The SFA guide to annual performance appraisals

With end of year / new year appraisals looming, this article focuses on how businesses can make the most of these meetings to ensure that they are valuable and constructive for both the employer and employee.  


Performance should be managed throughout the year and regular feedback is invaluable to employees. They are ideal for recognising work well done, identifying areas for development or to coach an employee on how they can achieve better results. Performance management should not be a tick box exercise otherwise the golden opportunity to understand what motivates your employee in their work, to engage them and direct them in how you want your business to grow will be missed.


The annual performance appraisal is an ideal mechanism to formally review what has worked well in the year, scope out areas for development and work together to map out what can be achieved in the year ahead.


There are a few key steps businesses should consider so that you can make the most of the appraisal meeting and these are:




It is essential that both parties prepare for the meeting to ensure that it is useful and engaging. Managers should be aware of both the duties that the employee performs and the objectives that were set out in the previous appraisal meeting. There should be no surprises for the employee during the review. Some managers may wait until an appraisal to bring up areas of concern regarding an employee’s performance, but this should be avoided. Issues should be addressed at the time they occur rather than allowing these mistakes to build up and be repeated. The purpose of the appraisal meeting is to assess overall performance from the previous year and focus on future performance. It is a good idea to send out documentation in advance of the meeting so that the employee can complete it and return it back to the manager for discussion at the appraisal meeting.


Clarity about objectives


A clear set of objectives is crucial for an effective performance management system. If the employee does not know what is expected of them how can the objectives be achieved? Managers and employees should agree and record a set of objectives that are to be met during the year. One type of goal setting is the SMART method so that goals are specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and timed. The follow up meetings should be held to check in with the employee, assess how they are performing and to ensure they are on track to achieve what they have set out to do. If not, then additional support and /or training should be offered to assist the employee. An employer should never be reluctant to change objectives during the year if the employee’s role evolves or changes. Objectives are not set in stone and are meant to assist not hinder the development of the business. The yearly employee performance plan should be viewed as a working document that can be changed in line with the needs of the business.




The quality of the feedback given and how this is communicated by the manager is of utmost importance. The manager should provide information to the employee on their performance and progress and what’s required of them in order to continue to perform well in the future. The exchange should be an open and honest discussion where constructive feedback is given to the employee on areas that require improvement and what is required in order to achieve this. Managers should be trained in order to confidently give feedback and to manage difficult conversations. It is also important to focus on the areas that have been done well. This positive reinforcement ensures that the employee feels valued and it ensures they do not leave the meeting feeling demotivated or underappreciated.


Two way dialogue


The appraisal meeting is an opportunity for both the manager and employee to discuss performance and how things have been done to date. The manager should allow the employee to share their views and use open questioning to bring forward any difficulties that may be impacting their performance. It must be remembered that in a busy workplace, the appraisal meeting may be the only real opportunity where the employee gets to sit down with their manager to discuss their role. The manager should use this opportunity to check in with the employee and assess how they are finding the role and to discuss future career plans.




Both the manager and the employee should jointly reach an understanding about what needs to be done to improve and sustain performance as well as any agreed career development in the form of training or mentoring. The manager should follow up with the employee to ensure that anything implemented as a result of the meeting is working effectively and meets the requirements.


By implementing the above five steps this will ensure that both managers and employees are getting the most from appraisal meetings. The appraisal meeting should be viewed by a business as a means of collating and reviewing the feedback given during the year in order to assess overall performance and the performance of the employee.


We have a performance appraisal guideline including a template document that you can avail of here. If your line managers need training in performance or managing difficult conversations we have an online training course that can equip them in this area. If you have any further queries on performance management or need additional advice contact  Helen Quinn on 01 605 1668 or

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