Appraisals

by Kate Russell

Observation

How often should I carry out an appraisal?

Throughout the appraisal period, observe and provide feedback on your employees’ performance, helping them to achieve successful performance.

The performance appraisal is an opportunity for you and your reporting staff to meet formally to have a two-way conversation, covering past performance and planning for the future. Although the appraisal period is typically six months or a year, you will find it easier to manage the process if you meet formally more often than that. A three-month appraisal period is often much easier to manage. The time spent on the meeting will be shorter; the issues under discussion will have emerged more recently, and the opportunity for problems to have arisen will be less, so it is often easier to nip them in the bud.

Collecting evidence

The formal appraisal meeting is important, but of course observing employee performance – and offering feedback about what you see – should be a routine part of the way you manage employee performance and not something that is confined to the appraisal meeting.

Tip

Get into the habit of carrying a notebook round with you to note down matters that arise (both good and rather less good) which you can refer back to during the formal process.

Give and receive informal feedback all the time and, as suggested above, make a brief file note. Don’t wait for the formal appraisal discussion. There should be no surprises for an appraisee in a formal performance appraisal.

Observations are the raw data upon which effective performance feedback is based and may also suggest actions that might be taken to support, develop or improve performance. The purpose of observing both employee behaviour and the results of work performance is to identify and describe them. This helps the employee to be successful and to continue developing his skills, knowledge and experience.

Feedback should be based on observed and/or verifiable work-related behaviours, actions, statements and results. Effective feedback helps the employee to sustain good performance, develop new skills and improve performance when necessary.

When you are making observations about the results of an employee’s performance, the output he generates and the impact of his work, gather additional information to make both praise and constructive feedback more effective.

What if you can’t be present to observe performance?

When you can’t be present to observe an employee’s performance, make sure that you have processes in place through which you can learn how he is doing. These processes should be open, fair, and understood by everyone. Obtaining input about performance in your absence may include, but is not limited to, the following options.

  • Evaluate the output and products of the employee’s work.
  • Have routine one-to-one meetings with your employee and include discussions of performance.
  • Periodically review and discuss with your employee the standards of performance for his or her job and your expectations.
  • Ask your employee to make periodic reports and share them with you for discussion.
  • Obtain feedback from customers – in writing when possible.
  • Make brief check-ins or phone calls.
  • Ask an appropriate person – someone who is present daily – to serve as a work leader or give the person authority to act in your stead, ensuring that everyone understands that person’s role.
  • Perform routine spot checks of the employee at work.
  • Ask for confidential evaluations of employee performance by peers (or direct reports of supervisors). This process should be clearly understood by everyone and applied fairly to all.