How to get the most out of performance appraisals

They are a great opportunity for practice managers to monitor the achievements, potential and development needs of staff at their practice - but are you getting the most out of performance appraisals?

Some practice managers use appraisals to focus their training plans and manage the training budget, some use them to help achieve the practice’s objectives in a more strategic fashion, while others see them primarily as a way of motivating and engaging the team.

There are arguably three main ways that an appraisal can benefit your practice:

  1. Helping to focus all goals, development and plans on moving the organisation forward and improving the ways it operates
  2. Encouraging everyone to reflect upon the contributions they make and how they can influence good performance
  3. Providing an opportunity to pass on encouragement and feedback

The Problems

A big issue with appraisals is that they can fail to provide a benefit to either individuals or the wider business if they become little more than a “tick the box” exercise. When staff members start describing the process as “boring”, “pointless” or “predictable”, it’s time for a change.

Appraisal is one of these areas where it is vitally important to keep the process moving forward and fresh if you want to achieve a positive response and benefits for the practice. As the needs of the business change, the appraisal process needs to change with them.

The Possibilities

There are many options for the way that you design and deliver an appraisal scheme, but there are a few underpinning principles that ought to be considered:

  • Appraisal is about development and moving forwards, so at least three quarters of the process should be spent looking forwards
  • Objectives need to be linked to the organisation’s plans, so there must be something in place that defines the organisation’s future direction
  • Appraisal is about performance and not personality. Any feedback given must be related to the skills and behaviours required for the job
  • It’s an opportunity to motivate and encourage – not conduct performance management. Poor performance or conduct issues must be dealt with as they occur

Bear in mind that one of the key functions of a performance appraisal should be matching individual staff members’ personal and work objectives. Taking these actions can help to ensure that your people are happy and fulfilled in their work.

How to provide feedback

We all appreciate honesty and respect – these are key when it comes to encouraging development. When feedback is delivered it should be as constructive as possible, so take care not to criticise motives or intent. Allow staff the satisfaction of learning more about themselves and their qualities and traits, exhibited through actions that you have appreciated or been impressed by.

In the same way, there are generally going to be things that they may need to do differently going forward. Improving and streamlining their approach or working habits that should be positioned as goals they can aspire to.

Really think about how your feedback will be received by carefully planning out how you will get across what you need to say. It’s important to take into account the personality of the subject when you do this. State your feedback honestly and in a way that shows you care about the employee’s growth and further development.

The building blocks of success

Following the steps laid out above will increase the likelihood of a positive experience for everyone involved. You need your employees to be able to recognise the importance of what you have to say and not get stuck in a negative place, where they end up resistant, shocked and possibly angry at what is said.

There are a wide variety of considerations to take on when it comes to delivering appraisals, but getting it right can have a positive impact all round. Getting these important steps right can give you a solid foundation for continued success.

Award-winning primary care trainers’ 
Thornfields workshop Fine Tune Your Appraisal Skills features everything you need for updating and revamping your appraisal process, including a framework for team appraisals and suggestions on carrying out 360° Appraisal in general practice. 

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