How to Maximize Staff Appraisals – Tips for You as a Manager

Getting ready for this fall’s staff appraisals with your team members? Feeling a bit nervous? Stay calm and ensure you're well-prepared. We've gathered the top recommendations for successful assessments. The staff appraisal, sometimes referred to as performance appraisal, is a conversation where you, as a manager, connect with your team members. This should happen at least once a year. You review the past year, assess the current work situation, and outline a plan for the future. This also aligns with the company's overarching goals and how the employee can best contribute to the organization. There are several advantages to investing some extra time and effort into the employee appraisal process. These conversations strengthen the relationship between managers and employees, boosting employee motivation and engagement. Furthermore, they provide an excellent platform for capturing valuable improvement ideas and identifying signs of illness among the workforce or shortcomings in the work environment. In summary, employee appraisals are a powerful tool to sustain employee satisfaction and growth – making sure that each individual reaches their full potential. And when employees reach their full potential, the organization follows suit. It's a classic win-win situation!

Pre-Appraisal Checklist

To make the most out of these discussions, there are a few things you, as a manager, should prepare. Here are some tips and advice to guide you.

  1. Schedule Time and Choose a Location Ensure you allocate sufficient time so you don't have to rush through the conversation. A standard recommendation is 1-1.5 hours per session. Also, pick a calm and private environment where you won't be disrupted by phones or visitors.
  2. Send Invitations and Material Well in Advance It's not just you as the manager who should have time to prepare: Your employees should also have the chance to get ready well in advance. Therefore, send out your invitations with ample notice, preferably around 2 weeks ahead. Inform them about the topics of discussion. It's helpful if employees have considered questions like What's working well or not so well in my work situation? Do I have the right resources to achieve my goals? Am I able to use my skills to the fullest? What are my aspirations for future development?
  3. Review Notes from Previous Conversations Revisit notes from the previous staff appraisal. What agreements were made? What changes have occurred since then?
  4. Update Yourself on Tasks and Results Ensure you clearly understand the current situation by reviewing the employee's tasks and responsibilities. Think about how you would summarize their performance over the past year in relation to the goals you set. Also, look ahead and consider future objectives.
  5. Prepare Your Questions In many workplaces, standardized templates for all staff appraisals have been developed. This ensures consistency across all employees and that all crucial aspects are covered. Additionally, it's easier to compare responses and track progress from one conversation to another. However, ensure the template is tailored to your specific workplace and periodically review and update it. If you have a template, use it as a foundation for your preparation. Then, think about how to structure the conversation to suit you and the employee you'll meet. Which aspects do you particularly want to focus on in this session? What do you want both parties to take away from it? If you need a general conversation template, several major labor unions provide templates and checklists to build upon. For instance, Unionen (in Swedish) suggests a structure with five overarching areas: Reflection, Future, Skill Development, General Well-being, and Work Environment.

Feel free to use a template to ensure you cover all the key elements.

Considerations During the Staff Appraisal

Both you and your employee are prepared – now it's time for the appraisal! An open and receptive dialogue is the cornerstone of an impactful staff appraisal. But how should you go about it? Here are five tips (and a bonus tip).

  1. Listen Perhaps you've been in an employee appraisal where your manager rushes in between other meetings, takes out a questionnaire, and starts going through it as if on autopilot. Such a conversation is unlikely to fulfill its purpose. Instead, aim for an equitable dialogue where both sides have space to express themselves. While it's your role as the manager to lead the conversation, it doesn't mean you should micromanage it. Listen actively, ask follow-up questions, and show genuine curiosity to hear the responses.
  2. Ask Open-Ended Questions The most productive conversations are born from asking open-ended questions. Unlike closed yes/no questions, open-ended ones allow the other person to elaborate on their thoughts, feelings, or perspectives. Avoid questions like "Do you enjoy your job?" and instead ask, "Could you tell me how you feel about your job?"
  3. Seize the Opportunity for Feedback (of all types & both ways) We all want to feel valued and seen. The employee appraisal is an excellent opportunity to provide positive feedback and acknowledge that you notice and appreciate good performances and behaviors. At the same time, we all inevitably have areas for improvement and potential for growth. Your responsibility is to inform the employee transparently and honestly about what they can work on. An effective way to deliver feedback is by using "I" statements, such as "I've noticed that..." or "I perceive that..." It focuses on your experience and allows your conversation partner to share their perspective without becoming defensive. Don't forget to invite the employee to provide feedback about you as a manager, so you also can have the opportunity to improve. Consider the employee appraisal as part of a broader workplace culture where giving and receiving feedback – both positive and constructive – feels natural.
  4. Save Salary Discussions for Later Even though employee appraisals and salary discussions are closely linked, they shouldn't co-occur. If you talk about salaries, you won't be able to have an open and honest conversation about work situations and goals. Make sure the employee is aware of this before you begin the conversation.
  5. Document and Follow Up Conclude the conversation by summarizing your agreements. What's the next step? What are our new goals? What should we do to achieve them? Document and store the notes so that you and the employee can access them. If you made any commitments, ensure you follow through. Also, don't forget the crucial follow-up, which many tend to overlook. You need to continuously review and evaluate the goals for the employee appraisal to yield real and lasting results.

Bonus Tip: Utilize a System for Employee Appraisals Using a system, such as the one offered in Flex HRM Employee, is a smart way to streamline the planning, execution, and follow-up of employee appraisals. Create customized templates and let employees input their responses in an user-friendly interface directly in the system. Store the data alongside history, training plans, and other pertinent materials accessible to both you and the employee – all in one place. The benefits are numerous: a perfect overview, time savings, and a simplified process for both managers and employees. Plus, you avoid the hassle of paper forms getting lost. Sounds smart, right? Learn more about employee appraisals in Flex HRM Employee here. Resources: Ledarna (in Swedish) Unionen (in Swedish)

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