by Kate Russell

Preparing for the appraisal meeting

Begin to prepare well before the date of the appraisal meeting. The preparation process involves review and data gathering, holding a preliminary meeting with the employee, and employee preparation of a self-appraisal. This may seem like a lot of work, but just remember how important the appraisal meeting is for the person being appraised.

Step 1

Before meeting with the employee, take a look at his job description and work record for the review cycle. Go back over your observations, your notes and the previous performance appraisal. Obtain performance feedback from people with whom the employee has worked (including direct reports, if appropriate). This is important information to have when evaluating the customer service and teamwork aspects of an employee’s job. Where customer service is a key part of the job, feedback from customers may also be sought. Locate any supporting information.

In weighing up the employee’s performance, and for each essential function, task, annual goal or strategic initiative to be appraised, there are three key questions to consider.

  1. How does the level of performance compare with the performance standards for this function, task, goal, or initiative?
  2. How was the level of performance confirmed? (What did you see the employee doing? What do analytical reports or work products show?)
  3. What were the consequences, results and impact of the performance?

There may be other aspects of the appraisal process to be taken into account.

  • Consider to what extent any agreed development plans from the last meeting have been implemented.
  • Think about the feedback to be given at the meeting and the evidence that will be used to support it.
  • Review the factors that have affected performance, both those within and those outside the individual’s control.
  • Note down the points for discussion on the possible actions that might be taken by both parties to develop or improve performance.
  • Consider possible directions the individual’s career might take.
  • Consider possible objectives for the next review period.

Step 2

Prepare your comments in draft form to be discussed during the formal performance appraisal meeting with the employee. In your discussion with the employee and review of his self-appraisal, you may learn new information, or be reminded of previous information, which might cause you to revise your assessment. The final draft will be prepared and given to the employee after the formal meeting and discussions have taken place.

If, during the review cycle, the employee reported to more than one manager, it is appropriate to ask the other managers for input into the appraisal. Before including any information in an appraisal that indicates there was a performance problem, ask the previous manager if the information about the problem has been shared with the employee.

Step 3

Give the employee advance notice of the performance appraisal so that he has the chance to review and prepare.

He should consider the following points:

  • What he has achieved during the review period, with examples and evidence
  • Any examples of objectives not achieved, with explanations
  • What he most enjoys about the job and how he might want to develop the role
  • Any aspect of the work in which improvement is required and how this might be achieved
  • His learning and development needs, combined with arguments to support his case for specific training
  • The level of support and guidance he requires from you
  • His aspirations for the future, both in the current role and in possible future roles
  • His objectives for the next review period.

Step 4

Before you write or deliver the formal performance appraisal, hold a preliminary meeting with the employee in private.

At this meeting, explain or review what will happen during the appraisal process and review the relevant forms. Do this even if you have appraised the employee’s performance in the past. Review his job description and the department’s strategic goals with the employee. Discuss and decide which essential functions and strategic initiatives (for which the employee is responsible) should be appraised for the period. Some functions or initiatives may not have figured prominently in the employee’s role for the appraisal period, so appraisal in those areas may not be necessary or significant.

Step 5

Close the meeting by scheduling a second meeting for the formal appraisal meeting.


Appraisal meetings are very important to the appraisee. Do everything you reasonably can to keep the agreed time and date.

A postponement is often taken as a signal by the employee that they are not valued by you, or the organisation.

Self appraisal

Invite the employee to prepare a written self-appraisal, if these are used in your organisation. A self-appraisal may be used as the basis of discussion during the formal appraisal process. You have two options: either to receive the self-appraisal at the preliminary meeting, so that you will have it prior to preparing your draft, or to receive the self-appraisal at the time you review your draft with the employee, for purposes of comparison. After discussing it with the employee, you may use the self-appraisal to inform the final version of the appraisal.

The self-appraisal is a valuable tool through which to discover the employee’s perspective on their own performance during the review cycle, as well as to identify interests related to goals and career development initiatives.