How to avoid the common pitfalls in appraisals

Another round of appraisals is fast approaching, but your calendar is full and you’re rushed enough as it is. Appraisals are probably the last thing on your mind right now. What were those targets you agreed on during the last discussion and where did you save the appraisal forms? With so much to do and so little time, it’s no wonder that the benefits of appraisals may occasionally seem like something that you don´t have the time to fully explore. To help you get the most out of your appraisals, we offer you a list of some of the most common pitfalls – along with solutions to avoid them. This way you will be able to see the value of a good appraisal in no time!

1. The manager doesn’t seem that interested

If an appraisal feels like a pointless exercise of checking boxes that is only organised because it is needs to be organised, it is doomed to fail from the start. A genuinely engaged manager prepares for the appraisal in advance, ensures it’s unrushed, held in a quiet location, and considers each employee’s unique needs. Besides giving honest feedback and asking open questions, the manager should consider the employee’s answers while making plans for the coming months. This is the time and place to listen, plan and adapt the current and future priorities. It is also a very good opportunity for the manager to learn, and to develop skills.  

2. Targets are not explained properly

Sharing simple feedback is not enough. The purpose of an appraisal is to analyse the employee’s performance and enable personal development. When it comes to discussing professional growth and targets, it’s just as important to ask ”how” and ”when” as it is to ask ”what”. It’s also crucial to monitor any agreed targets and to review progress. After a successful appraisal, the employee should have a clear view of what it takes to lift their performance to an even higher level.

3. The content of the appraisal is poorly planned

Many organisations use a universal appraisal form across the company. This works very well – as long as the content is well-planned. Besides past performance, the form should steer the discussion towards employee motivation, training needs, and what the employee prefers to focus on in the future. Anything the employee would like to discuss should be discussed, regardless of whether it’s on the form or not. It’s also a good idea to add, remove or edit questions to ensure they are a good fit for different roles. A universal appraisal form helps organisations maximise the benefits of appraisals. This enables the collection of consistent data to support strategic decision making. To help you get a head start, we have created an appraisal form template that you can download and use in your own organisation. Keep in mind that you can edit, add and delete questions if you feel this is necessary.

A universal appraisal form helps organisations maximise the benefits of appraisals. This enables the collection of consistent data to support strategic decision making.

4. Appraisals are few and far between

According to research, close employee-manager relationships are crucial to the success of a company. It has also been proven that short catch-ups deepen these relationships more than lengthy annual discussions. A year is a (too) long time in terms of motivation, assignments, targets and overall satisfaction. If it’s too late to fix a problem that appears in the appraisal, the appraisal has clearly failed. If, on the other hand, yearly discussions are combined with continuous everyday interaction, issues can be dealt with in time and team spirit can soar to new heights.

5. The company doesn’t make the most out of data

If an organisation uses a universal appraisal form, it can collect a whole host of consistent data to compare, contrast and analyse. This, in turn, helps company strategy going forward. An effective HR system ensures that appraisal data doesn’t get lost in notepads or Excel sheets – even if a manager leaves the company. Genuine cooperation between HR and management ensures that the organisation gains maximum benefits from appraisal data.


Have you already read our appraisals handbook?

We want to support managers in running appraisals and provide them with tips for doing just that. The book provides actionable advice on how to organise appraisals on an individual and company level.