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How to Conduct an Employee Performance Appraisal Meeting

At one point or another in the process of creating an employee performance appraisal process, you have to address the “people” component — what should happen when managers and employees sit down together or otherwise meet for the purpose of discussing the employees’ actual performance review.

The one thing you can’t afford to do is assume that this aspect of the process will simply take care of itself. The truth is, very few managers have ever been trained to conduct an effective performance appraisal session. So, although your managers may be responsible for what happens during the session, you and your HR colleagues are responsible for making sure that they’re prepared for the challenge.

How to prepare for an employee evaluation meeting

Managers should be thoroughly briefed on what they need to do prior to holding a performance appraisal session. The key point to emphasize is to be ready — don’t wait until the last minute before thinking about how the meeting will be handled. Managers should have a clear idea before the meeting begins of what specific behaviors will be the focal point of the session. Other points to stress include the following:

  • Give employees enough time to prepare for the session.

  • Allot enough time to conduct a productive session.

  • Have all documentation ready prior to the meeting and thoroughly review it.

  • Choose a suitable place for the meeting. It should be private, quiet, and relaxing, and allow you to meet with no interruptions.

  • Recognize that the goal of the meeting is not to just review the written appraisal with employees but also to engage in a two-way dialogue with them on their performance so it can be either sustained or improved.

Also, you may want to role-play how to respond to difficult or hostile questions with the manager or supervisor who will be conducting performance evaluations (for example, “I want to respond to your question, but I don’t want to give you inaccurate information, so I’ll look into that and get back to you promptly after our meeting ends”).

How to conduct the employee evaluation session

If more than a handful of managers will be involved in your performance appraisal process, think about setting up training sessions for them on how to conduct an effective appraisal session. Whether you conduct this training yourself or bring in an outside company, here are the points that should be stressed:

  • The appraisal meeting should always be a two-way conversation, not a one-way lecture. Feedback should be honest and genuine.

  • Positives should always be emphasized before negatives are discussed.

  • Emphasis should be on what needs to be done to improve and not what was done wrong.

  • Employees should be encouraged to comment on any observation managers share with them.

  • Managers should know how to explain to employees the difference between effort (how hard employees are working) and quality results (whether the results of those efforts are contributing significantly to business objectives).

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