How to get your employee appraisals back on track.

29th Apr 21

The COVID lockdowns, furlough and temporary business closures have made it difficult for many small and medium-sized businesses to keep their employee appraisals process on track, particularly when they have been concentrating on keeping their businesses alive and running!

Employee appraisals traditionally take place once a year, but many businesses now look to conduct short and potentially more effective appraisals several times over the course of twelve months. As an SME owner your time can be short and precious, but an appraisal can be one of the only times you get to have an honest conversation with your employees, praise their achievements and set new goals to match your changing business objectives.   Of course, the best policy is to have an open culture where employees feel they can approach you with any ideas or concerns as they find them, but an appraisal offers a real opportunity to evaluate where your business is headed and how best to get your staff supporting you.

Success is in the planning.

As with most things, the preparation to conducting an appraisal is key.  Why not consider preparing a standard template that can be filled in by both the employee, their colleagues and you?  It helps standardise the process and ensures you capture views from all areas.

What should I include in your appraisal form?

The very basic points you should include are:

  • What the employee’s main responsibilities are.
  • Review of work achievements during the year.
  • Any barriers to achievements or difficulties experienced.
  • Personal development goals for the forthcoming year.
  • Relevant business/team goals for the forthcoming year.

Download our appraisal form template for free

How do I conduct an appraisal?

Firstly, set a date and time when you are committed to your employee. Set a time limit where possible but be open to some flexibility if it is needed.  Make sure you do not get disturbed by emails or calls.  Nothing is more off-putting or frustrating for an employee than an interrupted appraisal.

It can be difficult to strike the perfect balance of being positive and negative when you carry out an appraisal but try to remember that if you are highlighting concerns that you should approach them in a positive manner and always back up your comments with relevant examples.  Try to end your meeting on a positive note by clearly recognising the goals and contributions achieved.

Setting goals

A goal or an objective is a statement of what an individual is aiming to achieve in a key area of responsibility, during the coming period.  They should absolutely mesh with your overall business plan, so be very clear what you are trying to achieve as a business owner in the next few months before you conduct appraisals.

There are a minimum of two types of objectives you should consider:

Work objectives: Focusing on improving your employee’s contribution to the effectiveness of the organisation.

Personal objectives: Focusing on improving performance through developing skills, undertaking training, and gaining knowledge, developing deeper emotional intelligence, expanding their creativity or negotiation skills.

A good way of ensuring objectives you are setting are effective and appropriate is to follow SMART guidelines. Objectives should be:

  • Specific: Goals that are clear and specific to what employees do.
  • Measurable: The goals must be measurable so that the performance can be tracked.
  • Achievable: The goals must be attainable by the employee.
  • Relevant: It must be worthwhile and related to the specific talent of the employee.
  • Time-based: It must have an end-date or a target within which it must be attained.

The goals set must be attainable and measurable such that it motivates the employee to accomplish them.  They must be consistent with the responsibilities of the employee. Most importantly, the chosen goals must be recognised with a reward or a recognition that drives the employees to achieve it!

Examples of goals which would fit into the two categories above are:

  • Read three industry news articles per week to improve the knowledge of industry trends in the next eight weeks.
  • Gain five new leads per month for the next six months.
  • Attend two industry events per month focused on (xx) to develop knowledge of (xx).
  • Organise a biweekly/monthly coffee meeting with a colleague from another department to improve your company knowledge in the next quarter.

A two-way process

An appraisal is a two-way process.  Its very nature is to prompt a discussion between you and your employee. If you have staff in managerial roles, it makes sense to expand your process so that staff reporting to the manager can offer contributions.

Remember to listen and give time for your employee to share their reflections. Sometimes it helps to give them some structure and idea of what you expect to see. Ask them to be honest and describe their achievement and any failures they may want to share. Ask them to describe how they might do things differently and don’t forget to ask them what they view as important for their development and goals.  Why not ask them to provide a timeline and action plan for the upcoming appraisal period.

Top tips for employee appraisals

  • Set a time and date for your staff appraisals and make sure you stick to it. 
  • Take notes. Firstly, having a written record is vital for your legal obligations, but it is also a useful reference for the next appraisal meeting and for setting and checking goals.
  • Praise achievements and set realistic goals or targets, with a set date for completing them.
  • If you are concerned about performance, you may find that your employee requires further training. A training and development plan can really help push performance upwards.  It may be that they have not had clear goals with expectations and timelines, so the appraisal will give you a clear opportunity to address this.

If you are undertaking your first employee appraisals or just want to refresh your skills after a break, our experienced team can provide you with guidance and bespoke documentation. Contact our team at AccountAbility-Plus on 01440 821991 for an informal chat.