As a manager, you’re first of all responsible for your team and their performance. While in some cases you agree on specific KPIs and metrics to measure this performance and progress against, these will only reflect a partial view of your team’s general development. For a more holistic approach, lots of managers conduct a regular performance review or employee appraisal meeting. Sounds great, but only if you do it right. Read below to learn good employee appraisal meeting practices and what to avoid. 

Why have employee appraisal meetings in the first place?

Your team are people, not numbers or resources. It’s not enough to think about their productivity and current and future role. Those are conversations rooted in Excel spreadsheets. To unlock the best path for their growth, you should help them set the right goals as well as support them in reaching them and the best place to do so is a dedicated appraisal meeting at work. 

Book an hour at least once a half year to discuss performance and success in reaching their goals. In companies or startups that have triple-digit growth rates – it can be every quarter. Bigger companies usually hold appraisals once a year as this is typically a part of an annual company life cycle in terms of budget and bonuses – that’s why very often employees assume it’s THE moment to ask for a raise and that the appraisal meeting is about their salary.

This couldn’t be further from the original point. Award your employees when they deserve it, not when an anniversary is coming. This particular meeting should be focused on employee’s long-time growth and mutual feedback and serve as an official record of the employee’s performance within a defined period of time.

Staff appraisal dos & don’ts

You’re busy. We all are. Your team too. Since appraisal meetings do not necessarily touch upon the issues at hand but rather from a perspective, managers too often treat it as less important, give in to the workload and postpone. Result? Your employee thinks it’s not important too, or even worse – that you don’t care enough about their future in the company. Consequences tend to be dire – dissatisfaction, disappointment, morale drop, no development. Stick to your meetings.

Be honest and open. If your employee deserves praise, don’t hold it in, if there’s criticism coming – don’t wait till the end of the conversation and soap their eyes. Be constructive and share as much feedback and hints for improvement as possible – for a person that cares about self-development it’s the most precious thing they’re waiting for. Being honest also means that you don’t sugarcoat and manipulate. We all have our bullshit radars to detect shit sandwiches – so don’t try them. Don’t stick to solely your opinion though and never come unprepared – there’s no greater let-down than saying “I don’t have any feedback for you at this point” when it comes to any evaluation or appraisal meeting. 

Take enough time before the planned appraisal meeting to collect 360-feedback from other teammates, project partners or managers AAAAAND yes, the employee in question should come prepared as well, so don’t forget to share an agenda beforehand and ask for a self-evaluation which you can both discuss. The best way to do so is by presenting the same set of criteria you will base your evaluation on, so you can compare notes (it’s a good insight into how aware you employee is of their skills and impact on the organization too). Make sure though that everything is clear and the employee understands fully what they’re being evaluated on exactly.

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At Casbeg we use a template form with a few questions with either 0/1 or 1-2-3 scale answers so it’s easy to map challenging areas (you want to get maximum points in each – impact on organisation, on your team, productivity and results, proactivity, cultural fit, hard skills and know-how) and review progress in time. Once we know which areas for development or improvement to prioritize in the appraisal form, together we discuss what the employee will need for that and what are the upcoming specific goals or milestones to achieve that. 

Each goal should have a deadline, usually, it’s simply the next appraisal meeting. It’s a good idea however to take notes, make a record of what is being discussed and based on those follow up with your employees on their progress or possible blockers in the meantime. 

It’s crucial to remember that appraisals aren’t simply one-sided evaluation meetings, so while planning the agenda, give your employee a chance to speak their mind and share feedback as well. You couldn’t really find a better moment to find out what they appreciate most about their workplace and what bothers them or how YOU can be a better leader for them. That’s right, you might have some areas to improve as well!

While writing this article, I thought it would be a good idea to let you know what the team thinks of employee appraisal meetings, so I asked them 2 questions:

#1 – From your perspective, what do you think of the employee appraisal meeting?

“It’s definitely a great occasion to take a step back and reflect on your work so far and think what actions should take place in the upcoming months. For me, such periodic meeting serves as a deadline to deliver my development goals, which is additionally motivating”

“It’s great that I can compare how I see myself with someone who’s observing me from the side. I believe such a meeting is a must-have at every company, plus I can give feedback back and I’m encouraged to do so”

“Preparing for the meeting itself allowed me to pinpoint the areas I need more knowledge in. By writing them down in a proposed structure helped me organise my previously too general need to “know more”. When you analyze your actions it’s not only self-reflection that counts but your team’s feedback as well”

#2 – Do you see any value in the meeting? What is it?

“It’s definitely the mutual feedback and a chance to learn how my work is viewed. I can share my insight about the whole organisation too – there’s not always enough time to do so on a daily basis. Personally I, only during the meeting, realized a problem I couldn’t define earlier as a problem”

“Free and comfortable feedback to both sides is valuable in itself but the greatest value is the result – what I will be able to do before the next meeting”

“The most valuable effect of the meeting was being able to organize our educational initiative – now the whole team can learn from an experienced entrepreneur – we all knew we should organize something like this but it only took place after the meeting”