THE annual performance appraisal/review can be daunting for many managers. Here is a three-stage process to help simplify the process:


Stage One: Preparing for the appraisal

It is important that arrangements for the performance appraisal be made well in advance so that both appraiser and appraisee have adequate time to prepare properly. As the appraiser, you need to:


•   Review the appraisee’s previous appraisal summary to see what was agreed upon. Did you do what you committed to?


•   Consult all other relevant records on his performance.


•   Ask him to prepare for the appraisal by thinking through his performance during the year, considering what went well and what was not achieved.


Stage Two: Conducting the appraisal

This is a four-step process:


Step One: Welcome the employee and put him at ease. Explain how you wish to conduct the appraisal interview, letting the appraisee know what to expect.

Start the discussion with a little small talk to ease the initial tension of the interview.

During the appraisal, compare actual, specific performance results and behaviours to the standards. Stay away from focusing on the employee’s attitude or personality traits.

Keep the appraisal open to employee input. Ask the employee for ideas on how to resolve problems. Be honest and be prepared to discuss questionable items.

Listen and take notes, maintain good eye contact and an attentive posture, and repeat to the employee your understanding of what he said.

Don’t interrupt him when he is talking, and ask questions only for clarification.

Try to apply the 80/20 Rule: the employee talks 80 per cent of the time and you talk 20 per cent of the time.

Above all, be non-judgmental.


Step Two: Work through the performance measures. First, ask for the appraisee’s comments. The key is to get him to appraise his own performance.

Ask probing questions to get examples and supporting evidence of good performance.

If you disagree, don’t say so directly — ask questions so that appraisees can come to more realistic conclusions themselves.

Facilitation of this nature is particularly important with performance measures where subjectivity may come into play, making the appraisee’s opinions even more necessary.

You should never surprise an appraisee by mentioning areas of under-performance for the first time during the appraisal interview.

This feedback must be given to employees as soon as realistically possible after the event itself.

After each performance measure has been discussed, the appraiser needs to give it a realistic performance rating.

For this purpose, use the KPI Standards and/or Behavioural Indicators listed on the Performance Appraisal Form for each measure.

Be prepared to adjust your thinking on a rating if the facts and arguments offered justify this. Care must be taken that the rating of performance does not deteriorate into a battle of wills.

The secret is to stick to rating actual performance according to performance data/statistics and recorded incidents/evidence (that you discussed with the employee at the time).

Of course, as a line manager, you retain the prerogative to insist on a rating that you are happy with, as long as you can offer your reasons for it, whether the appraisee accepts it or not.


Step Three: Agree on performance measures and standards for the next performance period.

This is the “forward-looking” section of the interview. It is crucial that new or adapted performance measures and standards be discussed and documented as close as possible to the start of the new performance period, so that the employee has enough time to deliver on them.

Also discuss any support you need to give appraisees.

Support is all about minimising environmental barriers to performance, providing them with the necessary resources, training and coaching opportunities, and improving their motivation.


Step Four: Make a positive closing statement, reiterating your appreciation of the appraisee’s efforts, ensuring him of your trust in his abilities and future performance. After the discussion, complete the written appraisal.

Note that both the supervisor and the employee should sign the appraisal.

Signing the appraisal does not mean the employee agrees with the appraisal; it means that the appraisal has been shared with the employee.

The employee can provide a written response, which is optional.

You and the employee should exchange ongoing feedback about performance goals and standards throughout the year.

Focus on the future, not on the past. Emphasise strengths, as well as areas that need improvement.

Set goals, expectations, and standards together for the next appraisal. This is also the time to discuss development/training plans with the employee.

Finally, summarise the session and end on a positive note.


Stage Three: Following up

The Performance Agreement for the next performance period can be viewed as a negotiated contract.

Appraisees are committing themselves to achieve certain objectives/targets in return for specified support from their line managers.

It is crucial that you deliver on this promised support, which can take the form of all possible psychological (praise, recognition, encouragement) and physical support (work tools, equipment, finances, staff).

You should also arrange the necessary training and coaching as identified.

Going forward, make it a point to provide regular feedback on staff performance (both positive and negative/constructive) as soon as possible after each event.


Article by Chris Fenney, co-founder and director of Training Edge International. He has more than 30 years’ experience in training and management development. For more information, e-mail or visit