What Are the Benefits of Appraisals?

Appraisals are a two-headed process of looking backwards to analyse past job performance and also looking forward into the future with a view to improving future performance.

The overall objective of an effective appraisal scheme should be to help each of your employees to maximise their job performance for the joint benefit of that employee and your organisation.

This blog aims to help line managers to understand the processes involved in conducting effective appraisals.

The Purpose of appraisals

The main purpose of an appraisal scheme should be to assist employees to improve their performance. This will be of benefit to both the employees and the organisation.

An appraisal scheme may be designed to include some or all of the following elements:

  • a review of the employee’s past performance
  • discussion of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses
  • discussion of any problems and constraints, with a view to identifying solutions
  • a review of the extent to which the employee has achieved set targets
  • discussion of appropriate targets for the forthcoming year
  • identification of training and development needs in relation to the employee’s current job
  • identification of training and development needs in relation to a job that the employee may do in the future
  • a review of the employee’s long-term potential
  • a discussion about the employer’s future plans and
  • a discussion about the employee’s future ambitions and plans.

The Benefits of Appraisals

If carried out effectively, a staff appraisal scheme will provide benefits for the individual, the line manager and the organisation.

What are the Problem Areas to Look For?

While appraisal schemes have many potential benefits, it is useful for line managers to appreciate the negative issues that they may sometimes raise.

  • If appraisal is linked to the organisation’s pay review process, discussions may become focused on pay instead of performance. Pay reviews are therefore best kept separate from performance appraisal.
  • The line manager may be tempted to use the appraisal interview to raise disciplinary matters. If there is a problem with an employee’s conduct or performance, the matter should be raised with the employee at the time the problem arises, and not stored up for the annual appraisal interview.
  • Managers may be reluctant to deliver criticism on a face-to-face basis, perhaps because of a fear that the employee might react badly, become defensive or even respond negatively to the whole process of appraisal.
  • Line managers may not work closely with their staff and may not therefore have the necessary insight into their performance or strengths and weaknesses. If this is the case, it will be vital for the line manager to talk to the employee’s immediate supervisor to gain the necessary feedback.
  • Personal likes and dislikes can affect the outcome of appraisal interviews, unless the line manager has a sound awareness of these, and is able to put them to one side and view the employee’s abilities objectively.
  • An employee may believe that the line manager holds prejudices against him or her, perhaps as a result of a personality clash or because of disagreements over the year.
  • Some employees are intrinsically suspicious of appraisal.

If you need more advice about appraisals, you can listen to the free webinar that we ran in October 2017. Click here to register your details and you’ll be able to listen to the webinar straight away.

Source: XpertHR

3 Steps to Get You Through Those Dreaded Appraisals!

With the end of the year approaching fast, now is a really good time for you to be thinking about annual appraisals. It is ideal if you can complete them all by the end of the year, as they give you a good opportunity to review the performance of your staff this year; and to plan what you want them to achieve next year.

Many managers approach appraisals with fear and trepidation. However, if you put some time into preparing for them, they can be a very useful tool for developing your people and improving performance across your business. Read on to find out how to this simply and efficiently!

It seems that many managers, whether relatively new to the job, or with many years of experience, would rather not spend more time than is absolutely necessary on annual appraisals. They have bad press as being a waste of everyone’s time. This is quite possible, if you approach them at the last minute, with no preparation. Here are three steps that will help you and your employees to find them much easier to get through and actually get the best from your time.

  1. Preparation

This is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process and is often missed or skipped over too quickly. You need to have facts about each employee’s performance and evidence of instances in which they have performed well or badly. This will make the appraisal constructive and meaningful.

Throughout the year, track each employee’s performance and keep a log of memorable incidents or projects they’re involved in. Look back at previous appraisal information and job descriptions to make sure they are meeting their agreed objectives.

Make sure that your employees are prepared too. Agree the date, time and place for the meeting at least two weeks in advance; brief them on the importance and scope of the meeting and what you expect from them. Ask them to spend some time thinking about what they’d like to discuss at the meeting too. Click here for an example of a form that you can ask each employee to complete before the appraisal.. If an employee also works for someone else in the business, ask them to be involved too.

  1. The Meeting

Once the preparation is done, here’s how to carry out the meeting:

  • Ask open and probing questions, giving your employees the opportunity to decide how to answer; encourage them to talk freely
  • Listen to what they say without interrupting. Also watch their body language for messages
  • Evaluate performance, not personality. Focus on how well the employee does their job rather than personal characteristics
  • Give feedback based on facts not subjective opinion. Use feedback to positively reinforce the good. In the case of underperformance, use it to help the employee understand the impact of their actions or behaviour and the corrective action required
  • Set SMART objectives for the future and set a timeline for improvement if an employee is underperforming. Look also for development opportunities to help your employees reach their potential.

