Most appraisals take place once a year, but depending on the type of business you have, you may find it more effective to have several appraisals several times a year.

Research from IRS Employment Review has shown that seven out of ten UK employers appraised staff at least once a year, and only one manager out of 100 surveyed claimed appraisals were a waste of time and money. As a small business owner, time can be very precious, and an appraisal can be one of the few times you get to assess your staff, praise achievements and discuss ongoing goals.

But you and your employees should not feel that this is the only time issues can be discussed. It’s a good idea to have an ‘open door’ policy where employees can feel comfortable approaching you about any concerns they may have in an informal atmosphere. Be aware also of who will be conducting the performance review – some employees may feel uncomfortable raising issues with their line manager, so it’s a good idea to have someone else on hand who may be better placed to carry out the evaluation.

Preparation is key

If you have to carry out several appraisals, consider preparing a standard template that can be filled in prior to the appraisal, which will help to form a basis for the process.

Any good staff appraisal template or form should include the following elements:

  • What the employee’s main responsibilities are
  • Review of work achievements during the year
  • Any barriers to achievements or difficulties experienced
  • Personal development goals for the forthcoming year
  • Relevant business/team goals for the forthcoming year

Try not to make the structure too rigid, as this will limit the amount of feedback.

There are many online resources offering example documents for free. We list some of the best below. One interesting take on the subject is an interactive performance appraisal form creator offered by JotForm. On the website you are stepped through simple steps using a well-designed graphic interface, and at the end you can output the subsequent form.

Web Resources for Staff Appraisal Templates

You can find examples of appraisal templates for different types of businesses at:

  • ACAS – The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service have 5 example appraisal forms for different scenarios: for manual workers, for job objectives, for promotions, for self-appraisals, and a standard questionnaire. The documents are in .doc form and are free to download.
  • SHRM – this site has a ‘Completed Performance Appraisal Form’ to download, which is useful if you want to see how you might complete your own forms.
  • Software Suggest – have put together a list of over 50 samples ready to download. Each example is accompanied by a large-scale image making it easy to choose the one that suits you best.
  • Uptick – a workforce management app company, it has put together a pretty comprehensive set of over 70 example appraisal templates for different categories in Word, PDF and Excel formats.

Building your own template

A good appraisal form will be one that is easy to understand, easy to complete, yet containing enough detail to be actually worthwhile. This video from Gregg Learning shows how you can make your form an effective performance tool:

Be positive

It can be difficult to strike a balance between being negative and positive when carrying out an appraisal, but it’s important to ensure that your employee feels comfortable. If you are highlighting concerns or problems, try to approach these in a positive manner, and always back up your comments with relevant examples. This will help to diffuse any defensive responses. Always try to end the appraisal on a positive note, by touching on goals achieved or thanking the employee for their contribution.

Remember, an appraisal is a two-way process and should prompt a discussion from both you and the employee, so you could consider a process whereby staff appraise their managers.

Top tips

– Set a time and a date for staff appraisals, and ensure you stick to these, to show your employees that you are valuing this time.

– Make notes, both before and after the appraisal. Having a written record is important for legal obligations and will be a useful reference when the next appraisal is due, or for setting/checking that goals have been achieved.

– Praise achievements and set realistic goals or targets, with a set date for completing them.

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