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How to Write an Effective Performance Appraisal

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Post How to Write an Effective Performance Appraisal   Sat Aug 13, 2011 12:27 pm

Performance appraisals can be as helpful or as destructive to employee relations as virtually any other form of interaction. Handled professionally, they can be a real incentive to better performance as well as harmonious relations. Badly done, they can destroy whatever goodwill existed and seriously disrupt performance not just of the individual but potentially also of his or her peers.

The job description as the benchmark

The keys to effective appraisal lie in having a mutually agreed job description and in the way the evaluation process is structured. If the job description does not match reality or is at odds with the employee's understanding of the role and responsibilities, it is ludicrous to expect appropriate performance. However, in a climate of goodwill, the employee will be able to discuss such issues with management and reach a suitable agreement. The outcomes will range from adjustment of the JD, variation of the employee's tasks, to something more radical, including a transfer to some other position. Goodwill is the critical element, without which, failure is inevitable. This is no time for management grandstanding, or for intransigence by either party.

Appraisal does not start with the writing

By far the best appraisal technique is to ask the employee to rank his or her performance against a set of simple, criteria initially constructed by management but capable of adjustment by discussion with the individual. The objective is to communicate a willingness of the parties to listen to anything that is constructive. One major advantage of this approach is to depersonalise any criticism of the business structure or methods.

Of course, comments cut both ways. The employee must be prepared to accept that for valid reasons, certain issues are outside reasonable limits, especially if they relate to personalities. Conversely, management must be prepared to listen and to consider seriously any constructive comments. If this is not acceptable to the line manager, then he or she should find an alternative manager within the business, or engage a professional to conduct the process in an objective and neutral manner.

Issues to be included in the self appraisal should, as noted above, relate directly to the job description, yet allow sufficient latitude for comment on factors outside the employee's immediate control. Broken into logical groupings, the issues will include how the individual can better contribute to the overall business, the department, as well as to their specific duties.

It is important to have the employee suggest ways in which the business might contribute to training to improve less-than-ideal performance.

The critique

A formal, prearranged discussion between the manager and employee should begin with some brief, yet wide ranging preamble about the business as a whole and the role of the individual and/or department within it. It is the time for frankness, thus establishing a basis for open and positive discussion, while setting some rules about confidentiality and the need to convey any and all comments positively. The employee's responses to the self-appraisal questionnaire should then be debated objectively. Where the manager disagrees with the employee's own assessment, this should be stated, with reasons and suggestions.


Patently, there are many factors affecting remuneration, not the least of which is the business's ability to pay, relative to its financial performance. However, to retain quality employees, it must be competitive and individuals will be completely aware of their value on the open market. Equally, employees will be highly influenced by management appearing to live excessively well, whilst crying poor on behalf of the business. Conversely, an employee or a department holding the business to ransom is equally unacceptable.

If in doubt, the services of a qualified consultant would be valuable in assessing equitable remuneration scales to be used a benchmarks. Then, the performance of each individual, measured by the evaluation process just described, becomes both realistic and justifiable.

The formal report

Reflecting the tone of the process, a brief formal document should be prepaed by the manager, confirming the key issues that have been agreed, The writing style should be impersonal with phrases like "It was agreed that" and never "I told Bill." A dreaft should be provided to the employee, any reasonable corrections made, then signed and dated by both parties. A copy should be give to the employee.

It is important that follow up occurs after a reasonable time to determine what implementation has occurred along with results achieved.

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