Document each appraisal. Write a summary of the discussion, what was agreed and any action to be taken while it’s fresh in your mind.

  1. Follow Up

Don’t just walk away at the end of the meeting, breathing a sigh of relief and forgetting about it all until next year!

Do what you say you will do. Fulfilling your promises reflects well on you and your business. If you’ve set deadlines for performance reviews, follow up on them. Check on progress that you discussed in the meeting.

Not following up with appraisals means that the whole process will be a waste of time and something that neither you nor your employees look forward to or find useful. Spend some time planning and preparing and you’ll find them really useful and productive.

If you need help with appraisals, why not use our Appraisal Service? We will help you to hold meetings that actually work for you, your staff and your business. Click here to find out more.

Is it Cheaper to Look After Your Staff or Cheaper to Replace Them When They Leave?

How can the loss of key staff members be prevented when so many employers are not interested in managing retention?

Many employers don’t attempt to manage retention of their staff. Those that do so seldom evaluate the impact of their measures, and often base them on unreliable assumptions about the reasons why employees resign.

Several research studies have shown that retention is linked to employee engagement, which in turn is linked to profitability, customer service and other important business metrics. So is it better to focus on improving engagement, rather than retention. Or should you not worry and just bear the cost of replacing people when they leave?

Despite all the evidence that staff attrition costs money, many businesses take no active steps to control their staff turnover. Research has shown that action is most likely to be taken after the event: when turnover has already become a problem and damage is being done to organisational efficiency.

Studies also consistently show that employers tend to mishandle their efforts to manage retention, focusing on issues that they believe are linked to resignations rather than those that actually motivate staff to leave. Pay in particular is often used to encourage employees to stay, yet it is much less of a deciding factor in employees’ own decision-making than being offered career opportunities, being kept informed and consulted and having faith in the business’s leadership.

What is ‘employee engagement’?

It embraces the older concepts of job satisfaction, motivation and attachment that described individual employees’ attitudes to their employer, but goes beyond them to provide a complete model of the psychological relationship between individuals and organisations. It is a two-way process in which employers and employees interact and respond to each other, unlike the more static concept of job satisfaction.

Employee engagement involves two issues:

  • personal satisfaction in the individual’s job or role (“I like my work and do it well”); and
  • the individual’s contribution to their employer’s success (“I help achieve the goals of my organisation”).

Staff retention can be used as a measure of employee engagement, with many companies now believing that employee engagement is one of the keys to managing performance and retaining talent. Initiatives to improve employee engagement are much more likely to gain the interest and active support of senior management than those focused narrowly on increasing staff retention. Employee engagement has much broader business benefits, including:

  • increased profitability
  • faster revenue growth
  • improved organisational efficiency
  • better attendance levels
  • heightened customer focus.

Look after your staff and they are more likely to look after you and the future of your business. If you need some advice or ideas on employee engagement, email us at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk or call 0118 940 3032.

What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Staff Happy?

Happy employees make happy clients and customers. Here’s a check list of all the things you should be doing, to keep your staff – and therefore your clients and customers – happy. How many are you doing?

  • Improve their engagement with your company – low cost options include offering flexibility, the opportunity to buy or sell holiday and working from home
  • Cheer everyone up – buy them food at work
  • Give lots of praise – in public, if necessary
  • Recognise their achievements – a lot
  • Be reassuring (but realistic) about job security
  • Be flexible about working hours and opportunities to improve their work life balance
  • Be open, honest and involved with your team
  • Keep them in touch with all the news – good or bad
  • Keep up with employees training and development – it does not need to cost a lot. Don’t abandon development and new opportunities. Job training is perceived as a value
  • Develop your company culture – involve everyone in decisions and provide opportunities for staff who don’t normally work together to get to know each other
  • Offer chances to put forward suggestions – it could save you a fortune and it increases the sense of ownership and belonging
  • Provide regular team meetings to reinforce the company culture and beliefs
  • Think about using a promotion as a low cost way of improving self-esteem and self-worth
  • Treat everyone with respect – it doesn’t cost anything and it improves motivation.

How well did you score? What more could you be doing to keep your staff happy?

Communication is the Most Powerful HR Tool

Communicating on a regular basis with your employees is one of the most powerful HR tools available to you. Talking to your staff can help prevent small issues from turning into more complex, potentially expensive ones, such as grievances or disciplinary problems. Finding out what your employees are thinking can even help you encourage them to work harder for your business.

How do you do this?

One of my clients called me in to help them sort out some problems recently. The management had noticed that their staff were complaining about not being told what was going on in the business. There was actually nothing happening for them to worry about, but because the management didn’t tell them anything, they started to think that the management was hiding something. A regular open forum was held at their quarterly staff meetings, giving employees the chance to speak up and ask questions; but no one ever did. So the managers assumed that everyone was happy.

