Are appraisals a waste of time?

Posted on 16th January 2019

Short answer, no! However, I do have a blog to fill so let me tell you why.


What should an appraisal be?

Firstly, let’s get this misconception out of the way, appraisals don’t need to be long, arduous or disruptive. I appreciate that most organisations have them. One thing that I can guarantee you is that no organisation has an identical format to another. They probably don’t look at the same elements.

Your appraisal and appraisal process should fit your organisation and your people. It needs to look at how you work. For example, as a business annual appraisals don’t work for us. Our priorities change constantly in relation to customer needs and other contributing factors and so we have monthly 121s. These include our priorities for the coming months, but also assess how we are performing and any issues that we have. However, we are still being continuously appraised, and it is all being recorded. By managing the process in this way, for us, the process is very ‘live’. It works for us, and that’s the key. There are some key elements but essentially the process needs to work for you and the people you are reviewing.


Look at how you work

If you are a larger organisation, how your team works. Do you have short term or long-term goals/objectives? What are the key elements for each role that you need to measure or evaluate? Will the same format work for all of your employees/teams/departments?

Once you have established what you need to review with individuals, the largest element is that it should be as much a review of the company as it is of the individual. There should be a two-way conversation. What could be improved within the business to enable the individual to perform more effectively? What has hindered the employee throughout the review period? Could you do anything to stop this happening again? The people doing the work are best placed to feedback on improvements. By having a free-flowing conversation around the role and any difficulties you may well find that improvements can be made to the way that you work that had not been thought of so far.

My main advice though, whatever format you decide your appraisals should take, is that your appraisals should be a record for you and the employee about how well things are going. Good, bad and ugly should be recorded, alongside development, support and training.


What shouldn’t an appraisal be?

An appraisal should not be without meaning. It should not be a telling off. When I say without meaning, how many times have you to gotten to appraisal time and thought ‘why do I bother’?

Yes, look back at past performance, we do need to look at issues. However, looking forward is essential. What needs to be achieved, how will it be achieved and what is needed to ensure that it happens?

Talk to the employee about these targets, objectives or priorities. Ensure that they are understood, achievable and that the employee can see why they are important. Provide the bigger picture to ensure that the employee feels part of the whole organisation and understands their role within its success.


During employment

As I said before, our 121s as we call them are carried out often to ensure that they have documents. We refer back to them and ensure that we stay on track. During your employee’s time with you they should be able to refer back to what their priorities are and be able to gauge how they are performing against their objectives. If the document/ conversation is only dusted off once a year, then it’s lost its meaning both to the individual and you.

From an HR technical point of view, when you call us about a performance issue, a restructure a redundancy or any of those not so nice processes, then the first thing we will ask you about is the history for that individual and whether you have any evidence. Recording the appraisal process, in whichever format works for you, will go a long way to ensuring that we have a firm basis to design a process around.


I hope I’ve given you an insight into how powerful appropriate appraisals can be, but if you would like any support designing an appraisal process or would like to talk through how to manage some of the discussions that appraisals can entail then please contact us.



Lindsay Baker Character
Written by:
Lindsay Baker
Head of HR