Learning & Development

How to Conduct an Appraisal Step By Step

employees communicating

Updated on 20/6/2023

Appraisal definition:


“A formal assessment of the performance of an employee over a particular period”


The appraisal as we know it – a formal assessment of employee performance at work – has existed since around the time of the Second World War.

There’s a lot of information out there about how to improve your existing performance review processes, but there’s not very much that actually tells you how to conduct an appraisal, step by step, from the very beginning.

if you’re a new employer, or a new HR professional, looking for a simple way to conduct employee appraisals, following the step by step guide below will help you. If you already have an appraisal structure in place, and want to improve it, you might want to try reviewing your current processes against the steps below, or consider HR software with a company-wide performance software module.

Below are the steps you need to take to set up and conduct an employee appraisal. – Remember that you will need to apply each of these steps to each individual employee you wish to appraise.

Part One: Preparation

Preparation is key to conducting a good employee appraisal. Here are the seven most important steps to consider prior to the appraisal taking place:

1. Identify Generic Assessment Criteria

There are some generic criteria you’ll probably be able to assess in every employee regardless of their role, such as attendance and punctuality. Think of any expectations that apply to everybody you employ, and make a point of including them in each appraisal. During the time leading up to the appraisal, gather HR performance data in these areas so that you can feed it back to your employees.

2. Identify Unique Assessment Criteria Based on the Employee’s Role

You’ll also want to assess each employee based on the job you’ve hired them to do. For example, if you are appraising somebody from your sales team, you might want to make a point of assessing how they are performing in relation to their weekly, monthly or quarterly sales target. During the time leading up to the appraisal, gather performance data in these unique assessment areas so that you can feed it back to your employee.

3. Articulate the Bigger Picture

It is always useful when conducting an employee

appraisal to compare performance against the longer-term goals of the company. Instead of just looking at performance metrics on a snapshot basis, think about how it might be affecting your company’s mission and growth strategy.

4. Set a Time and Date

During the appraisal, you’ll need private time with each employee to discuss their performance. Set a time and date. You

shouldn’t need more than an hour, and half an hour may be plenty, but if you have a lot to discuss, you may want to extend this just in case. If this is your first appraisal, you might want to set this date a little way into the future, to give you a chance to build performance data, and to give your employee a chance to prepare.

5. Share Your Intentions and Objectives

As soon as you have a time and date in mind for the appraisal, share this with your employee. At this point, you should also make sure your employee knows what you are going to be assessing, so that they can prepare to make their own independent self-assessment in the areas you’re interested in appraising.

6. Prepare a Basic Structure

Take all of the assessment areas you wrote down above, and put them together into a simple structure or agenda that you can use to guide the discussion during the appraisal, making sure to leave room for notes on each point.

7. Set the Right Environment

Employee appraisals should be positive and productive assessments of performance, not cold-hearted interrogations. Don’t hold appraisals in the company’s basement, and try to make sure the place you conduct the appraisal is comfortable and well-lit.

Part Two: Conducting the Appraisal Meeting

During the appraisal, it is very easy to get a bit lost – especially if it is your first time. Here are the steps you should follow to ensure your appraisal goes smoothly for the employee, as well as HR.

1. Stick to Your Structure

You prepared a basic structure during your preparation stage. This will become a very useful tool during the appraisal, as it will help prevent you from getting side tracked, and forgetting what you were wanting to talk about.

2. Let the Employee Do the Talking

An appraisal is not a one-way process, and the employee self-assessment is a very important part of it. Guide the discussion using your structure, but let your employee lead the conversation. Naturally, you should share your notes and observations on the employee’s performance, based on the areas you already laid out, but always remember that your observations do not necessarily give you the complete picture.

3. Use Positive Feedback

Conducting appraisals is not simply an excuse for you to criticise employees on their failings. An appraisal is a chance to celebrate success, identify areas for improvement, and develop your workforce. Even if an employee is underperforming, make sure you provide lots of positive feedback and point out things they have done right. Praise helps to motivate employees, and it helps them relax, ultimately making the appraisal easier for both parties.

4. Agree a Plan of Action

Based on your own assessment, and the employee’s self-assessment, agree (together) on a plan of action going forward. There might be areas where your employee is falling short, and these need addressing here at the end of the appraisal. However, remember to finish on a positive note and remind your employee of the good things they are doing for your company.

Part Three: Follow-Up

Once you’ve finished conducting your employee appraisal, there’s still plenty left to do!

Developing your workforce is a long-term process that cannot be achieved with a simple one-time appraisal.! Here are the most important steps you should follow after your first appraisal is complete:

1. Schedule the Next Appraisal

The frequency of formal employee appraisals is up to you, but it is important you don’t overdo it. For example, if you’re conducting full formal appraisals once a week, not only are you giving yourself unnecessary paperwork, but you’ll be suffocating your employees. Once a year, or even once every 6 months, is normally a good interval time for conducting appraisals.

2. Conduct Informal Performance Reviews

You can overdo it on the formal appraisals, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore performance for the rest of the year – it is good to conduct informal monthly review meetings to discuss progress with your employee, remind them of the goals you both set, and find out if they need any support. These informal appraisals can be as simple as a five-minute chat with no documentation.

3. Provide Immediate Feedback

If an employee does something fantastic, then please don’t make the mistake of simply writing it down and waiting until the next appraisal to mention it! Employees thrive on positive feedback, and while you should definitely make a note of it on paper, you should not be afraid to congratulate and/or reward them instantly, to remind them they are doing a great job.

Learn more about employee appraisals

We hope that our step by step guide to conducting an appraisal helped you to feel more organised approaching your first appraisal interview, or refining your current performance management system. To get to know the first stages of performance management, visit our blog on probation review meetings.

However, understandably, there's still a lot to be discussed about employee appraisals in HR, including what they are, why employers need to hold them and tips for carrying out a good appraisal. To find out all your answers to these questions, visit our guide on what staff appraisals are today.

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Rich Newsome
By Rich Newsome Digital Content Writer

Rich is a content writer at Access PeopleHR and has a wealth of experience within the tech space, including HR software. Passionate about providing website visitors with informative and easy-to-understand content, Rich is committed to helping SMBs find the best solutions for their needs. With a flair for writing, Rich's content engages and educates readers, guiding them towards informed decisions.