Employee appraisals – for some (employees and managers) an unpopular compulsory exercise, for many others an important and appreciated regular appointment to look both back and forward.
In this article you will get:
- Suggestions from leadership practice
- Templates for successful employee appraisals (which you can download and use freely)
- Templates for the invitation to the employee appraisal (also free of charge as download)
- as well as tips and tricks
so that your employee appraisals are meaningful, effective and motivating for you, your employees and your company.
If you are also interested in how to conduct successful employee appraisals as an employee, I will soon write a post on it.
We will look at my employee scorecard template. But let’s start by defining what an employee appraisal actually is.
Where to download the employee assessment templates:
Go directly at the bottom section of this article.
Or look at the detailed product page.
Employee appraisal: Definition
An employee appraisal is an key instrument of employee management. It takes place at regular intervals. This is planned between manager and employee.
Basic Definition of employee appraisals: the annual appraisal, half-yearly/quarterly appraisals, target appraisals or further development planning appraisal.
Extended definition of employee appraisal: good personnel management also includes irregular, spontaneous and situation-dependent employee appraisals, e.g. to convey feedback and criticism.
Employee Performance Evaluation Checklist Template – to prepare for the interview
As can be seen in the definition, we can distinguish between planned & structured and spontaneous & informal, situation-dependent employee appraisals.
The planned and structured employee appraisals must be prepared by both the manager and the employee.
To do this, both need to know which topics to deal with… That is why you use an appraisal preparation checklist.
Topics of an scheduled employee appraisal
Basically, the following topics belong in every organized employee evaluation checklist:
- How is the employee currently doing with regard to the work situation, activity and leadership. What is good, what should remain so, what should change?
- How well is the cooperation in the team going. What is good, what should stay that way, what should improve?
- How does the employee assess their own motivation and commitment to their tasks. How does the manager assess this. What are the learnings?
- What short-, medium- and long-term goals should the employee pursue. How does he feel about them. What does the progress look like. What support from the manager/others is necessary or even expected? What concrete measures are to be taken. Which recently decided measures have (not) been implemented – with what result?
- What should the manager do to support the employee/team even better. What does he do well. What should he do less?
Additional optional topics in a structured performance evaluation checklist:
In addition, other points can also be discussed in the employee appraisal in a company-specific such as:
- Salary and special benefits
- Objectives and related special services
- Special regulations regarding tasks, field of activity, home office, etc.
- Career planning, stays abroad, external/internal training
- Holidays, special leave, parental leave, part-time, leave for further training, sabbaticals, etc.
Informal employee appraisals
The spontaneous, informal, situation-dependent employee appraisals, on the other hand, do not require structured comprehensive preparation. However, this does not mean that as a manager you sit down thoughtlessly with the employee.
Every informal employee appraisal must:
- either serve to praise or encourage the employee in something,
- to support, advise or coach the employee with something
- or to draw attention to something that could be different, better, more, …
- solve conflicts in teams
This informal employee appraisal must also pursue a goal. As a matter of fact, that is either positive support or constructive criticism. Therefore, it is advisable to take at least five minutes as a manager to consider why you want to discuss something. And what goal(s) you are pursuing with this conversation.
Ok, there is one exception regarding the preparation of informal employee appraisals: spontaneous feedback and criticism interviews. Some of these talks tend to take place in an informal setting, but need to be prepared.
That is why we strongly recommend to use a checklist for performance appraisal preparation.
Better employee conversations through professional templates:
- Checklists for preparation and implementation
- Multiple templates for different employee interviews
- Several templates for inviting employee appraisals
Preparation of informal employee appraisals during feedback or criticism meetings
Because even spontaneous feedback or criticism interviews are employee appraisals. Criticism in particular must be given in the right format. There are some framework conditions to consider.
Many managers have a hard time with this and I will not go into detail about feedback methods here. I intend to write a dedicated post on those methods.
Doc HR-App-Checklist – Employee performance appraisal checklist
Therefore, it is important to consider the following checklist for the employee appraisal:
- An invitation to the appointment should be made at least two weeks before an official employee appraisal
- A sufficient time frame for the interview must be planned – quarterly meetings take between 30 and 90 minutes, annual meetings between 60 and 120 minutes. The closer the contact and the more frequent the exchange between manager and employee, the less time is needed. But even an employee with whom a manager works very closely every day has a right to a detailed conversation
- It must be clear whether it is an employee appraisal in which the progress, status quo, plan adjustments, etc. are discussed or whether topics such as salary, bonuses, career, etc. are also discussed. Components are
- The employee must have the template used for the appraisal interview available in order to be able to prepare well
- The employee must also have the minutes of the last employee appraisals available
- The manager must prepare for the employee appraisal by using both the minutes of the previous interviews and the template for the upcoming appointment.
