Learning & Development

How to Conduct an Appraisal Step By Step

employees communicating

A formal assessment of the performance of an employee over a particular period


The appraisal as we know it – a formal assessment of employee performance at work – has existed since around the time of the Second World War.


There’s a lot of information out there about how to improve your existing performance review processes, but there’s not very much that actually tells you how to conduct a simple appraisal, step by step, from the very beginning.


This article is for you if you’re a new employer, or a new HR professional, looking for a simple way to conduct employee appraisals. If you already have an appraisal structure in place, and want to improve it, you might want to try our HR software which comes complete with a company-wide performance software module including 360feedback and interactive appraisal tools.


Here are the steps you need to take to setup and conduct an employee appraisal – remember that you will need to apply each of these steps to each individual employee you wish to appraise:


Part One: Preparation


Preparation is key to a good employee appraisal. Here are the seven most important steps to consider prior to the appraisal taking place:


1. Identify Generic Assessment Criteria

There are some things you’ll probably be able to assess in each employee regardless of their role, such as attendance and punctuality. Think of any expectations that apply to everybody you employ, and make a point of including them in each appraisal. During the time leading up to the appraisal, gather performance data in these areas so that you can feed it back to your employee.


2. Identify Unique Assessment Criteria Based on the Employee’s Role.

You’ll want also assess each employee based on the job you’ve hired them to do. For example, if you are appraising somebody from your sales team, you might want to make a point of assessing how they are performing in relation to their weekly, monthly or quarterly sales target. During the time leading up to the appraisal, gather performance data in these areas so that you can feed it back to your employee.


3. Articulate the Bigger Picture

It is always useful in an appraisal to compare performance against the longer-term goals of the company. Instead of just looking at performance metrics on a snapshot basis, think about how it might be affecting your company’s mission and growth strategy.


4. Set a Time and Date

You’ll want a bit of private time with each employee to discuss their performance. Set a time and date – you shouldn’t need more than an hour, and half an hour may be plenty, but if you have a lot to discuss, you may want to extend this just in case. If this is your first appraisal, you might want to set this date a little way into the future, to give you chance to build performance data, and to give your employee chance to prepare.


5. Share Your Intentions and Objectives

As soon as you have a time and date in mind, share this with your employee. At this point, you should also make sure your employee knows what you are going to be assessing, so that they can prepare to make their own independent self-assessment in the areas you’re interested in appraising.


6. Prepare a Basic Structure

Take all of the assessment areas you wrote down above, and put them together into a simple structure that you can use to guide the discussion, making sure to leave room for notes on each point.


7. Set the Right Environment

Appraisals should be positive and productive assessments of performance, not cold-hearted interrogations. Don’t hold appraisals in the company’s basement, and try to make sure the place you conduct the review is comfortable and well-lit.


Part Two: Conducting the Appraisal


During the appraisal, it is very easy to get a bit lost – especially if it is your first time. Here are the steps you should follow to ensure your appraisal goes smoothly for all parties involved:


1. Stick to Your Structure

You prepared a basic structure during your preparation stage. This will become a very useful tool during the appraisal, as it will help prevent you from getting side tracked, and forgetting what you were wanting to talk about.


2. Let the Employee Do the Talking

An appraisal is not a one-way process, and the employee self-assessment is a very important part of it. Guide the discussion using your structure, but let your employee lead the conversation. Naturally, you should share your notes and observations on the employee’s performance, based on the areas you already laid out, but always remember that your observations do not necessarily give you the complete picture.


3. Use Positive Feedback

An appraisal is not simply an excuse for you to criticise an employee on their failings. It is a chance to celebrate success, identify areas for improvement, and develop your workforce. Even if an employee is underperforming, make sure you provide lots of positive feedback and point out things they have done right – praise helps to motivate people, and it helps them relax.


4. Agree a Plan of Action

Based on your own assessment, and the employee’s self-assessment, agree (together) on a plan of action going forward. There might be areas where your employee is falling short, and these need addressing here, but remember to finish on a positive note and remind your employee of the good things they are doing for your company.


Part Three: Follow-Up


There’s still plenty to do once you finish your first appraisal – developing your workforce is a long-term process that cannot be achieved with a simple one-time appraisal! Here are the most important steps you should follow after your first appraisal is complete:


1. Schedule the Next Appraisal

The frequency of formal appraisals is up to you, but it is important you don’t overdo it – if you’re conducting full formal appraisals once a week, not only are you giving yourself unnecessary paperwork, but you’ll be suffocating your employees. Once a year, or even once every 6 months, is normally a good interval.


2. Conduct Informal Performance Reviews

You can overdo it on the formal appraisals, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore performance for the rest of the year – it is good to conduct informal monthly reviews to discuss progress with you employee, remind them of the goals you both set, and find out if they need any support. These can be as simple as a five-minute chat with no documentation.


3. Provide Immediate Feedback

If an employee does something fantastic, then please don’t make the mistake of simply writing it down and waiting until the next appraisal to mention it! Employees thrive on positive feedback, and while you should definitely make a note of it on paper, you should not be afraid to congratulate and/or reward them instantly, to remind them they are doing a great job.


Software that Enhances your Appraisal Process 

Our HR software provides timesaving automation to streamline your performance review processes. It’s online, easy to use and designed to engage your employees. Find out more about the benefits of our Performance Review software, there's even a short video so you can see the software in action.