5 Ways to Make Annual Appraisals Less Terrible

Published at May 27, 2019 ·  3 min read

Annual appraisals can be painful for both the appraiser and appraisee. While there are ways to give people better, more regular feedback and help them progress their careers faster, often HR or company policy makes the usual yearly cycle difficult to avoid. Below are 5 tips on making annual appraisals less painful for all involved.

No Surprises

Calendar

Your annual appraisal should contain no surprises. By holding regular one-to-one meetings and giving feedback throughout the year we can hopefully minimise our annual appraisals to a quick and collaborative box-ticking exercise. We can also reduce feedback loops, giving people quicker and more relevant feedback that is much more helpful for them and their career progression. Keep a reminder of the comments from the previous appraisal to hand in 1-to-1s and perform regular check-ins to keep whatever competencies or objectives the appraisal will contain fresh in your minds.

360 Feedback

Feedback

Some company’s will have a policy on 360 feedback but even if yours doesn’t seek out feedback from people who have worked with the appraisee since their last appraisal. Sometimes 360 feedback is taken from 2 people at a higher level, 2 at the same level and 2 from a position below. Whether you choose to aim for this or go with something more freeform, try and gather a wide range of feedback from people who are likely to have different viewpoints. This feedback will prove invaluable for both of you. It will hopefully provide different perspectives and gives you both an opportunity to learn more about aspects of the appraisee’s work that you may have been less involved in.

Prepare

Prepare

Once you have gathered feedback and put together your own comments, send them to the appraisee 24 hours in advance. Give them time to read through, digest and come up with their own examples and counter-examples. Keep the scoring to yourself until the meeting though. That way you can run through it together and allow them the opportunity to challenge you or provide further examples. Stick to your scoring where necessary and be sure to make sure your comments are taken onboard, but by making the whole process more collaborative you will hopefully get more buy-in from the appraisee.

Seating

Appraisal Meeting

When holding an annual appraisal with someone, think carefully about what position you take in the meeting room. By choosing to sit next to someone, rather than across the table say, it gives the meeting a more collaborative and less of a confrontational feel. Place the appraisal form so that both of you can see it and work through it together. Try and get the message across that this is a joint effort to help the person in question advance in their career and flush out any weaker areas that you can then work on together. By giving the meeting more of a relaxed, collaborative vibe it will hopefully enable you both to be more honest and accepting of feedback.

Keep Money Out Of It

Money

Obviously appraisals and salary/bonus discussions are going to be linked in some way. However, where possible try and obfuscate this link. Keep the salary review separate, maybe even try and remain ignorant about how appraisal scores are combined or how they inform compensation discussions. The idea here is to keep the appraisal focussed on evaluating the appraisee’s performance. By taking money out of the conversation it makes it easier to give and receive constructive feedback and focus on what the objectives or competency frameworks are aiming for, rather than how much of a bonus or raise to give this person.

Summary

Sometimes annual appraisals are a necessary evil, but there are various things we can try to keep them open, collaborative and hopefully slightly less terrible. Work together to find better ways of providing feedback and monitoring career progression.

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