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Formal Performance Appraisal

… be prepared!

Most organizations have some kind of formal performance appraisal. If you are responsible for conducting such an appraisal you need to make sure you are well-prepared. In this article we will outline some steps to take and some questions to ask. If you want to conduct a productive performance appraisal, ensure your preparation is thorough, and that you are well equipped to make the process a success.

A central role of performance appraisals is to ensure that the meetings are built around a developmental conversation. To do this you will need to think about the kinds of questions you will ask. Prepare for the formal performance appraisal with questions that will encourage this kind of discussion.

Performance review meetings usually take the following structure:

  • Review what has been achieved
  • Plan what will be achieved
  • Identify development needs and how they will be met.

Elsewhere we have strongly advocated that performance appraisals need to be the culmination of a series of mini-reviews so that there are no surprises at a formal performance appraisal. We discuss this approach in our article “what is performance appraisal?”

Adopting such an approach will help your preparation for a formal performance review. Here are some useful steps to take in preparation for the appraisal:

  • Read through your notes from the mini-reviews you have conducted throughout the year
  • Ask the colleagues being reviewed to prepare by considering their own performance (see our article “self performance appraisal”for tips on how to do this, and for some questions that your colleagues could ask themselves)
  • Review the previous goals set for your colleague
  • Build your own initial assessment of their performance
  • Review team goals for the next period and think about how you colleague might contribute to them

Preparing Questions

Think about questions you might want to ask as part of the formal performance appraisal. These should be designed to ascertain your colleague’s perspective on their performance. For example, try preparing questions such as:

  • What has gone well?
  • What part of your work has been most satisfying?
  • What has been particularly challenging? How did you overcome these challenges?

How did you get on with..?

  • What difficulties have you had to cope with?
  • Do we need to review targets?

Always prepare questions before a formal performance appraisal. You may amend what you plan, but it allows you to give some thought to structuring the discussion.

Keep Notes

Your own organization may well have a set of documentation for formal performance appraisal. If that is the case, ensure you’re familiar with this documentation in advance of the appraisal.

Should this not be the case, then you need to ensure that you keep practical records to help you to support your colleague’s development.

You should ensure that the notes you keep:

  • Are seen and approved by your colleague.
  • Include a summary of points discussed
  • State SMART objectives for the next period
  • Have a plan of action for development and work goals
  • Summarize the resource requirements
  • Have a date and time for the next mini-review

Being well-prepared makes a big difference. Next though you need the skills to make sure you can conduct a performance review. We have developed a step-by-step e-guide to help you do just that: Conducting a Performance Review. It comes complete with 8 performance appraisal tools to help you apply the skills and improve your performance.

You can read more about peformance management and appraisal in our series of performance management articles You can also find out more about our take on performance management in our article How to Motivate Employees to Perform, which introduces our PERFORM model.


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