How to run effective performance appraisal meetings- with free template

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An appraisal meeting should be supportive, motivational and engaging. It’s an opportunity for both you as a manager, and your employee to sit down and really discuss their performance in an open and honest way. It’s also an opportunity to set goals to support the development of your teams, and, ultimately meet business objectives. There should be a very strong emphasis on the importance of feedback – both positive and constructive as it creates an environment of learning and development which in turn is motivating and engaging.


Preparation is key to any appraisal meeting. Review any past and current appraisal forms they may have completed, get feedback from colleagues your employee works with, finding out what works well and what areas might need development. Review all the feedback and determine if any themes emerge, and if so, how might you plan to communicate that to your employee in the right way?

Delivering constructive feedback can be tricky, this is why it’s so important to be prepared before going into the meeting:

  • Investigate the issue. What is the problem, what examples can you find to demonstrate this to the employee. How can the issue be avoided?
  • Consider the ideal outcome. How do you think this can be solved? Is more training required? Is it a capacity issue? Do you need to re-assign work?
  • Think about an employee’s character and likely reaction. How do you think they will react to the feedback? Will it come as a surprise to them? Ideally no constructive feedback should be a surprise so think about how you will communicate this effectively. Do you need to adapt your normal management style to ensure the feedback is relayed properly
  • Prepare any relevant materials. What examples can you find? Is it a one off or a recurring problem?
  • Practice how you will deliver the feedback. Practice being clear and concise, explain why it’s important, provide the evidence and examples.

Setting and Agreeing Objectives

It’s important to set objectives with your team for various reasons. Firstly it encourages engagement and motivation as it provides the employee with something to work towards, there is a key focus.

Secondly, aligning goals and objectives to business objectives will only contribute to the success of the business and thus increase productivity as employees have bought into it.

SMART Objectives

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. SMART objectives are a great way to set goals that are short and direct, it helps to stop any over complication. We have found setting SMART goals with clients to be an effective way of getting the best out of their employees.

Specific – The goal should be clear and specific, otherwise employees won’t’ be able to focus their efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it. Try and think about the following: what do they want to accomplish? Why is this objective important to the? Who needs to be involved with it? Where is it located? And which resources or limits are involved?

Measurable – Goals need to measurable so that progress can be tracked and motivation can be maintained. Assessing the progress of goals in regular one-to-ones is a great way to do this with your employee. It also allows for deadlines to be met and to feel a real sense of satisfaction once goals are achieved. Think about how much, how many and how will you know if it has been achieved?

Achievable – Goals need to be realistic and achievable to be successful. They should be challenging but not impossible. Think about how they can accomplish the goal? How realistic is the goal? What constraints might affect the outcome? Often there will be reasons why a goal simply isn’t possible due to financial implications, in which case, how can you adapt the goal to make it achievable within those constraints.

Relevant – Goals need to be important for the employee but also the business. Goals need to be worthwhile, occurring at the right time, be aligned with other efforts and be met by the right person. If the goal is not relevant it will be pointless and it’s unlikely to be achieved.

Time-Bound – Every goal and objective needs an end date. There needs to be a clear deadline for the employee to work towards it. The employee should ask themselves, when does the goal need to be reached? Can it happen within six months, 12 months? What can happen immediately?

During the Meeting

Create the right atmosphere – open the conversation by asking how they feel the last months have gone. Remember the employee should be doing most of the talking. What have they enjoyed or perhaps not enjoyed so much? Make sure you’re listening to the employee, but make sure it is still a two way discussion. The meeting should not include any surprises, any constructive feedback should have been given already but be prepared for the employee to surprise you.

Often employees save up problems or issues for their performance appraisals so be prepared to have some difficult conversations. Remember appraisals shouldn’t happen in isolation, there is an ongoing responsibility for communication from both sides throughout the year.

Work to a clear structure – if you have an appraisal form make sure you go through it in order.

Generally they will talk about the positive areas and then the areas for development with the inclusion of objective setting. Provide your feedback throughout the meeting. When providing feedback make sure it is delivered respectively and it’s specific. Keep it clear and straight forward.

Agree actions and summarise the meeting, express your ongoing support at the end.

After the Meeting

Once the meeting has happened make sure any paperwork is filed confidentially. Follow up on any outstanding items, this may include scheduling regular one-to-one meetings, or it may be something that will enable an employee to start working on an objective.

To summarise, performance appraisals are a great way to motivate and engage your staff. Getting it right will positively impact your workforce and ultimately your business. At Harwood HR, we can help train your managers to ensure they are delivering appraisal meetings in the best possible way.

Appraisal Form template – with Smart Objectives

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