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Evaluating the benefit of the performance appraisal

Published 05 February 2018

Asking an employee to highlight their strengths and weaknesses can produce some interesting results.

It is not always easy to get a worker to reflect on their performance, but it can certainly be beneficial for an employer to do so.

Last week we looked at the difference between performance management and performance appraisals.

In this spot previously we have focused on performance management (1) , so it’s worth taking a closer look at performance appraisals and the importance of them.

Formal appraisals can benefit both the employee and the employer. Taking the time to do appraisals with staff in order to monitor and improve performance, regardless of job role, can impact on the success of a business.

A performance appraisal (or review) should be a two-way discussion between a manager and a member of staff focusing on the employee’s performance and development.

It also presents an ideal opportunity to review achievements and set future objectives. The meeting also allows the employee to put forward suggestions about career development, including any required training and support needs.

Done correctly the appraisal can be used analyse the performance of all employees, to aid them to grow professionally and help in setting goals and tracking if they are achieved.

The appraisal has traditionally been an annual review. In 2014 a study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 72 per cent of organisations were carried out formal appraisals only once a year (2).

In recent times this has changed with many employers preferring to provide feedback on a more regular basis, rather than just once or twice a year.

Despite the obvious benefits, the performance appraisal has been ditched altogether in recent years by prominent multinationals such as Microsoft and General Electric (3)

Whether you are for or against performance appraisals they can prove to be an effective use of time and be vital in improving business performance.

ACAS (4) lists the key points of staff appraisals as:

  • Agree with them the objectives of their job and the knowledge, skills and personal attributes they will need to achieve them.
  • Hold appraisal reviews. Employees are likely to perform better, and feel happier, if they have a recognised system for talking to their line manager, getting feedback, and getting help to improve and develop.
  • Work on your one-to-one skills. Understand what makes your employees tick and how they contribute to your business success. Conversations about good and bad performance can be emotionally fraught, so you may need training in how to effectively conduct difficult conversations.
  • Focus on the development of your staff. If you buy a new piece of equipment, it comes with a manual explaining how to get the best out of it. It's not so simple with people. To work best, your employees need an ongoing process of tweaking, adjusting and reviewing the way they work to continually improve.

As with many things having the correct procedure in place is always a good start, but it needs to be applied properly in order to be effective.

Managers should be fully trained and committed to appraisals and given the time and resources to conduct performance reviews. Appraisal forms should also be kept simple and be easy to fill in.

When a way of doing things appears to be working it is human nature to sit back, let it carry on and not get involved. But for employers it is crucial to appraise the appraisals. Ensure they are taking place as planned and get feedback about the system in order to establish if it is working or needs to be adapted.

If appraisals are conducted properly and fairly, it can be a good way to boost employee engagement and productivity - both of which will work in the favour of any organisation (5).



1. How to manage underperforming workers [Internet]. Castle Associates Ltd. 2017 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from:

2. Effectiveness of Performance Appraisals Gets Mixed Reviews from HR Professionals in New SHRM Survey [Internet]. SHRM. 2014 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from:

3. Martin J. The end of the performance review? BBC News [Internet]. 2015 Sep 9 [cited 2018 Jan 19]; Available from:

4.The Cube 123 Albion Street. How to get the best out of your staff - Be prepared: Know the basics for conducting effective staff appraisals [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from:

5. Roberts S. Performance reviews: more than just ticking boxes [Internet]. the Guardian. 2013 [cited 2018 Jan 21]. Available from:

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