Appraisal has two objectives

  • To help those appraised develop and improve their performance in future
  • To help the organisation evaluate the performance of its employees and hence pay them for their contribution

In principle, there is no conflict between these objectives. In practice people will respond differently to an appraisal scheme according to how they perceive the weight of these objectives. The first encourages people to be open about their needs and shortcomings the second does not.

The organisation must decide the balance to be struck.

Appraising to decide rewards

Performance is rarely determined solely by individual merit. The organisation requires people to work together supportively to achieve its objectives. Most people’s performance is more determined by the quality of their interactions and the information they get from others than anything else. They also contribute in an immeasurable way by helping others.

The above makes objective measurement of individual performance very difficult and potentially divisive. If it must be done then it must be by a simple and defensible method if the result is to be helpful to the organisation.

Perhaps the simplest way is to reward those few people that the management regard as truly outstanding and explain why.

Appraisal for development

To do this effectively requires

  • A system for doing it
  • Managers to have the skills to do it
  • Those involved to want to take part

The third item takes the most managing. People will usually be more committed to processes when they are involved in the decision making.

Problem solving workshops to develop and explore the options are one way forward.

The system and forms required are less critical for success than the other two factors. Many options exist; the best systems are simple, flexible and practical.

Managers need good interpersonal skills to get the best out of appraisal. The heart of it is the interview with the subordinate. The manager must listen well and with understanding to create trust and openness. The manager may need counselling, coaching and feedback skills to enable development. He/she will ideally be open about his/her needs too.

Appraisal will go much better if there are regular conversations about development throughout the year.

Options for developmental appraisal

The following are possible.

  • Self Appraisal

The person writes down an assessment of his/her performance last year and development needs next year. This forms the basis of a developmental interview with the boss. At the end both agree actions.


Encourages open communication.

  • Peer appraisal

The person seeks comments on performance and development needs from peers before interview with boss.


Wider view of the person’s performance and needs.

  • Customer appraisal

As above but input now from internal and external customers


Feedback focused on most important issues. Can be an important contributor to customer care

  • Two way appraisal

The discussion of performance and development needs is two-way between boss and subordinate. It includes how they can be more helpful to each other in future.

One method is the ‘Team of two’ approach where each party writes down. ‘What I can do to help you?’ What you can do to help me? The lists are then shared and positive plans made.


Highly developmental for both and very positive.

Training for Appraisal

  • Setting up an appraisal scheme is an organisation development project. It will be much easier if you use an outsider to help the organisation think through the possibilities and plan the appropriate interventions
  • Managers will probably need training in coaching, counselling and feedback skills. It will help to precede any definite offerings with a diagnosis of the specific needs. Then you will get what you want.

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick