What is the Purpose of Appraisals in Your Organisation?

In: BlogDate: Sep 08, 2020By: Billy Burgess

After 16 years of working in HR, Sophie Bryan has found that appraisals are often used to keep evidence in case things go wrong, rather than to really improve staff performance and develop them as a person.

In this two-minute video from the 2018 Happy Workplaces Conference, Sophie asks, what would happen if your focus was to give feedback to your team in real time, and dig deeper with your questions – or if you scrapped the appraisals process altogether?

Hi, we are Happy

We are leading a movement to create happy, empowered and productive workplaces.

How can we help you and your people to find joy in at least 80% of your work?

More about Happy

What is the Purpose of Appraisals in Your Organisation?

Okay so the first one is around curiosity and for me that is just the questioning. It is wanting to have the insight about what's really happening to people around you, what they really feel about their work environment and also what is happening further in their day to day job. Laurence said something absolutely amazing around the appraisal process being bullshit and I absolutely, completely agree. The way we work appraisals is all about the process, it’s all about the policy, it’s all about validating and giving evidence for the way people perform in case things go wrong, in case you need it for a performance tribunal, and having worked in HR for the past 16 years I can attest to that always generally being the case to why we do that.

But what we need to do in performance management is move away from speaking to people once a month or every six months or once a year and telling them at that point how well they’ve performed. Why not do it on time in the time when it happens and give them that feedback, ask them questions there and then about what's happening for them in terms of their performance - rather than waiting for it? What would happen to me in my career?

I cannot tell you how many people would pass through my office, they come to me with this really urgent HR issue and they’d say “Well he’s done this and that, he’s upset this customer.” I’d say let’s talk through the process, what you’re going to do about it – and they’d say “it’s okay because I’ve got his one-to-one coming up in a month’s time.” So it was urgent enough for you to come marching into my office but you just want to rely on the process to be able to have that conversation!

So curiosity for me is about using this appraisal process that we have to dig deeper and to ask questions and also give people an opportunity to share and review what’s really going on for them. So let’s move away from the paperwork and get to really understanding the real people that we’re working with.

Sophie Bryan has been working in HR for more than 15 years. Currently, at Ordinarily Different, she’s the managing director, culture coach and organisational development expert. Ordinarily Different pride themselves on putting the WOW into work – i.e. wellbeing, optimisation and willing.

Sophie knows a lot about coaching cultures and recognises there are many, many definitions. But her 2018 Happy Workplaces speech focuses on just three areas – curiosity, change and learning, and her belief that collaboration is integral to amazing work environments.

Curiosity, for Sophie, is about getting insight into what's happening with the people around you. To this end, she sees the common appraisal process to be entirely ineffectual. “The way we work appraisals is all about the process, it’s all about the policy, it’s all about validating and giving evidence for the way people perform in case things go wrong,” says Sophie.

Rather than regimented, biannual or yearly appraisals, Sophie advocates for offering performance feedback in the moment, as things happen. The former method shows a lack of curiosity – by sticking to procedure, opportunities to ask questions and learn what’s really happening are wasted.

“Curiosity for me is about using this appraisal process that we have to dig deeper and to ask questions and also give people an opportunity to share and review what’s really going on for them,” says Sophie. By moving away from paperwork and procedural trifles, we can grow our understanding of the real people we’re working with.

Related resources

Keep informed about happy workplaces

Sign up to Henry's monthly Happy Manifesto newsletter, full of tips and inspiration to help you to create a happy, engaged workplace.

Sign up here

Happy Manifesto book cover

Learn the 10 core principles to create a happy and engaged workplace in Henry Stewart's book, the Happy Manifesto.

Download your free eBook

About Sophie

Sophie Bryan has been working in HR for more than 15 years. Currently, she’s the managing director, culture coach and organisational development expert at Ordinarily Different. Ordinarily Different is an organisational development consultancy that prides itself on putting the WOW into work – i.e. wellbeing, optimisation and willing.

Buy recordings from the 2020 Happy Workplaces Conference

This year's conference took place on 30th July via Zoom. We were delighted to welcome James Shaw, a minister in the New Zealand government on putting wellbeing at the heart of policy and Ynzo van Zanten of Tony's Chocolonely on creating a culture of happiness to achieve an important mission (ending slavery in the chocolate industry).

If you missed the event, we are now offering recordings from the day for just £25 per person for individual access. Please ask us for details if you'd like to purchase access for your entire organisation.

Find out more and buy the recordings