Preparation Tips for Performance Appraisals

In this blog post we give practical guidance on what to think about when preparing for and delivering an appraisal. This should help you ensure both you and your employees benefit from the time you are investing.

Published Categorised as HR Best Practice, Managing People Tagged
Preparation Tips for Performance Appraisals - LighterHR
Preparation Tips for Performance Appraisals - LighterHR

If you want to get the most out of a performance appraisal you first need to appreciate why you are doing it. Once you’re happy that you know why you’re doing the appraisal, it’s time to think about the how.

In this blog post, we give practical guidance on what to think about when preparing for and delivering an appraisal. This should help you ensure both you and your employees benefit from the time you are investing.

Time to read out post: 5 minutes

The topics covered in this post are:

  1. Preparation is Key to Performance Appraisals

  2. The Appraisal Itself

  3. Follow-up and Monitoring

1. Preparation is Key to Performance Appraisals

As with many things, the better prepared you are, the greater the return. The amount of time required to complete appraisals may seem daunting to you. However, remember it’s better to allocate the time now to help develop your employees. You’ll be able to work through any issues you and they may have in a timely fashion. This is more efficient than having to ‘fix’ a problem that has developed.


You may already have an established process and set of behaviours and skills that you need to assess the individual against. In these cases, the preparation is fairly easy.

Make sure you take time to think about each of the assessment criteria. You should think of examples of where the employee has met (or not!) what is required of them.

You don’t need to do a full 360 degree process. However, it is worth getting some informal feedback from other individuals who has worked with your team member. This allows you to make sure you have a rounded view of how they are doing.

If there isn’t a formal process that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing performance reviews of some sort on a regular basis.

In these cases, you can keep it simple. Start by writing down a list of what your employee has done particularly well over the last 6-12 months. Then consider a list of 3 areas for development or improvement or what you think could have gone better. If there are genuine areas of underperformance, acknowledge these.

Do not avoid the difficult conversations!

Skills and Training

Think about whether there are any technical skills or training that your employee would benefit from gaining in the coming months.

If you ask your employees to do their own performance self-assessment, take the time to read it before the appraisal. Sometimes your view of their performance could be drastically different to their own.

2. The Appraisal Itself

You should be prepared to spend around an hour in the performance appraisal itself.

It’s best that you book the time out for each meeting and try to ensure you will not be disturbed. You can imagine, it can be extremely frustrating if your employee feels they don’t have your undivided attention. This may lead to them withdrawing from the discussion which, in turn, will limit the value of the process.

Also, the right tone is really important; it should feel fairly relaxed (it’s not a job interview).

If you have been having ongoing issues with someone this is an opportunity to acknowledge any improvements that have been made. You can then set any further improvement targets.

3. Follow-up and Monitoring

In order to drive real value you need to be having these conversations on a regular basis. Don’t get to the end of the meeting, heave a huge sigh of relief, pop the paperwork in a drawer, and think “Well that’s that done for a year!”

You should note down any agreed actions and be conscious of monitoring them regularly over the coming months.

If training has been requested, try to make sure you follow through with arranging it. It’s not unreasonable to ask your employee to do their own research on suitable courses. You can set them a budget and make sure you can give them the time away from work to attend.


Although there is an ongoing time investment required in following through with agreed actions and monitoring performance, by doing this you not only continue to develop your employees which can lead to greater levels of engagement, but your business should benefit from the impact of their development and improved performance. This should make the entire process worthwhile!

If you’d like any more information on appraisals or feel that some of your team may benefit from some training on how to conduct a performance appraisal then we can help. We have a four hour training module which we can deliver in-house on performance appraisal skills.

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