Annual appraisals are supposedly dead – but this is only true because once a year is not enough to effectively evaluate your employees. We explore how to optimise your performance reviews to grow your team.
Employers are not required by law to conduct appraisals and reviews, but they do benefit all parties. If all the feedback you give your team members is through one annual appraisal, you’re doing your team a disservice and aren’t unlocking their full potential. Feedback should be far more regular to match the fast-paced environments we now work in.
The value of appraisals
Recently, appraisals have been considered a dying practice by many employers who deem it a tick-box exercise with little value. However, when done well, and more frequently, these reviews are crucial for the development of your employees and have multiple benefits for both parties:
- Ensuring employees understand their role and your expectations for them
- Determining to what extent employees are meeting those expectations
- Providing support and having an honest two-way discussion
- Acknowledging and rewarding good performance
- Nurturing your employees’ career progression
- Increasing engagement and longevity
A manager’s responsibility is to empower their people to do their work to the best of their ability and nurture their successes. Performance reviews are a chance to engage team members with regular, one-to-one, honest discussions. It’s not only a chance for the professional to receive feedback from you, but an opportunity for them to raise any concerns they have and to tell you what support they might need.
Without appraisals, employees will still be evaluated, but without the same transparency and objectivity. It will simply exclude employees from the process. This could make them feel out of control of their own futures and unaware of what they can do to improve. Providing honest feedback, even if it is a hard conversation to have, allows them the opportunity to upskill themselves and for you to show you want to help them improve.
Conducting a successful performance review
Firstly, all parties involved need to understand the process and why it’s being conducted in the first place. What do you want to achieve from this meeting? Appraisals need to be structured to be effective. Performance template examples, like the template we have designed, can help you with this.
Every appraisal should:
Be as regular as your team needs it to be– The regularity of your performance reviews will depend entirely on your company, team and management style. With most companies changing much more rapidly, and employees learning in more fast-paced environments, annual appraisals will not be as useful as a more regular performance review. When it comes to feedback, little and often is the way to go.
You might decide that once a month is best for your team members. However, it’s best to be flexible, and if monthly reviews aren’t working for individuals, try checking in with them more regularly than others. It’s all about the employee and your own judgement.
Provide effective feedback– Fundamentally, all feedback must be honest and constructive. Without honesty, it will have no value to the person receiving it – positive or negative. Whether their performance has been excellent or less than satisfactory, you need to advise them on the next steps they should take to improve or grow further. All feedback must focus on the future and how your employee can move forward, rather than dwelling on past failures or becoming complacent following their successes.
Set SMART goals– One of the most common mistakes employers make is setting vague goals. Employers must provide their employees with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) goals, that they can focus on achieving ahead of their next review. For example, you may want one of your employees to ‘make more sales’ but this doesn’t give them guidance or direction on how to achieve what you want them to.
To turn this into a smart goal, it might become something like: ‘make eight sales a month, for six months, until you reach 48 sales by the end of this year’. Outlining the main goal, and the smaller steps they need to take to achieve their goals by a set deadline is much better for motivation and productivity. It’s also easier to measure and help them to stay on track to achieve their overall goal.
Be a rewarding experience for employees– Appraisals should be an experience employees look forward to. They should leave feeling that their hard work and progress since the last review has been acknowledged and rewarded by their employer. If the response hasn’t been so positive, they should leave with an awareness of how to improve, through honest and constructive feedback and SMART goals.
Be personalised to individuals– Each member of your team will have a different way of working and different needs. This should be accounted for in your performance reviews. Ideally, you would have a standardised performance review template that can be adapted to each person in your team. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work.
If any of your team members have health issues which are affecting their work, take that into consideration and do your best to support them. It is illegal to discriminate against someone for their protected characteristics such as disabilities or neurodivergence. Likewise, be mindful of any personal issues your employee may be struggling with that may have a short-term impact on their performance. You must provide reasonable adjustments where possible to help them improve their performance.
Download our free performance review template to help you ensure your next review has a positive impact on your employees.