Whether you’re an experienced manager or new to the role, the appraisal – or annual review -process can be a daunting prospect; however, if a few simple steps are taken, the experience can be a productive one for both the employee and the appraiser.

Your employee might be the star performer or may just need a little help but the clever manager will always recognise that employees are the bedrock of any organisation. They’re your most valuable commodity and one that should be nurtured wisely.

Are you working SMARTly?

If someone asked you to do a job but didn’t tell you what they wanted you to do or how to do it, or when they wanted you to do it by, you’d probably make a bit of a hash of it. But it’s amazing just how many employers put the same sort of challenges in front of their workforce. SMART objectives are the only sure-fire way to carry out staff appraisals; the principles are simple and the results can be astonishing.
  • S – Specific. The objective should be absolutely clear
  • M – Measurable. How can you best quantify the success of their work?
  • A – Achievable. Is the task something that can be done in the time allotted and with the resources available?
  • R – Realistic. Related to ‘Achievable’. Are your expectations appropriate to the skills and experience of the employee?
  • T – Time-tracked. Create milestones so that both you and the employee can gauge progress
By applying SMART objectives to the appraisal process, it is possible to monitor the employee’s progress and to remedy any issues before they become serious.

Steps to the perfect appraisal

Align all appraisals. By far the most effective way to schedule appraisals is to create an ‘appraisal period’ – a set time in which all staff appraisals are carried out. If you have someone whose appraisal would normally fall outside that period, conduct an interim appraisal until the full appraisal period. The reason for doing this is to ensure less chance of other things popping up in your diary that will require you to keep deferring that appraisal – something that can unsettle employees.


About a fortnight before the appraisal period, issue your employees with a pre-appraisal form. This is for them to jot down any thoughts, aspirations, training needs, concerns, etc, before they get into the appraisal. You should also complete a pre-appraisal form for the same reason.


Ensure all employees go through exactly the same process. It may sound fundamental but there is no faster way to cause unrest among employees than to show favouritism.
The appraisal should be a fairly formal affair. It’s your chance to tell the employee how they’re doing, of any long-term changes in your business that might affect them, and – just as importantly – for them to feed back to you how they feel about their job, their relationships within the business and, where they’d like their career with you to go.

Motivate, don’t reprimand

The object of an annual appraisal isn’t to tell the employee what they’re doing wrong. Hopefully, your company’s lines of communication will be open enough for any issues to have been identified and addressed early on. If praise is due for good performance, then this is the time to do it. The annual appraisal should take a broader look at performance, teamwork, career paths, training, etc
  • Performance management – is the employee performing to expectation? If not then check whether they have the skills or need training? Are there personal issues that you, as the employer, might be able to help with by use of flexitime, etc?
  • Teamwork – does the employee work effectively in a team? If not, why not? Are there personality issues that need to be addressed?
  • Career path – Is the employee on the correct career path? Are they satisfied with their current job or are they perhaps frustrated? Within the realms of satisfying business needs, as an employer, you have a duty of care to develop and nurture your staff.
  • Training – If the employee does have potential beyond their existing role, might there be the opportunity to offer training that will both develop them and be of longer-term benefit to your organisation?
The annual appraisal is the time to discuss salary increases or freezes. Many companies schedule appraisals to coincide with salary reviews for this purpose.

Last but by no mean least, some managers fall into the habit of getting employees to write their own appraisals and then simply signing off on them. DON’T! The appraisal process should be an enjoyable one for both the line manager and the well performing employee. Exploit the opportunity not only to tell your employee what you think of their performance, but to learn how they rate yours.