Do you love or loathe the appraisal process? Most of us have to learn how to conduct staff appraisals ‘on the job’, and many courses on how to conduct appraisals really miss the point in terms of the real benefits, focusing on issues such as how to fill in the paperwork. Having great appraisals which you and your team look forward to is a key leadership skill, and an essential part of creating a learning culture in your workplace.
Here are a few tips around how to have great appraisals:
- Create enough time to do this properly and have it diaried in well in advance- every year schedule in monthly one-one’s with your team members, plus longer 1:1s for an annual appraisal and a mid year review. This means over the course of a year, you have quality time with each direct report on a monthly basis, of which two will be longer review sessions. You can of course meet more regularly, for example with a new member of staff, someone in difficulty, or a team member with poor performance where you are managing them to an action plan. If you’re a senior doctor, this may not be part of your culture but consider how it could help you to build relationships with your team, the time investment may be just too great, but how could you adapt this structure to meet your and your colleagues’ needs?
- Make sure you have thought about what you want to get out of the session. It is important to give positive psychological strokes on a regular basis to get the best out of your team members.
- If you have significant negative feedback to give to your staff, don’t save it up for the appraisal but deal with it at the time. Having difficult conversations is a key line management skill – say openly that you are concerned about a specific issue and then ask your staff member how it is for them, what are their thoughts and feelings about this issue- you role is to listen without judging unless you are in a formal performance management situation, and to work together collaboratively as a team to solve the problem. Remember to stay focused on the behaviours observable by a third party/ video camera and not on your feelings about them as a person, ie avoid character attacks at all costs.
- Be clear about what the team’s objective are, these usually come from you having clear objectives yourself, if you aren’t clear what you need to deliver then discuss with your own manager.
- Your role is to stimulate a great conversation, building trust and a culture of giving and receiving feedback with a spirit of learning, personal and professional development, as well as shaping new / revised objectives for the individual to feel clear about what their role is and to develop a professional development plan for the staff member.
- Examples of questions which can open up the conversation with your team member would be:
- What would you like to get out of our time together?
- What have been your greatest achievements this year?
- What have been your greatest challenges?
- What have you learned from these and how would you do things differently in the future?
- What is your vision for this role?
- What do you love about your job, what do you find difficult or dislike?
- What do you feel your objectives should be for the next 6-12 months?
- What is your vision for your own career and how can I (the organisation) support you with this? What do you want to be doing in 5/ 10 years time?
- What development needs do you have- how can you be even better at what you do and really achieve your potential?
Remember that you are also learning how to be more skilful in your appraisals – and, you may need to manage upwards in order to get what you need from your line manager. If you would like clear and considered feedback, ask them beforehand so that they have time to give you really meaningful feedback which is useful for your development.
Having great appraisals is part of creating a learning culture in your team. Let me know how you get on, I hope these tips will help to transform your appraisal conversations so that you- and your staff- come to really value them as a key developmental opportunity.