Appraisals are like marmite: employees and employers alike either love them or hate them. But like Marmite, performance appraisals are here to stay. If managed in the correct way they can be a fantastic tool to motivate your team, maximise the return on training and development, build robust succession plans, retain talent, and open up communication.

So what is the best way to approach your appraisal process to maximise the positives?

Review, Update and Manage Your Process

Check that your appraisal system is suitable for your culture and what you are trying to achieve. A high-tech innovative company is unlikely to get buy-in and positive results from an appraisal system with six steps over a three month period and a ream of paper forms to be filled in by hand.

Does it encourage idea generation, self-critique review and development opportunities? Is it easy to manage, and time efficient?

If your appraisal policy and process have been around for a few years, why not start with a review and ask the team for their input as to how it could be improved.

Add Value and Follow up

Both appraiser and appraisee have a responsibility to ensure that the process adds value and that any development plan or objectives are followed-up, recorded and measured.

Ensure that objectives and plans are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time Targeted.

The appraisal should be documented and referred to during the year – not just a document that is desperately searched for ten minutes before going into the appraisal twelve months later.

It should drip down from your business plan to make sure everyone is focussed on your corporate direction.


This is an opportunity for the appraisee to map out their future career. To speak to their line manager and say, this is the path I want to take, and this is the support I need to achieve it. The appraiser, in turn, can help to identify gaps in experience or skill and produce a plan to fill those gaps.

For both parties preparing what you want to achieve out of the appraisal process is key. Discussions need to be evidence-based and specific: having evidence to back-up performance will reduce the risk of debate or differing opinions.  If there are complex issues, or the list is lengthy, share an agenda in advance so both parties can prepare their thoughts and information.

And practical preparation is vital. Allocate sufficient diary time and book a private room to allow the discussion to take place with full attention from both parties.

Regular Reviews

The appraisal system should allow for regular reviews over the twelve month period, often quarterly. This allows the objectives and agreed actions to be updated, and progress to be noted.

This is a great way to start a conversation about performance within an agreed framework, and evidence can be updated to record accomplishments during the year. In this way, the appraisal record becomes a constantly evolving document rather than a stand-alone document which has to be re-created every year.

Do not confuse with Performance Management

Appraisals are not intended to be a performance management replacement. If the first an employee knows of your unhappiness with their performance is at their appraisal then your management systems are failing.

The appraisal is for the employee therefore they should be the ones doing the majority of the talking during the appraisal interview. To endorse this, employees should be prominent in setting their own goals and self-monitoring their own performance.

Look Forward

Whilst appraisals reflect on the previous period’s performance and achievements, an appraisal is about looking to the future: what are the next goals, the next targets, the next development opportunities. Any process which looks to the future will add value and be seen as productive.

We can help support you on reviewing, or even writing an appraisal policy and process, and train your team on how to get the best out of the process. If you would like to know more about how MAD-HR can support you, we would love to have a chat. You can either arrange a free one-hour consultation or call us for a chat about how we can support you on 01473 360160.

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