To find out more, I arranged a meeting with a cross section of the staff, to ask them how they really felt about the communication in the business and how it could improve. One thing they told me was that no one liked asking questions in the open forum. No had had the courage to stand up in front the whole business to speak out!

Next I had a meeting with the directors of the business, to report back what I had found out. There was another staff meeting coming up, so instead of expecting employees to voice their concerns at the open forum, we came up with an alternative. Before the staff meeting, we would split the employees into a number of smaller groups, each with one of the directors. They would ask their group how they would like to be communicated with. One person from each group would then bring forward the ideas from their group to present to the whole business. This allowed people who were brave enough to stand up in front of the colleagues the opportunity to do so.

At the very next staff meeting, a whole range of issues where brought up in front of the whole business in this way. It gave the employees a real chance to tell the management what they thought. There was an opportunity to really discuss, openly, what was going on in the business (and what wasn’t going on!) Concerns were aired and fears where allayed. The end result was a very happy staff – and happy management too.

This is just one example of how communication can be used to improve a business. This solution worked for this business – what is important is that you work with your staff to find out what will be the most appropriate for them.

When you have regular and open lines of communication with your employees, you can help to prevent negative issues from arising and build a happy, engaged and productive team for your business.

Employment Law Changes – What’s New for 2014?

Twice a year we run an Employment Law update workshop, where we go through all the recent and forthcoming changes. This helps our clients keep up to date on the law, without getting bogged down in all the details.

Here’s what we covered at our workshop in October 2014:

January 2014

  • TUPE – collective redundancy consultations can now be started before the transfer, with a requirement for service provision to be fundamentally the same before and after the transfer
  • The right to be accompanied – workers can now choose any companion to be with them in a meeting, providing they are a work colleague or a trade union representative.

March 2014

  • Employers will face penalties of up to 100% of the unpaid wages and a maximum penalty of £20,000 for not paying the National Minimum Wage
  • Rehabilitation periods have been reduced and fewer convictions now need to be disclosed.

April 2014

  • Early conciliation – Acas must now be contacted before a tribunal application can be made
  • The discrimination questionnaire has been abolished
  • Tribunal financial penalties – tribunals have the power to order penalties for the losing employers, ranging from £100 to £5000 where breach has “one or more aggravating factors”.

June 2014

  • Flexible working – this has been extended to all employees with 26 weeks service
  • Small Business and Enterprise Bill – this includes changes to National Minimum Wage breach penalties and restricting the number of postponements of tribunal hearings.

July 2014

  • TUPE changes – from 31 July businesses, employing less than 10 people are able to consult individually.

October 2014

  • National Minimum Wages were increased
  • Antenatal rights – time off must be given for an employee to accompany a pregnant partner for two appointments.

Watch this space for news of our next Employment Law workshop, which will be held in April or May 2015, when we’ll discuss the next round of changes. These will include changes to parental leave, adoption rights and shared parental leave in April 2015; and a new tax free childcare scheme in the Autumn 2015.

Or subscribe to our email newsletter and you’ll receive details as soon as they’re published.

Scrooge’s Guide to Presents

In case you missed my December email newsletter, here’s a catch up for you!

The start of a new year is the time when some businesses think about how best to reward their staff for their hard work over the last 12 months. Instead of a one-off ‘thank you’, what about putting a more ongoing, sustainable rewards scheme in place?

Here’s the story of how one Dickensian employer got it right!

Ebenezer Scrooge loved Christmas! He really enjoyed giving his staff time off, to spend with their families over Christmas. He encouraged them to go Christmas shopping and to send cards to all their friends.

Mr Scrooge even loved giving presents to his staff. But he often struggled to find the best gift for each person. So one year, had a great idea. Instead of buying each member of his team a gift at Christmas, Mr Scrooge decided to set up a reward system for all his staff, which would run all through the year, rewarding them on an ongoing basis for their hard work.

Here’s what Ebenezer Scrooge did to create the best Christmas present that lasts for 12 months:

  1. He put a structure in place – just a simple one to begin with
  2. He took the time to identify the things that were really important to his staff – including non-financial benefits – and incorporated them into his strategy
  3. He invested in making his company an interesting and fulfilling place to work. This helped him to attract great people and helped keep overall pay costs down
  4. He created a scheme that was simple to understand, so that his line managers didn’t struggle to explain it. They were key to making his reward structure a success
  5. He didn’t assume that it was just about pay. According to research that Mr Scrooge read, some executives would consider a pay cut of up to 35% in order to get their ideal job.
  6. Then he reviewed the scheme and the effect it had on his staff throughout the year, to make sure he was still getting it right
  7. And finally he enjoyed spreading Christmas cheer amongst his staff all year long and they loved working for him!


