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Appraising the appraisers: Getting the most out of performance management

Performance management can offer organisations much more than just a way of assessing rewards and bonuses based on an employee's productivity. A well-run appraisal system gives staff a better idea about the planned goals, direction and objectives of the business. It will help employees understand what's expected of them and give them a guiding hand in how to prioritise their work according to the overall aims of the organisation.

But the appraisal system itself needs regular appraisal if it's going to be successful. The results will only be as good as the scheme that's being operated. Senior managers must be committed to the system and devote proper training and resources to the people who have to carry out appraisals. Schemes fail when managers put appraisals on a low priority and don't give them the attention they deserve. For this reason, it's often worthwhile to appraise a manager's own performance of undertaking appraisals. In return, their feedback could highlight any problems that are affecting the proper running of a scheme.

A performance management system needs to be monitored and modified to take account of any changes in the organisation. Developments in new technology, products, organisation size, skills and occupational groupings may need to be reflected in an updated system.

An appraisal scheme that is not running on all cylinders can have more serious implications. Employees dismissed on grounds of inadequate performance and who subsequently complain of unfair dismissal may point to their appraisal record if it shows little or no indication of unsatisfactory performance. This is more likely to happen if objectives haven't properly been set out, review meetings are skipped, and managers have ducked the awkwardness of bringing up an employee's weaknesses.

Acas offers comprehensive training on Performance management, including how to conduct appraisals effectively. Acas has also published the How to manage performance, which is full of information on all stages of developing an effective performance management system.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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