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These FAQs set out the common questions about the benefits of appraisals, the undertaking of an employee appraisal and the suggested structure that an appraisal meeting could follow.  The additional documents referred to are designed to assist you further. Please note that some documents are available to all readers whilst others are locked and only accessible to HR Protect clients. To become a retainer client or to find out further information please click here.


What is the purpose of an appraisal?

The purpose of an appraisal is to:

  • Review an employee’s ongoing performance;
  • Provide praise and encouraging feedback on employee’s strengths and achievements;
  • Identify areas of development and improvement; and
  • Set objectives, expectations and development areas.

Appraisals provide an opportunity for employees to learn by reflection and take ownership by proactively evaluating their performance. There should be no surprises for the employee i.e. if there are any concerns with an employee’s performance, these should be brought to attention as they arise, and not held back until the employee’s next appraisal.

Do I have to conduct an appraisal with an employee?

No, it is not a legal obligation to carry out an appraisal, but given the clear benefits to doing so set out above, failing to do so is a missed opportunity and may lead to issues building up and not being resolved.

Should the appraisal process be undertaken in a formal or informal manner?

There are no legal or technical requirements on how an appraisal should be conducted. An appraisal can be kept informal, and approached as a productive conversation between employer/employee. There is no set invite requirement to invite an employee to an appraisal – an email with a diary appointment will suffice.

An appraisal should be a two-way conversation; an opportunity for the employer to feed back on the employee’s performance, but also an opportunity for the employee to feed back to the employer with any issues they may have that they wish to raise.

How often should appraisals be undertaken?

There is no set time frame or frequency for conducting appraisals. Most employers use 12 monthly appraisals, but other employers find that these are more effective when conducted more frequently, for example every 6 or 3 months.

It is important to set manageable expectations for how often you conduct appraisals, if you determine that appraisals should take place on a 3 monthly basis then this is what should happen; if in reality this is not achievable then it would be much better to set a time frame of once every 12 months.

Regardless of how often appraisals are conducted, it is important to bear in mind that regular appraisals are only one part of the performance management process. In particular if appraisals are conducted on a 12 monthly basis you should make sure you have a mechanism to discuss performance issues as they arise, such as regular team or one to one meetings, as appropriate.

What does an employer need to do to prepare for an appraisal?

It is still important to plan and prepare for an appraisal. This could include reviewing training records, feedback forms/verbal feedback, financial reports, and any other criteria used within your business to measure employee performance. It is also useful to have an understanding of the overall performance of the sector/team the employee being appraised works in, in order to be able to discuss how the employee’s performance impacts on the team’s success as a whole, and how any changes in demand from the team might result in certain areas of development for the employee.

Planning before an appraisal will enable the employer to go in with feedback on their expectations and standards, be able to suggest areas for improvement, and provide the employee with an effective appraisal meeting.

What do I need to do when I am holding the appraisal meeting?

An appraisal should usually be conducted by the employee’s immediate supervisor or line manager, where appropriate. If the employee does not have a specific manager or supervisor, then another member of staff senior to the employee should conduct the appraisal. If the employee being appraised is senior, such as a director, then their appraisal should be carried out by the management board or similar.  Notes should be taken during the appraisal as these may need to be referred to at a later point.

An effective appraisal should be conducted in 3 parts:

  1. Feedback

Using the information collated in preparation for the meeting, the appraiser should feed back to the employee on their performance against standards and expectations. This can often be an emotive part of the meeting, particularly if it is not all positive. Appraisers should remain calm and measured and provide measurable information/examples to the employee in relation to their performance.

Ensure you raise both positive and negative feedback in the meeting. It can be easy for employers to be blindsided by concerns in an employee’s performance, but if there is something positive (e.g. an achievement, good feedback from a customer) this should be raised and acknowledged to the employee.

  1. Set expectations

Inform the employee of what is expected of their sector/team in the coming months in terms of deliverables and expectations. Ensure the employee understands any strategic/operational/business changes that may be happening that may impact their work.

Set out clearly the employee’s individual objectives/targets that you would like them to focus on to improve their performance. These could be financial, behavioural or skills based. The employer should also set a timescale within which they would reasonably expect the employee to meet those objectives/targets.

The employer should be prepared to discuss any personal development areas that an employee may suggest themselves. If the employer agrees with what the employee has suggested, the employer should include them on the appraisal form and agree a timescale with the employee within which they reasonably expect the development to be made.

  1. Development

Once the employee fully understands how they are performing and what expectations have been set, the employer should then make suggestions as to how the employee can actually meet those objectives/targets.

The employer should be open to suggestions by the employee, and open to accepting that some input may be required by the employer to help the employee meet their targets (e.g. providing more training, more individual support).

Appraisals are often a good opportunity to discuss long term career goals with the employee. By discussing with employees what their career aspirations are this can make them feel more engaged and more likely to stay with the business in the longer term.

How do I bring the appraisal to an end?

Offer the employee the opportunity to raise any other issues or discussion points they wish to make. The employer should listen to these and deal with them in an appropriate manner. This may require a follow up meeting, depending on what is raised.

Summarise the plan of action/next steps.

It is important to keep a clear record of the appraisal, A copy should be provided to the employee and a copy should be kept on the employee’s file.

How does an appraisal help improve employee performance?

A key reason why it is crucially important to monitor performance and tackle it when it falls below what is required is that this is the best way to support the employee to make the necessary improvements before it becomes a more serious issue.

However, if the employee does not/cannot make the necessary improvements then the next stage would be a formal performance management process, see further information on our Performance management FAQ page.


Additional information

Associated resource

APR1: How to Guide: conducting appraisals

Associated resource

APR2 – Employee Appraisal Form

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