- The manager must take a close look at what he expects from the employee, how these expectations are met, what he expects in the future and what to do about it
- The manager must also ask himself whether he has fulfilled all his duties, such as the release of further development measures or the transfer of responsibility, and if not, what this means for the employee and the next few months
One more comment on the duration of the conversation:
If an employee appraisal lasts 3 or 4 hours, then this is an indication that there is too little exchange in the time between the official employee appraisals. Unless in the 4 hours completely new plans are developed, ideas are generated, etc. This employee appraisal checklist may be adapted to your specific needs: fully editable, no password protection.
Doc HR-App-1,2,3 – Employee appraisal form Template – for conducting the interview
What the manager should pay attention to in the conversation is:
- The employee should have a much higher proportion of speech than the manager
- The manager should predominantly act with questions instead of making statements or dictating decisions on his own.
- The manager must listen attentively and also follow up. Employees regularly give various indications “between the lines”. For e.g. they are dissatisfied with things or insecure about tasks. But because the manager does not really listen or only hears what he wants to hear, the message does not arrive.
Example of active listening and follow-up in the appraisal interview:
|Typical procedure (without active listening):||Better approach through active listening and follow-up:|
|Manager: And, how satisfied are you with the work?||Manager: And, how satisfied are you with the work?|
|Employee: Oh yes, on the whole it fits.||Manager: Ok, what's really good?|
|Manager: Excellent. And what goals have you set for next year?||Employee: So I like...|
|Manager: You said earlier that "on the whole it fits". What is missing or not good?|
|Employee: Well, so if you ask that, regarding...|
What are the benefits of active listening in the appraisal interview?
- Appreciation: the manager shows that he really listens
- Give room to problems: the employee wanted to draw attention to problems by his statement without addressing them immediately. He now has the chance to
- Changes his assessment himself: If the employee has the feeling that some things are not so good, then he actively deals with them again when answering the questions. It happens regularly that due to the questions – and without the manager doing anything else – the employee changes his assessment himself after a few minutes. He then states “Oh, actually there is nothing that bothers me. I’m really happy with the work. The little things I just mentioned are quite normal. “
This technique of active listening and follow-up is part of the standard repertoire of coaching executives. this is not specific to employee appraisal.
Included in HR-App-1,2,3 – Employee appraisal protocol
Does an employee appraisal have to be recorded?
Yes, all regular employee appraisals , such as annual appraisals or appraisals, must be recorded . Not word for word, of course. But all decisions, goals, measures such as training or changed areas of responsibility belong in the minutes of the employee appraisal.
The assessment of the employee’s satisfaction with the work, the team and the manager (!) must also be recorded in the protocol. Because an employee appraisal is not only about the employee, but also about the manager. Specifically, the leadership quality of the manager and their assessment by the employee. However, this feedback does not work for autocratic, aggressive, manipulative, or, generally speaking, bad leaders. They do not receive any critical feedback from the employees.
However, good managers also actively ask their employees what they can do better themselves and log this. So that they can also work on it and check in the subsequent employee appraisals whether they have become better.
Usually, the protocol is drawn up on the basis of the submission of the employee appraisal.
Who logs the appraisal interview?
Some of the contents of the appraisal will have to do with the fact that the employee should do new things, learn new skills or be responsible for other tasks. This is always accompanied by a change in action and occasionally also in the “mindset”. Often the employee’s own initiative is required.
We all know that change is not always easy.
Therefore, a psychological trick can be used in the protocol of the employee appraisal:
The protocol of the employee appraisal is created by the employee himself!
You hand over the template to the employee and discuss all important points. Whenever something is decided or has to be recorded, the employee is asked to include it in the minutes.
Psychology comes into play in several facets:
- If the employee hesitates with the documentation: then he is either not quite sure how exactly the decision can be written down concretely or he himself is not yet completely convinced of it. Then it makes sense to discuss this point again. If the protocol were drawn up by the manager, then the manager writes down his view of things and does not even notice that the employee may not be behind it at all.
- If the employee formulates the decision differently than the manager understood or meant it, the discrepancy becomes obvious. This way you can either talk about it again together or the manager accepts the employee’s interpretation.
