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How to give a good appraisal

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Give your staff regular feedback to ensure reviews do not contain any surprises

Appraisal systems are only as good as the people who operate them. You - and the organisation you work for - will only get out what you put in.

It’s vital to make time for appraisals and regular performance reviews. Your team should expect to get feedback and reviews, and this should feel part of a culture of performance management. This should mean your team’s appraisals do not contain any surprises for them.

You need to make sure your appraisals consistently give the same messages to all your staff. These must be that the patient is the focus, and ensure that individual objectives link to the organisation’s goals.

How to prepare to give an appraisal

● Refresh your memory on the one-to-ones and objectives set in the previous appraisal or through the course of the year
● Assess the evidence and make a note of your provisional view of the individual’s performance with examples to support it
● Be clear about what you will address, in what order and the importance you attach to each issue
● Consider whether the feedback is fair in the sense that the person has had control over the delivery of the relevant objective. A common response to not meeting an objective is “it was not my fault” or ” I did not get the support I needed”. Consider in advance whether those points may arise and how they should be reflected in your feedback
● Think about whether any of what you plan to say will come as a surprise. If so, is that because it has only just arisen or has it been missed?

Be factual, consistent, transparent and back up feedback with evidence.

Do not shy away from addressing development points as well as positive ones. Although be careful not to be adversarial - there is a difference between this and being firm and clear.

Discuss the reasons for any performance shortfall. Suggest and agree the support that may be needed, which may include mentoring, coaching, training, short secondments and more regular reviews or reporting.

If you disagree on a piece of feedback, do not backtrack. State that you understand they disagree but your opinion exists and you can back it up, and try and give evidence. If the individual brings in fresh information, say you will review it and get back to them.

There is usually a lot of paperwork associated with appraisals. But appraisers and appraisees must not feel they are just going through the motions. However, you must set or re-set objectives, which should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed), and make sure your appraisee understands what they must do to achieve the objective and how success will be measured.

Geoff Winnard is head of Agenda for Change at NHS Employers and works with employer representatives and trade unions to ensure that the national pay system remains sustainable and fit for purpose

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