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Performance appraisals need to be set well in advance of the session and should never come as a surprise to the employee. Adequate time needs to be given to both parties to allow for preparation a minimum of two weeks' notice is a good guide for the time required. Employees should be made aware of the appraisal process, what is evaluated and how often.

It is best practice to send a calendar invite to the employee which sets aside a specific date, time and venue for the meeting. Enclose a copy of any forms and documents that will be referred to or used during the meeting, examples include; copies of previous appraisal meeting minutes, appraisal policies and any template activities that may be used. Take time to explain what work should be completed in advance and what will be completed during and after the meeting.

It is important to understand that there are three stages to the appraisal process; before, during and after. Both parties need to understand what is expected of them at each stage of the process.

The appraisal process begins before the meeting with a full written document setting out the general aims and objectives for all employees. This should be made available to employees at any given time. Appraisal meetings must be uninterrupted, this meeting is an opportunity for reflection and feedback from both parties and is essentially 'protected development time'. At no time should this meeting be interrupted unless due to a real emergency.

These meetings must be a minimum of one hour but often these over-run. When planning these meetings do not run them 'back to back' or book meetings immediately after the session. As a guide allow at least an hour between these meetings. Ensure that these meetings are relaxed and not rushed, allow enough time for a full review of all the items identified in the employees self-appraisal document.

One of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your performance appraisal is to prepare. It is essential you prepare for appraisal meetings regardless of if you are the appraiser or the employee. Performance appraisals can be very stressful for both parties but if you prepare well and keep an open communication channel then this stress will decrease and the meeting will become more effective.

There are many ways in which you can prepare as both the line manager and the appraiser, these include;

  • Gathering information and reflection;
  • Review all performance notes;
  • Prepare a list of accomplishments;
  • Prepare a list of development points;
  • Draft goals.

Supportive evidence should be collected by both parties prior to the meeting, this evidence allows you to 'back up' your feedback and will dramatically increase the worth of the feedback you are providing. Evidence can include written statements from others, examples of work produced, statistics and any other paper-based documents. You can refer to evidence that is verbal, however, this is seen to have less value due to the ability to misinterpret feedback even if this is unintentional.

Prior to the meeting, both parties should be allowed some time to review any previous objectives set and to reflect on the achievement towards these. Monitoring of performance against goals set should be completed regularly. This allows the employee to continually develop their skills and competencies. Reflection should be completed by the appraiser and the employee. Reflection includes what you say and how you say it, everything said in this meeting should be done so in a considered and positive manner. This can be difficult where the message is less than positive, we will explore the area of feedback later in the training.

If this is not the first appraisal meeting then take some time to review previous performance notes. This allows you to review previous to current performance and use this to discuss the improvements made or the progress towards achievement.
As both the line manager and the appraisee you should prepare a list of accomplishments and look at what is working well and the individual strengths. This is an opportunity for recognition and a 'well done' for the work completed. Often it is the little things that are forgotten and the well done goes a long way to boost the morale of an employee. These accomplishments must be within the period of the appraisal and no more than 12 months old.

The appraisal should point out strengths as well as how performance can be improved. This is often the more tricky part of the meeting as this includes constructively bringing development areas to the attention of the employee. As mentioned at the start of this training session development areas should be immediately brought to the attention of an employee and should not be 'stored up' and come as a shock. Development points should be what has been observed in the period of appraisal and therefore should not be more than 12 months old.

Before the meeting, both the line manager and employee should draft the goals for the following appraisal period. This should be in line with the previous objectives but designed to challenge the individual.