- What we write ourselves influences our actions and thinking much more than if someone else writes something down for us. If you pull out the minutes at the next employee appraisal and talk about measures that the employee wanted to initiate and noted himself, then this has a much stronger effect – after all, the employee has written it down himself.
Psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman describe these phenomena in detail in their books. It has been scientifically proven unequivocally what a difference it makes whether we write something down ourselves or whether someone else does it.
Minutes of informal employee appraisals
Informal employee appraisals do not have to be recorded in the same form as the regular ones. Nevertheless, I recommend that executives, especially large teams, take notes on such conversations.
This is especially true for feedback you’ve given – both positive and critical feedback.
The main reason for this:
Over time, we forget the many small, positive things an employee has done or achieved. Through our notes, for example, we can explicitly refer to it again in the quarterly interview, which will show the employee a very great appreciation.
Prepare for an employee appraisal with a performance review checklist template:
The formal employee appraisals must be prepared by both the employee and the manager. The checklist described above helps with this.
It can be assumed that this preparation takes between 30 and 60 minutes for each conversation. Managers should definitely have prepared an employee appraisal at least two days before the appointment . Because we all know that important little things only come to mind with a time delay.
If you prepare the conversation only in the morning of the day on which the appointment takes place, our subconscious mind does not have time to send us this information in time. I know that these conversations and preparation require a lot of time from the manager. If you manage 10 employees, you spend many hours with it. But that’s what leadership is all about!
Leadership is not the title, the company car or the corner office.
Leadership means above all other things the leadership of employees. And the management of employees involves much more than the delegation of tasks.
Only if, for example, the further development of the employee discussed in employee appraisals actually takes place, more and more comprehensive tasks can be delegated. This takes time – but this time pays off a hundredfold if it is invested early.
One of my coaching clients is on the board of a foreign subsidiary of an international corporation. For years, he has focused on developing the team around him in such a way that even very young employees can take on responsibility at a very early stage. This is possible because everyone in the team works together, supports each other and everyone knows that the entire team wins when every single employee is constantly improving. There is no food envy there. And that’s because the board has ensured that egoists leave the team. In just a few years, his national subsidiary has managed to transform itself from a loss-making location into a global prime example.
The company’s excellent financial results are due to the fact that he invested primarily in an excellent team. Employee appraisals are one of the most beautiful and important tasks for him.
Employee appraisals are not annoying duties for him, but the highlight of the working day. What if it were the same for you?
Difference between employee appraisal and appraisal interview
In some corporate cultures, employee appraisals only take place once a year, if at all. These are then used to check the “performance” of the past year, to confirm any agreed bonus payments or special benefits and to set the targets for the coming year. Or rather to dictate.
These appraisals, often called performance reviews or annual reviews, are employee appraisals – but unfortunately often not very effective.
Companies in which the annual employee appraisal is the only real conversation between employee and manager often find that goals are not achieved or the quality of these interviews leaves much to be desired. It is not uncommon for managers and employees to sit opposite each other and the manager only ticks off the checklist of the HR department in order to comply with his duty. There is no discernible interest in a well-founded conversation. Accordingly, these employee appraisals are demotivating for the employees and are no longer taken seriously.
In a separate article I have dealt in detail with the employee evaluation / employee appraisal …
Goal setting discussions are important
However, this does not mean that goal setting discussions are unimportant. The opposite is true. The first thing to do from the employee review checklist: goal setting.
The majority of employees expect these conversations, both to look back and to plan for the future. To do this, however, they must be conducted correctly and seriously.
If you also hold regular discussions about the status quo, goals achieved in the meantime or necessary adjustments to the plan, then all discussions together represent an important motivating factor and ensure a higher loyalty of employees to the company.
For example, if a company uses OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), then in addition to the regular employee appraisals
- a short update call once a month,
- a review and planning meeting every three months and
- once a year, a more comprehensive annual review and a replanning of the OKRs between manager and employee takes place.
If these employee appraisals to the OKRs are conducted in an appreciative, supportive and solution-oriented manner, then they do not represent a “control”, but offer employees and superiors a valuable opportunity to talk about successes, status quo and possible adjustments.
This is employee management that works and that also corresponds to the principle of situational leadership.
Download the Perfect Employee Evaluation Form: Templates + How-To
Here is the full list of document you will download, all at once! See our product page for a global overview.
9 Checklists and templates:
- Appraisal checklist form template
- Appraisal invitation templates (x3: yearly, half-yearly, quarterly)
- Appraisal Onboarding template
- Appraisal for end of probation period
- Appraisal for quarterly report
- Yearly appraisal template
- Appraisal target agreement template