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Choosing the right appraisal for your business

The process of appraising the performance of employees (however complicated it might be) has a simple purpose: assessing the performance of employees performance to help the business achieve its goals. First, you ensure each individual understands what is expected of them in their jobs and that they have the skills and knowledge to do that job. The appraisal bit is when you sit down and discuss how they’re doing.

Assuming you’ve decided that there’s some benefit to carrying out appraisals, the next question is, how exactly do you want to do it?

An appraisal is an appraisal is an appraisal … or not

There are many different kinds of appraisal, from the quirky to the mundane. Here are a few of the more regular options:

  • Top down – this is the classic “manager-tells-you-what-they-think” conversation. Certainly, the manager’s opinion is relevant, however, be wary of dominating the meeting. When the discussion is one-way, it can be uncomfortable, frustrating, irritating, depressing, or any number of other negative descriptions, for the employee on the receiving end. Far better to aim for more of an interactive exchange of views.
  • Two-way – that “interactive exchange” can extend to the employee rating and commenting on their own performance; saying what they think they’ve done well and identifying where they might need to make changes or improvements. The contrast of the employee’s opinion and the manager’s gives a better and more accurate idea.
  • Peer review – feedback from colleagues and team mates can give a better picture of a person’s job performance. After all, their peers are sat next to them, relying on them, day in, day out. That said, if you’re going down this road, it’s best to have a degree of formality: agreed objectives or criteria, forms to fill in, etc. because otherwise it can be difficult for the employee to make much sense of their colleagues’ different opinions; a little structure can help a lot.
  • 360-degree feedback – similar to the peer review but providing a fuller picture, this form of appraisal includes feedback from managers, peers, subordinates (if any), possibly more senior managers (or the business owner), and even customers and clients. The point is, that often our competence varies depending on who we’re dealing or working with. The 360-degree view can help pinpoint where an employee’s performance is strong, and where it needs more work.

How to choose?

A couple of factors can help you decide on one of the above options (and help you agree the details once you’ve picked one). First, ask yourself why you want to carry out employee appraisals; what do you hope to achieve? If your goal is better teamwork, maybe the peer review or 360 options would work out best. If your focus is efficiency and profit then more of a manager-driven approach would ensure consistency and clarity, although supplementing that with some customer/client input can be very effective. The nature of the business is another obvious factor: for example, if each employee works independently (e.g. in target-driven sales roles) then a two-way discussion of individual skills and abilities may lead to a better-performing workforce.

The important point is that appraisals don’t have to be clichés, and yours don’t have to look like anyone else’s. The key is to find what works for you.

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