Performance Appraisals- is it cringe time at your work too?

If the thought of performance appraisal time at your workplace as a HR professional makes you break out in hives,  get some antihistamines and try not to stress- you aren’t alone.

Why is it so stressful? Like most HR pros (I hope!) I really believe in the performance agreement/development plan process mainly because it clarifies expectations between people at work.  It’s when everyone knows what they are meant to be doing, what the goals are, and how they are expected to behave that your company will succeed. The whole process is an imperative part of talent management,  and more specifically succession planning.

The problem is that your Managers would rather swallow razor blades than have to conduct performance appraisals.  Its frequently seen as a ‘tick in the box process’ or an administrative requirement that they begrudgingly complete. So how do you overcome the resistance and turn the whole thing into something that is actually going to add value to your organisation?


Here’s a few things that I’ve found to be helpful in the past:

Explain why its important– Basic andragogy (how adults learn) tells us that “adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it” (Knowles, M. 1990. ‘An andragogical theory of adult learning’, The adult Learner: a neglected species, pp. 54-65).  Hence, explain why they need to go through the process and what the benefits are.

Engage employees- Place the onus on the individual to prepare early and complete a self-assessment which includes achievement against objectives, recognition, impact on the business etc. Afterall, it is them who will be reaping the reward of a promotion, pay increase or recognition. This facilitates a two way dialogue in the appraisal, and ensures a greater chance of the employee walking out feeling like they were heard and taken seriously. It also reminds them that they should be the ones who drive their career rather than waiting for Managers to do it for them.

Get Managers to prepare early– with a check list for each employee.  For example:

  • Have you booked a meeting with the employee (with at least 2 weeks notice so they have time to prepare)?
  • Have you got a copy of the person’s obejctives? (and last year’s assessment?)
  • Are you familiar with the employees job description? If not, review this.
  • Are there competencies expected for this person’s role? Review these and assess whether these are being met.
  • Are they living the organisation’s values/expected behaviours/adhering to code of conduct?  
  • Are there any internal/external clients that you need to gather feedback from in order to get increased visibility of the employee’s overall performance?

Prep your Managers on how to give good feedback– it might be worthwhile getting your managers together in a room before the appraisal period and discussing the finer points to giving good feedback.  This way they have the opportunity to enhance their feedback skills,  feel more prepared before the appraisal and share their experiences with other managers.


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