Think about how you can engage your staff beyond Christmas by setting up a reward scheme this year.

The Beginner’s Guide to Management

If you’re new to managing people, or you’ve been doing it for a while without much formal training, then the next workshop I’m running will be ideal for you.

Here are a few of the things you need to do as a manager:

  • Learn the principles of team building and how to get the best out of your team members
  • Understand the behaviours of different personality types and how people work together
  • Find out how to motivate and develop people
  • Practice the art of delegation
  • Learn the best practice for managing performance
  • Carry out a successful appraisal meeting
  • Learn how to give useful feedback
  • Be prepared for “that difficult conversation.”

When you can do all this, you’ll be a great manager, with a really productive team!

If all this sounds rather daunting, don’t worry. I’m running a workshop that will cover all this and more. It will give you the management skills you need and refresh and update the skills you already have.

The two day workshop will be held on 28 January and 11 February 2014 at Wargrave Cricket Pavilion, RG10 8BG. Places are limited, so click here to book your place.

Seven Steps for Dealing with Poor Performance in a Growing Business – Part Three

Last month I wrote about steps four and five of a seven stage process that you need to follow, when you have to deal with issues of poor performance in your business. Click here to read that blog again. If you missed steps one, two and three, you can read them here.

When you’re trying to reach a higher level in your business, you’re only as strong as your weakest member. Dealing with somebody in your team who doesn’t live up to the standards you require is difficult, both legally and ethically. Before you show an employee the red card, be sure you have tried everything that is expected from you, the employer, to guide them and push their performance to a higher level. To deal with the matter correctly, here are the remaining steps to follow:

Step 6: Agree a performance improvement plan

Where you have issued a warning, agree a written performance improvement plan with your employee. This will help you to formally identify unsatisfactory aspects of performance, agree on where further training, coaching, or other support could improve the matter and set new objectives or reiterate existing ones. You can also agree the standards to be achieved, within clear and reasonable timescales.

Provide your employee with appropriate support to improve their performance, allowing them a sufficient and reasonable period to make progress and carefully monitor this.

Step 7: Follow-up meeting

At the end of the agreed review period, arrange a formal follow-up meeting to discuss your employee’s progress and repeat the procedure from Step 3 if necessary. Up to three performance review meetings should be held before dismissal is considered.

If your employee’s performance reaches a satisfactory standard within the review period and no further action is necessary, inform your employee in writing. If this is not the case then agree a further performance improvement plan and set a further period in which your employee must improve.

Finally, with any incidence of poor performance it is crucial that you follow the Acas Code of Practice on discipline and grievance and ensure that employees are treated fairly and consistently.

Deal with issues of poor performance as soon as you notice them and you’ll find it much easier to work them out, to get the best results for your employees and your business.

If you missed the first two parts of this process here, click here for Part One and click here for Part Two.

Getting Started with Performance Appraisals Part 2

Here are some things to think about, before you carry out your annual staff appraisals, to make them less daunting and more effective. We’ll go into more details on these tips and what to actually in the appraisal meeting, at our forthcoming workshop on 11 September 2013.

Prepare. A good appraisal form will provide a natural order for proceedings, so use one. If you don’t have a standard appraisal form then find one online – there are plenty of templates available. Organize your paperwork to reflect the order of the appraisal and write down the sequence of items to be covered. If the appraisal form includes a self assessment section and/or feedback section, make sure you give this to each member of staff in plenty of time, allowing them to complete it before the meeting.

Part of your preparation should also consider ‘whole-person’ development, beyond and outside the job skill-set. Many people are not particularly interested in job skills training, but will be interested and motivated by other learning and development experiences. Get to know what your people are good at outside of their work. Appraisals are not just about job performance and job skills training. Appraisals should focus on helping the ‘whole person’ to grow and attain fulfilment.

Inform. Let your staff know when and where their appraisal will be held. Give them the chance to assemble any data and relevant performance and achievement records they need.

Venue. Plan a suitable venue that’s private and free from interruptions. Privacy is absolutely essential.

Layout.  Room layout and seating are important elements as they have huge influence on atmosphere and mood. Irrespective of content, the atmosphere and mood must be relaxed and informal. Remove barriers – don’t sit across the desk from your staff member; use a meeting table or easy chairs and sit at an angle to each other.

Introduction. Relax your member of staff by opening with a positive statement. Smile, be warm and friendly to create a calm and non-threatening atmosphere. Set the scene by explaining what will happen and encourage a discussion and as much input as possible from them

When you spend some time thinking about how you’ll carry out your annual appraisals, they’ll be much more effective for both you and your members of staff.

For more information, come to our workshop on 11 September 2013 for just  £12 +VAT. Click here for the details and online booking.