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Appraisals Part 3

Updated: Feb 16

Last time, we looked at how to carry out the appraisal itself; this time, we look at what not to do during the appraisal process and how to follow up an appraisal so that its potential for good can be realised.

What an Appraisal Is Not

It’s not an opportunity for the manager to hold on to information in relation to performance that should have been discussed with the employee throughout the year. It is also not a pay review. Indeed, most HR professionals recommend that the appraisal is carried out at a different time from the pay review in order that appraisal does not become a ‘how much am I getting?’ exercise.

A good performance appraisal leaves both parties feeling they’ve gained something. Therefore success is more likely to be achieved by managers who:

  • engage in mutual goal setting;

  • publicly recognise good performance and privately correct improper performance when it occurs;

  • establish clear measurable objectives and expectations, remembering what cannot be ‘measured’ cannot be ‘managed’, thereby providing a climate conducive to success;

  • ask questions, listen carefully, remembering we have ‘two ears and one mouth’ and it is always wise to use them as such, thereby learning to appreciate the views of others;

  • follow through decisions to ensure commitments are met.

Failure will occur when:

  • objectives and targets are established which are impossible to meet;

  • too much time is spent looking for things which are wrong and too little time is spent looking for things that are right;

  • expectations have not been thought through properly or the manager does not know how to measure success;

  • managers encourage a threatening atmosphere in which to work;

  • managers never seek the ideas of others, or listen, yet they have a solution to everyone’s problems;

  • managers don’t take their own commitments or those of others seriously.

Discussing Unsatisfactory Performance

It is also worth remembering that an employee is unlikely to see any reason to improve on his/her performance if it appears acceptable to the manager and the business. The reason for this could be that the manager has failed to highlight issues in a constructive and positive manner.

On a daily basis throughout the year, there is a need to deal with unsatisfactory performance in order that there is an opportunity for the end result to be achieved. Whilst the manager conducting the appraisal needs to highlight unsatisfactory performance, under no circumstance should s/he keep an amalgamation of errors to use at appraisal time.

It is also helpful to prepare questions such as:

  • What is your understanding of the standards required in your job?

  • You appear to have fallen back a little in your role, particularly with regard to (X). Can you think on a reason why this would be?

If the manager wishes the employee to talk freely, then there is a need to set the ‘tone of the questioning’ regarding the type of questions asked.

The Individual Development Plan

Targets and objectives for the coming year together with development and training requirements linked to job-related competencies will have been agreed at the appraisal meeting. The individual development plan should show:

  • Competencies identified for development

  • The preferred method of development for the individual

  • How success will be measured i.e. what types of supporting evidence will be gathered

Dates or deadlines

It is important that the individual development plan is seen as a live action plan and is actively worked on following the appraisal discussion. It should be monitored regularly as part of the normal supervisory and management arrangements.

In preparing the plan, consideration should be given to a range of learning and development activities including:

  • Learning in the job

  • Work experience

  • Team work and group activity

  • Self-development

  • Team development

Appraisal Review Meeting

An appraisal review meeting is a planned opportunity for discussion between an employee and their manager. It should be held 3-6 months after the appraisal meeting. The purpose of the review meeting is to:

  • review the previous period of time including agreed targets;

  • agree, if appropriate, any new or revised targets for the ensuing period of time;

  • raise any relevant matters.

As a guide, this review meeting should last for no more than an hour and dates should be planned well in advance, i.e. at the appraisal meeting, and written targets should be produced at the meeting.

It is recommended that the framework for discussion should be:

  • How is the appraisal plan progressing?

  • What has gone well?

  • What has gone less well?

  • What has the individual learned?

The appraiser should establish:

  • What is helping

  • What is hindering

  • How can the appraiser further support the individual?

  • Whether any adaptations need to be made to the appraisal plan


Personal competencies can be defined as behavioural characteristics or skills, including professional and technical, which can be shown to make a difference to performance and which can be measured.

A competency framework should be applied to all roles/employees. The function of competencies is to ensure that an employee understands and is utilising or developing the behaviours and skills necessary for them to carry out the key duties/responsibilities of their job effectively.

A competency framework is designed to be used to support employee appraisal, development, recruitment and selection, induction and for monitoring and influencing performance as part of on-going performance management and development.

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