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Staff appraisal help

Why have appraisals?

Many business managers and owners ask what themselves if staff appraisals are actually necessary. The reality is, like anything in life, if not done properly then no, it would appear to be more of a time waster. However the actuality is that if you do appraisals for the right reasons and in the right manner it could proactively enhance your staff performance.

So what are some of the reasons why we would do staff appraisals:

  • To establish whether the employee has a reasonable understanding of what is required of them.
  • So that we can monitor the employee’s performance over a set period of time in order to ascertain how they are coping with the work required of them. Highlighting their positive attributes towards their role; and identifying their problematic areas.
  • To assess if the employee needs additional support from a training perspective and whether the tools of their trade actually support and enable them to perform.
  • To highlight any of the employees aspirations and to enable the realization of those aspirations through training; development and mentorship.
  • To establish the employees perspective on how well they are functioning within their role. Often individuals have a false sense of reality and they are unable to identify with elements of their role as they have no grasp or knowledge of those elements.
  • Appraisals force management and staff alike to stop for a moment have discussions around important topics that don’t normally get discussed in the day to day rush of getting the work done.
  • Having appraisals sets the platform for continuous improvement within the workplace.

Preparing and executing an appraisal process

  • Often HR departments create the tools and templates for an appraisal process, this would normally include what the appraisal form would look like and the calendar for appraisals over the course of the year
  • Every appraisal should be managed by some form of appraisal template and this should have some or all of the following criteria:
    • Job title
    • Functional knowledge requirements in order to perform the functional role (tools such as excel; knowledge of certain activities etc)
    • General comments (employee and manager)
    • Targets and achievement thereof
    • Quality of work performed over the past period
    • Willingness and enthusiasm to perform the role
    • Planning and organizing required to perform the role
    • Problem solving and solution providing
    • Independence of thought and ability to use initiative
    • Team participation
    • Management / Leadership skills (if applicable)
    • Communication
    • Ability to work under pressure
    • Etc
  • The appraisal form is given to both the manager and the employee to complete. Some form of measurement tool must be used in order to measure the individuals’ performance in each category. The measurement tools must be simplistic (Example -1- excellent; 2 – good; 3 – satisfactory and 4 – weak) so as to allow for easy scoring from both parties.
  • The appraisal form must be completed prior to the appraisal interview and should be used as the discussion points during the interview process.
  • Appraisals should not be used as an intimidation tactic or a punitive process. It should be a positive experience for both manager and employee and therefore requires a certain amount of preparation and attention.
  • Validation / evidence should be given as to why the employee has been given a good or bad score. Example – Jane received a 4 for ability to work under pressure. During the interview Jane scored herself a 2 and challenged her manager as to why he had given her a weak score. Her manager is then required to use work related examples that can demonstrate his decision to put her in the weak category for this competency. It is then for Jane to justify why she put herself as having performed in this area. Debate on the different views is then managed by fact and a common ground or understanding of Jane’s ability in this competency must be established based on fact and not emotion.
  • Appraisals are a two way discussion. It is not an opportunity for the manager to stipulate his / her thinking without listening to the employee’s version.
  • Notes and commentary must be made in order to document the process. This is good governance as appraisals can be used at a later stage as evidence for performance management processes.
  • Managers should not compare staff members in this discussion. Example – Jane has been highlighted as having a weak ability to work under pressure. When she challenges her manager he responds with “If you watch Albert in pressured situations – he handles it by ….” This will undermine the employee even more and is can be very counterproductive.
  • Discuss solutions rather than just highlight the problems. Example - So Jane is weak in working under pressure…. What are the possible solutions to enable her to become more effective in this area? Has an action plan been identified and what time frames are given for review of these action plans.
  • If the appraisal has a direct bearing on the increase that is to be awarded, then this should be transparent. Employees should know up front what measurements are being used, how they are being measured and how this will affect their increases going forward
  • Summarize and recap the important points. Confirm agreement and highlight areas of disagreement. Use the appraisal process to complement staff members for their qualities and provide direction and action plans to address their weaker areas.
  • Follow up on the action plans. Don’t leave them unattended until the next review.