How to give appraisals

The appraisal involves ensuring someone is working to their best
ability, writes Nathalie Towner. It is a
two-way process between a manager and their member of staff and is
the best chance to deal with any issues. When done well, the
appraisal is a positive experience and should leave the employee
feeling committed to the organisation and enthusiastic about their

How often?
The appraisal is usually once a year. “You look at the job the
individual is doing, how it is going and any support and
development needs,” says Karen Gregory, senior human resources
manager for adult social services at Lancashire Council. It is not
the same as supervision. “Appraisal is linked to the bigger picture
and supervision is about day to day. There is overlap, but the big
difference is that, in supervision, you will discuss cases and
whether clients are getting the service they deserve.”

To get the most out of the process both parties will need to take
time to prepare. “It can be a lot of work,” says
Vanessa Robinson, organisation and resourcing adviser for the
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. “You will need to
think through what you want to cover as the employee is not always
comfortable and may not be forthcoming with information.” It’s well
worth speaking to the employee beforehand so they know what is
expected of them.

Take appraisals seriously
“Find a quiet room, make sure the phones are off, be on
time: it’s important to show respect for the process,” says
Robinson. “It’s a common mistake by managers to delay appraisals
and not put in enough effort or allow sufficient time.”

Set objectives
One important purpose of the appraisal is to see how the
individual has performed against the objectives set previously to
see whether they have completed recommended training. “If they have
done a course ask them what they gained out of it and whether it
worked,” says Gregory. After going through the previous 12 months,
the next stage is to forward plan by setting objectives for the
year ahead.

“The employee may identify training they need for the job. For
instance, they may not feel confident in court,” says Gregory. “The
appraisal will also look at the longer term as we appreciate that
staff have developmental aspirations.” They may want to be seconded
or shadow a colleague and the manager will have to arrange this.
Gregory warns to be realistic about what you can offer and be sure
that any courses requested are relevant.

Be open
It is key to be direct when talking about strengths and weaknesses
otherwise your message will be diluted. “It’s good to give
strengths first and make sure they are explicitly mentioned,” says
Robinson. “The appraisal is a chance to acknowledge good
performances.” She also says not to skirt around any difficult
issues. “No one likes giving bad feedback so do it in a coaching
way and get the individual to open up and speak about it
themselves.” Ask them what they would do differently next time and
identify any development needs.

Get the most out of it
For the manager the process is about getting the best out
of their staff. “The appraisal is about the social worker as an
individual and how we can assist them to do well,” says Gregory.
“You have to follow it up with a review within 12 months.”

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