for appraisals to ensure fairness across the company, and make it easier for managers to record the outcomes of the appraisal.
To help you get the most out of the appraisal process, we’ve put together our top tips for conducting a successful employee review:
Your team need to know that you’re taking their professional development seriously, so it’s important to set time aside to prepare for the meeting.
Select a date well in advance and choose a location that offers a comfortable, quiet environment where you will not be disturbed. Try to book out longer than you think you’ll need to make sure you have time to complete the discussion and answer questions without your employee feeling rushed.
Ahead of the meeting, consider carefully what you are going to say, and how you’ll say it. It can be useful to gather feedback from other members of your organisation, along with specific examples of projects your appraisee has been involved with. If you can, speak with your senior colleagues about pay and progression opportunities – it’s possible that your employee may ask about this during the meeting, and it can help to have relevant information to hand.
On the day itself, you should treat the appraisal as your priority for the day. Nobody likes gearing themselves up for an important meeting with their boss, only to have it cancelled at the last minute. Don’t be that boss.
Before the meeting, you should speak to your employee about their upcoming appraisal. It can be helpful to share the topics you’d like to discuss and ask them if there is anything they wish to add to the agenda. This helps people feel invested in the process and gives them plenty of time to prepare. It also means you’ll have fewer surprises on the day!
An appraisal should be a positive experience where your employee leaves the meeting room with a strong sense that their achievements are being recognised alongside clear goals for future development.
Rather than simply listing different aspects of their performance, you should encourage a reflective approach, asking questions about what they think went well, what skills they’d like to work on, and what their goals are for the future.
An appraisal is an ideal time to discuss training and development opportunities. As a manager, you may find it useful to prepare a list of courses you think your appraisee might be interested in.
Training can take many different forms, from targeted skills courses to complete professional development programmes, including Level 3 and Level 4 apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships are a fantastic resource for your team, offering advanced technical training alongside work-based projects and personal development resources to provide a complete development programme for individuals at any stage of their career.
Listening is a big part of any great manager’s skills set. During the appraisal, it’s important to ask open questions and meaningfully address any concerns or challenges your appraisee may have experienced.
You could also ask for feedback about your approach as a manager. Is there anything they feel they aren’t currently getting from you, or are there ways you approach things that could be better aligned with their preferences and workflows?
An appraisal is a rare opportunity for staff to provide constructive feedback for you too – and many conscientious employees will appreciate a safe space to share their thoughts and suggestions for the team.
Goals are the guts of a good appraisal. Agreeing specific objectives during the appraisal meeting will give you and your employee an action plan for the months ahead.
To give your goals the best chance of success they should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. This basically boils down to working out what, why, how, and when for each objective.
After the meeting, you should put your outcomes in writing so that both you and your employee have a record of the conversation and the goals you agreed.
For many, that’s the end of the process. However, we’d argue that this is where the exciting part happens. This is when you’ll work alongside your team to put those appraisal goals into action and see some amazing results.
Build your shared objectives into your regular one-to-ones and informal catch ups. Ask your team to share their progress and let you know if there are any barriers to achievement.
These goals will form the basis of future appraisals, so by keeping them front of mind, you’ll make this whole process a lot easier next time around!
To learn more about professional development apprenticeships, why not browse our Level 4 digital and tech programmes?
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