Managing one-to-one’s with employees – best ways to conduct reviews/appraisals

We’ve all felt the dread. Sweaty palms, heart racing and not being able to concentrate. It’s a typical scenario in the lead up to a workplace review or appraisal meeting. The stress and anxiety can affect both the appraiser/manager and the appraisee/employee.  To encourage a more positive and useful experience it’s important to plan and think about the various aspects involved so that all involved get value from the meeting.

Conversely, getting the appraisal or review systems wrong can spell disaster. A survey last year by Adobe of 1500 workers found that 52% of them were taken aback by the feedback they were given, 37% left the performance review feeling resentment for their manager and 22% of workers cried after the session.

Small businesses in particular may find the idea of regular staff reviews daunting but it’s actually a way of recognising and formalising the informal conversations which are already taking place between managers and staff.

The importance of reviews and appraisals

Whether they are called reviews, appraisals or performance development reviews, they are an invaluable tool for both managers and employees alike to set-aside a specific time to discuss the previous working year, and the one ahead.

While such conversations may take place informally at other times, it’s important to also have a formal conversation scheduled where points can be made in a planned way and which are noted. Such meetings are a key management device because:

  • They allow the employee to receive praise for the positive aspects of their performance over the previous year, all part of effective employee engagement. Research has shown that almost half (49%) of workers surveyed in the UK, USA and Australia would leave an organisation if they did not receive regular recognition.
  • Objectives or targets for the forthcoming year can be set.
  • Any concerns or suggestions can be raised by either party about how performance can be improved.
  • Any specific training or upskilling needs can be discussed.

A regular system of reviews or appraisals should result in better business because it allows you to monitor and improve performance, which means better productivity.

Tips on the best ways to conduct reviews and appraisals

  • Be clear about your company approach to appraisals – too often employees are muddled about the review system at their workplace. It may be due to frequent changes to the purpose or in changes in HR staff or managers, but all too often reviews are unsatisfactory or fail to happen due to a lack of clarity. It’s best to include details about the firm’s review or appraisal system in the on boarding or induction information given.
  • Give sufficient notice –the review meeting should be arranged well in advance so that all involved have time to prepare; the date should not be changed unless unavoidable because it can send the wrong message to the employee – it’s important that they feel the meeting is valued by their manager.
  • Include the three essential elements – ACAS advises including setting objectives for the employee; agreeing the competencies or behaviours needed; and planning the employee’s future personal development. Some appraisals may also include discussion about pay rises and promotional opportunities.
  • Once completed don’t just file them away for another year. Manager and employee should refer to the document throughout the year as it includes objectives, development & training opportunities and future goals. In fact, some firms, such as corporate giant IBM, are switching from annual to more regular check-ins.
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