What are staff appraisals?

What are staff appraisals?

Staff appraisals are essentially a discussion and review of an employee’s performance. Employers often differ in terms of the frequency of appraisals. For example, some employers may not use formal staff appraisals at all, others may opt to have one a year, and another approach is to view performance management as an ongoing process.

It is common for employers to question the value of staff appraisals. This may be for any number of reasons such as a lack of time, confusion over what the purpose of an appraisal is, why they are important, and how they should be done. This blog will answer those questions.

What happens in an appraisal at work?


As said above, it differs depending on the approach taken by the particular employer. It may simply be an annual event where performance is discussed, and the person is congratulated for a job well done. Another organisation may opt for a more elaborate grading system which covers various areas.

Regardless of how performance is assessed, there should be a discussion between employee and employer during which the employee is given the opportunity to have a say and to be able to contribute to the process. There would typically be an outcome of the appraisal, such as an assessment of performance, and this should be communicated to the employee.


Why is appraisal important to a company?


Appraisals are important to a company for a number of reasons such as:

1. The information can provide invaluable insights relating to employees


Many people think of staff appraisals as an ordeal. Perhaps employees are anxious that they will fall short of what is expected and are concerned about what that will mean. Perhaps, the line manager undertaking the appraisal is equally concerned about getting it right.  It is easy to think of the negatives but, if done correctly, a staff appraisal can provide useful insights regardless of the circumstances.

If the information gathered shows that employees are not meeting targets, could support measures be put in place to help them get up to speed? If employees are consistently exceeding their targets, is there an opportunity for them to progress such as taking on additional responsibility or a different role? The value of an appraisal comes from what happens after it: are changes made? Do improvements occur?


2. The information can be used to assess how the organisation, as a whole, is performing and where improvements could be made


The information from appraisals can be used to inform decisions at a strategic level, as well as the individual level. Perhaps, appraisals reveal employee dissatisfaction in certain areas, or that many employees have been unable to meet a particular target.  Having the information at your fingertips means that steps can be taken to get things back on track.


3. Using objective information to inform decision making may well indicate that the organisation has acted fairly and consistently.


It is important for an organisation to be able to show how decisions were reached. Perhaps, a decision is taken to dismiss someone because they were unable to meet the required standard, or conversely an employee is given a promotion because targets are consistently exceeded.


Such decisions should be approached with care. The person who has been dismissed may believe that, for example, the decision was discriminatory. This view may prompt the person in question to lodge a claim at the Employment Tribunal.

 Following an objective process, and keeping records, is one way to show that decisions were made fairly. For information about dismissing staff within 2 years view our blog. If you would like to know more about performance management, view our blog employee rights on a performance improvement plan

Are appraisals required by law?


No, appraisals are not required by law. It is for employers to decide on the frequency of staff appraisals, (or performance management) and what form they should take.

Although staff appraisals are not required by law, it is important to remember the importance of being able to show how decisions were made, as referred to above.


How to do an appraisal – 5 tips


1. Gain training

As said above, staff appraisals can have a number of benefits, but they will be lost if the appraisal is not undertaken effectively.

Here are 10 reasons why training on appraisals is important for both employees and managers:


Training ensures that all managers and employees understand the appraisal process, its objectives, and the criteria for evaluation. This consistency helps to ensure that all employees are assessed in a way which is fair and transparent.


Effective Communication

Training teaches managers how to provide feedback effectively. This includes giving both positive feedback and constructive criticism in a way that is clear, specific, and actionable. Effective communication skills are crucial for building rapport, trust, and a positive working relationship between managers and employees.



Bias Reduction

 Training can help raise awareness about unconscious biases that can affect the appraisal process. Managers can learn how to identify and mitigate biases, ensuring that evaluations are based on objective performance criteria rather than personal judgments.

Goal Setting

Training can teach managers how to set effective goals with employees. This is crucial for aligning individual performance with organisational objectives.

Conflict Resolution

Training can include strategies for handling conflicts or disagreements that may arise during the appraisal process. This can help managers and employees address issues constructively and find solutions.

Effective feedback

 Training can also be provided to employees on how to receive feedback effectively. This helps employees understand how to use feedback for personal growth and development, rather than seeing it as criticism.


Development Planning:

Appraisals are not just about evaluating past performance; they also involve planning for future development. Training can help managers and employees collaborate on creating meaningful development plans that address skill gaps and career aspirations.


Motivation and Morale

 When managers are trained in delivering appraisals, they are better equipped to provide positive reinforcement and recognition for good performance. This can boost employee motivation and morale.


Employee Engagement

A well-conducted appraisal process can improve employee engagement by providing employees with a clear understanding of their role, performance expectations, and opportunities for growth. Training helps in making the appraisal process a more positive experience.

Continuous Improvement

Training should also cover how to make the appraisal process better. Managers can learn to collect feedback from employees about the appraisal process and use that feedback to refine and improve it over time.

2. Remember the purpose of appraisals


It is common for employers to focus on areas of improvement, but it is important to achieve a balanced assessment of performance: properly recognising achievements as well as highlighting areas requiring improvement. The purpose of an appraisal, and performance management generally, is to support employees to meet the standards required and to fulfil their potential.


3. Always enable the employee to have their say


Encourage the employee to share their perspective on their performance, challenges they faced, and their career aspirations and avoid making assumptions or generalisations.


4. See a staff appraisal as part of an ongoing process


Viewing staff appraisals as part of an ongoing process encourages regular feedback and communication between employees and managers. This continuous feedback loop helps employees and managers to identify areas for improvement and work on them in real-time, rather than waiting for an annual review.


5. Think about next steps


As was said earlier, for the appraisal to be effective it is important to properly consider next steps, to give all employees the best possible chance of succeeding.

Plotkin & Chandler works exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law.

If you are an employer, we can help in a number of ways. Perhaps you would like training relating to appraisals, you would like support with tackling a challenging employee performance issue, or assistance is needed with defending an Employment Tribunal claim.

If you are an employee who would like advice regarding an appraisal, or a performance improvement plan, which you believe is unfair, or would like to discuss bringing an Employment Tribunal claim, we can help.

To discuss your needs, and the ways in which we can help, call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com.



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