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The appraisal is dead. Long live the appraisal.


=mc Director and L&D specialist Yvette Gyles blogs on the pros and cons of appraisals…

Tis the season for performance reviews – well, it seems that way to me. But with a global pandemic disrupting our working patterns and processes, I’ve been taking the opportunity to ask charities, non-profits and public sector HR teams if any of them had changed their appraisal processes this year.

I see it time and time again on social media and HR magazines, people are saying appraisals are dead, dying or endangered. And there always seems to be some new scientific reason why we should ditch the annual review process. ‘Neuroscience says appraisals are bad, they are not-brain friendly so HR should kill the annual appraisal.’ It seems the corporates are ditching appraisals, and binning big heavy documents. They seems to be some excitement about this change – not least because it takes away a painful process that creates a heavy spikes in HR and manager workloads.

I find this fascinating because I can’t quiet reconcile what I am reading with the experience I have working with charity, non-profit and public sector organisations. Far from ushering in the demise of appraisals, in recent months I’ve repeatedly been asked to support our customers with creating new annual processes, reviewing their approach, and helping them to formalise their performance management system. Is this because in the non-corporate world we are behind the times? Old fashioned? Lagging?


I don’t think so. But I do think there is something going on to do with babies and bathwater. Appraisals are more than just documents, and processes. They are conversations. They set expectations, clarify progress and help managers to give direction, support and recognition to their teams. Just because Accenture or KPMG are changing their process, does not mean you have to change yours.

In my view we need a focused checkpoint to hinge performance conversations and discussions on. To look forward, plan for upcoming changes and think about improvements. To look back at lessons learned. This is what the good, well-run appraisals provide.

On a recent training course, a participant explained to me that the annual process is not valued by his team of 20 gas safety engineers in a housing organisation. To perform in their job they must keep abreast of regulations, understand current policies, keep their qualifications up to date and ensure they meet KPIs. They also need to have softer skills to engage with customers (who are often vulnerable people in social housing). So he’s reduced the process paperwork and focuses instead on what he and his team value – using the time to discuss how things are going and problem solve. Oh, and they’ve stopped calling them appraisals, and these conversations happen every three months rather than once a year.

What can we learn from this? Appraisals are not bad in and of themselves. But they are nearly always guaranteed to get people’s eyes rolling. This is because far too many organisations have tried to take an ‘off the shelf and fill in a form’ approach, and that simply won’t do. Performance management must be fit for purpose, and needs to be adapted to the roles and needs of the organisation. Appraisals are not about fashion. Whether you have a competency framework, a values statement or a simple regular one-to-one agenda is down to you. Getting it right means having a process and approach that suits your culture and your needs. Given everything that has been happening in the last year or so, it may be time to refresh your approach and make appraisals more flexible, so that they support people adapting to change. Consider the following questions:

  • What process will most help your staff perform well in their jobs? How regularly do they need to review their work?
  • What kind of things need to be discussed? What are the key areas that make up performance?
  • What is the purpose of this process? Is it to decide salary review, to figure out where to invest in development, to provide recognition, or to provide your team with support and direction?
  • What are your organisation’s values about how people should be managed and supported?
  • How much management time is reasonable to invest in this process? Consider effort against payoff

And don’t just kill what you have now because someone else has said it is outdated.

If you want to discuss your performance management process, or find out how we can help your managers develop the confidence to manage performance then call us on 020 7978 1516 or get in touch by email.

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...