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Management documents Performance appraisal documents

Performance appraisal guide

Reviewed 13 March 2021

This is a complete guide for an appraiser and how to use performance development reviews in practice. This guide details preparation, from setting up the environment, to what questions to ask and how to record the process.

Performance appraisal


Part of the preparation for review should include an explanation of the process to the individual. It is important that he/she understands the reviews purpose and its process. He or she should feel that nothing is held back. Such openness makes it less likely that he/she will feel tricked or unfairly treated by the system, and will encourage him/her to be open about their performance. Therefore, before the individual begins his/her preparations for the review meeting, the review arrangements should be fully explained.

You can emphasise the following aspects of the system:

  • The review will happen regularly as an ongoing practice
  • The review should be of mutual benefit and not a mere exercise of managerial judgement
  • The individuals views and suggestions will be valued
  • The individual should expect to be treated fairly
  • The review is and will remain confidential between those who are responsible for managing the individual.

Preparing for the review meeting should be a two way process between you and the individual. As the line manager you will need to:

  1. Give the individual adequate notice of the review meeting and arrange to meet at a mutually convenient time and place.
  2. Explain the purpose of the meeting and encourage the individual to prepare beforehand by thinking about what he/she wishes to discuss during the meeting. Ask him/her to think about the following:
    1. Your job - does your job description need updating because of any changed responsibility?
    2. How well have you performed? Think about how well you have performed since the last review, set against the objectives/tasks that were set.
    3. Did you have any difficulties in achieving those objectives? Have you had difficulties with any aspects of your job since your last review? How could these have been avoided?
    4. In what areas have you been particularly successful? Think about why you were successful
    5. What have you achieved?
    6. Are there any areas of performance which could be improved? What support do you require in terms of training and development?
    7. How could the department or line manager assist you to improve or enhance your performance?
    8. Any other matters you want to discuss
  3. Arrange a suitable and comfortable venue and ensure that you are free from interruptions.
  4. Try not to carry out the interview across a desk as this can so often be a symbol of adversarial conflict or managerial judgement. Instead use comfortable chairs set at an angle to each other (rather than directly facing).
  5. Allow enough time for each review meeting for any unexpected problems or issues which may need thorough discussion.
  6. Think beforehand about the following aspects:
    1. Does the individuals job description need reviewing?
    2. How has his/her performance compared with the agreed actions set at the last review and against the standards of performance of the organisation?
    3. Is there a skills/development gap?
    4. Are there any training and developments needs you wish to have addressed?
    5. How enthusiastic is he/she about his/her job?
    6. Does the individual use his/her initiative?
    7. What is his/her attitude towards staff?
    8. Are you aware of any concerns that the individual may have? Are you prepared to answer them effectively?
    9. What are the individuals strongest attributes?
    10. What could the individual do better in his/her role?
    11. What has the individual contributed to the achievement of section or department objectives?
    12. Is there anything about your work relationship that should be discussed?

When thinking about these questions bear in mind the individuals range of abilities and skills, any targets set, key tasks in his/her job, and any mitigating circumstances for under performance.

Establish the likely key points of the meeting: is better performance or motivation required? What praise or constructive feedback is appropriate? Prepare the presentation of these key points. Decide how to discuss negative points in a constructive way. Anticipate problems and questions.

Equally, the individual who is being reviewed will find it helpful to consider a number of questions which are likely to be raised during the meeting so that he/she is able to discuss them more freely with you.


Fairness in review is an important issue and can have potentially serious implications in terms of illegal bias, for example on the grounds of race, gender or disability and where it may be used to challenge redundancy or dismissal on the grounds of competence or conduct. Also, many of the goals of the review will be thwarted if the individual believes th

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