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Definition of Performance Appraisal

Beyond the basics!

Definition of Performance Appraisal

Beyond the basics!

What is your definition of performance appraisal?

Far too many managers might believe that it’s an annual review of an employee’s performance within an organization. Indeed, this is a common definition so it’s hardly surprising that this is the case. Perhaps that’s not surprising if we take a dictionary definition at face value. Such as Collins, which defines performance appraisal as:

The assessment, at regular intervals, of an employee’s performance at work.

However, this definition is perhaps too simplistic if performance appraisal is to be both fully understood, and truly effective. In this article we consider five basic elements that form the foundation of an effective definition of performance appraisal. Performance appraisals should be:

1 Conducted more than just once a year

A performance appraisal needs to be a series of constructive, developmental discussions, between line managers and their reports. They should focus on helping people to realize their potential. To be effective, appraisals need to be a series of conversations that culminate in the performance appraisal review. It’s much more effective (and easier) to appraise performance by regular meetings to discuss progress and provide support, rather than to wait for a single, annual appraisal meeting.

2 Two-way, not top-down

An appraisal should not be a top-down process, where one side asks questions and the other responds. An effective appraisal meeting should consist of an open dialogue, more of a two-way conversation. Performance appraisal needs to be a joint effort – it’s as much about self-appraisal as it is about the manager’s view.

3 Focused on togetherness

Appraisals are a shared assessment of performance, where performance is appraised jointly and goals are agreed together. The individual’s goals need to be aligned with those of the team or organization.

4 Based on trust and mutual respect

Performance appraisals should be based on trust and mutual respect. An appraisal works best when manager and employee know each other and there is mutual respect between the two. Such conditions need to be built over time with the manager taking the lead.

5 A key part of the performance management cycle

Appraisals are an important part of performance management, but an appraisal in itself is not performance management. Performance management is a broader process of which an appraisal is only one stage. For example, in the performance management cycle, the review and planning elements typically form an appraisal. However, the development and performance stages are part of the broader performance management process. To manage performance requires more than just a performance appraisal!

So, taking all of this into account, it’s not surprising we think a one line definition of performance appraisal is too simplistic. We think a more fulsome definition might define it as:

Definition of performance appraisalA process of mini reviews culminating in a one-to-one conversation between managers and their reports. These are used to create a shared understanding of the individual’s performance, and agreed actions to encourage further development. 

At these meetings, the individual’s development and future goals are discussed, especially where the best contribution can be made, based on the successes of the review period.

In summary a performance appraisal should be:

  • A series of conversations that culminate in the appraisal review
  • A two way conversation
  • A shared assessment of performance and of future goals
  • Based on mutual trust and respect
  • Part of the performance management cycle

We’ve discussed appraisals more widely in our article: “What is Performance Appraisal?” You can also find out more about a typical performance management process in our article: Performance Management Cycle.

Managing Performance and Potential

Managing Performance and Potential e-guideFor more on how to get the best out of the people you manage, have a look at our e-guide: Managing Performance and Potential. This guide sets out the key principles of performance management, with useful tools to help you put them into practice. Included in the guide you’ll find insights into:

  • Getting the best out of your people by understanding the basics of performance management
  • Setting performance standards, in order to manage good, bad and indifferent performance
  • Using the PERFORM model to help create conditions that improve performance and develop potential
  • Influencing performance by adapting the way you manage and the way you lead
  • Giving effective and timely feedback
  • Carrying out effective and timely performance appraisals
  • Coaching individuals to develop their performance and potential
Conducting a performance management review

Or for some specific guidance performance appraisal, try our e-guide: Conducting a Performance Management Review. With 33 pages and 8 performance appraisal tools, this is as great value resource for managers.

  • Conducting a Performance Management ReviewImplement a step-by-step process for productive performance appraisals
  • Realize the power of regular reviews
  • Set performance objectives to deliver individual, team and organizational priorities
  • Write SMART performance goals and objectives
  • Develop action plans using the SHARP planning tool
  • Prepare and manage the performance appraisal meeting
  • Provide effective feedback, focused on performance
  • Deal with under-performance
  • Create the conditions to better manage performance at work
  • Review how performance appraisal works in your organization
  • Form for conducting mini-reviews
  • SMART goals and objectives tool
  • SHARP action plan tool
  • Preparing for a review tool
  • Checklist for managing a performance review
  • Guidelines for giving feedback
  • Managing under-performance diagnostic tool
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