How to Conduct a Performance Appraisal

Performance appraisals are an effective tool for informing employees about the quality of their work and for identifying areas of their performance which may require improvement. Although poorly handled performance appraisals can create a negative and intimidating experience for the employee, they can be constructive and positive if handled well.

Effective performance appraisals can lead to high performance, and therefore increased productivity. Where an employee’s performance does not improve, the performance appraisal process can also be utilised as evidence in any subsequent defence to an unfair dismissal claim.

Below are some best practice strategies on how to conduct a performance appraisal.

1. Be prepared
Ensure that you are well prepared for performance appraisal by considering the employee’s past performance appraisals, training records and other objective evidence of performance (e.g. attendance records, billings, customer feedback, error rates). If necessary, obtain feedback from other colleagues.

The employee should also be given adequate time to complete a self assessment of their own performance.

You should be prepared to answer any questions that the employee could potentially ask, and be ready to discuss remuneration and career progression.

2. Never ambush the employee
The performance appraisal should not be viewed as an isolated event at which an employee is given feedback about their performance, particularly if the feedback is negative. Employees should be given constructive and regular feedback throughout the year and this should be documented.

3. Balance: don’t just focus on the negatives!
In any discussion with the employee, both the positive and negative aspects of the employee’s performance should be discussed. Giving behaviour based examples is good practice. The employee should be given objective and constructive feedback and an opportunity to respond, for example, to mention any mitigating circumstances.

Encourage the employee to do most of the talking, as an effective appraisal allows the employee to take responsibility for their own performance and growth.

Together, explore strategies to improve the employee’s performance and set relevant objectives for the year ahead. Where previous objectives have not been met, identify why they were not met and develop a plan to ensure they will be met.

Take the time to review the employee’s positive attributes that occurred during the review period, and consider how they can be applied to help the employee improve in those areas where a change in behaviour is desired.

Ensure that the employee understands what is required of them and has been able to raise any concerns or issues.

4. Follow up
Ensure that you follow up the employee’s progress against the objectives that were set within a reasonable period of time. Provide employees with regular updates on their performance, but not in a way that is overbearing and leads to the employee feeling stressed, and becoming unproductive.

Keep records of the discussion and any decisions that were made. Also, don’t give the employee high scores or a glowing performance review if there are genuine performance issues. Remember the performance appraisal can be utilised as evidence.

[Article by Jennifer Teh, Lawyer, Australian Business Lawyers, from Human Resources Leader, 14 October 2010]