Services for Young Children

Performance appraisals

Even if you only have a small team, it is important to make time for regular review meetings. Staff need to be informed not only if they make mistakes or do unsatisfactory work but also when they are doing well. Knowing that your efforts are appreciated can make a great difference to motivation. For this reason, a system of staff appraisal is very important. These meetings can also be termed ‘performance reviews’ ‘performance development reviews’ or ‘personal development reviews’.

What is an appraisal?

  • A chance to clarify objectives and targets.

  • An inclusive two way review of performance using clear objectives.

  • An opportunity for an in depth discussion about training and development needs, areas for improvement and setting a plan for achieving good practice.

  • An ongoing and active process.

It is also an opportunity to:

  • formally acknowledge and celebrate successes

  • create closer working relationships

  • motivate team members and raise morale

  • consider career progression routes and learning opportunities.

The performance appraisal process

There is no one right way to conduct an appraisal, the approach you take will depend on the nature of your business and the people involved. However as a minimum it is helpful to have a form to collect consistent information on each member of staff during the appraisal. This will be useful in guiding the structure and content of the appraisal, but it is important that the process is free-flowing and informal enough that the employee feels they can discuss points that are not necessarily on the form.


The person conducting the appraisal should:

  • consider how well the individual has performed since the last meeting

  • consider to what extent any agreed development plans from the last meeting have been implemented

  • think about the feedback to be given and the evidence that will be used to support it

  • review the factors that have affected performance, both within and outside the individual’s control

  • consider the points for discussion on the possible action that can be taken by both parties to develop or improve performance

  • consider possible directions the individual’s career might take

  • consider the possible objectives for the next review, making sure that any objectives or targets set are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant and time-bound).

The individual or appraisee should consider the following:

  • what they have achieved since the last meeting, with examples and evidence

  • any examples of objectives not achieved with explanations

  • what they most enjoy about the job and how they might develop the role

  • any aspect of the work in which improvement is required and how this might be achieved

  • their learning and development needs with arguments to support their case for specific training

  • what level of support and guidance they require from their manager

  • their aspirations for the future both in their current role and in possible future roles

  • objectives for the next review period.

Copies of the forms should be given to the employee prior to the meeting in order for them to prepare.

The meeting

This should stake place at a mutually convenient time with plenty of notice to allow both the manager and employee adequate time to prepare and think about what they might want to discuss. These meetings typically last over an hour, so allow at least that long for proper discussions to take place. Choose a suitably quiet and private room ensuring you will not be disturbed and where there will be no distractions.

A good and constructive appraisal meeting is one where:

  • appraisees do most of the talking

  • appraisers listen actively to what they say

  • there is scope for reflection and analysis

  • performance is analysed, not personality

  • the whole period is reviewed and not just recent or isolated events

  • achievement is recognised and reinforced

  • the end is positive with agreed action plans.

A poor appraisal meeting:

  • focuses on a catalogue of failures and omissions

  • is controlled by the appraiser

  • ends with disagreement between appraiser and appraisee.

The tone of the meeting should be:

  • constructive

  • encouraging

  • open

  • collaborative.

Appraisal pitfalls

These include:

  • getting off to a bad start – never start the meeting with a controversial point

  • immediately making judgements – let the appraisee talk openly and encourage self-assessment of perceived weaknesses

  • being to general

  • not attending to the person emotionally

  • communication breakdown and conflict

  • bringing up issues from the past.

Tips on giving criticism:

  • look for positives to present a balanced view

  • check that your criticism is about specific behaviour and is not personal

  • be clear about your possible contribution to the situation

  • introduce the topic and ask for their view first

  • be honest

  • invite a response and listen carefully

  • be attentive to body language and emotions

  • ask for suggestions to bring about desired change and what support you need to give.

Appraisal skills

Ideally any managers that carry out appraisals should have training, this involves asking the right questions, listening actively and providing feedback. Contact the Early Education and Childcare Unit to find out what training is available.

Asking the right questions

Similarly to when you are interviewing, you should ensure that you ask open and probing questions. These enable people to decide how they should be answering and encourages them to talk freely. Open questions start with: how, what, when, who or why. Probing questions dig deeper for more specific information on what was said. They show support for the individuals answer and can be used to reflect back or check information. Examples include:

  • Interesting. Tell me more about…?

  • To what extent do you think that…?

  • Do you mean that…?

Good listeners:

  • concentrate on the speaker and are aware of behaviour and body language that may supplement what is being said

  • respond quickly when necessary but don’t interrupt

  • ask relevant questions to clarify meaning

  • comment on points to demonstrate understanding but keep them short and do not inhibit the flow of the speaker.

Example performance appraisal form 1 Download Acrobat Reader to view this PDF 73kb

Example performance appraisal form 2 Download Acrobat Reader to view this PDF 73kb

Next page - Section 11: Staff motivation