Guideline: how to organise an appraisal successfully

At most companies, once a year it rolls around: the appraisal. It’s normal that employees feel nervous, but unnecessary.

With the right preparation and a positive and active attitude to the discussion during the meeting, that queasy feeling can be quickly curtailed. It's good to know what you can expect to face in the meeting and how you can use the discussion with your boss optimally. Your superior’s feedback will help you to carry out your work even better and more effectively. You’ll find some tips how to successfully organise this obligatory meeting here.


Good reasons: why are appraisals carried out?

The thing that makes most employees nervous with regards to the appraisal is the fear of the unknown. That’s why it’s logical to know when and for what reasons appraisals are carried out.
In most companies, appraisals take place once a year. These meetings are often held at the start of the year. Along with the annual appraisal, there are irregularly held meetings that focus on individual topics, such as your performance in specific projects or your growth opportunities in the company.

See the annual appraisal as a big opportunity for you. Along with an assessment of your performance, it also serves to encourage and motivate employees. You will receive feedback for your work that shows you what you do well and where you can improve. Your boss assesses your work results and evaluates your behaviour in the last work year. You can take a position on things yourself too: What are you happy with? What would you change?

In short: the purpose of appraisals is to improve performance and mood.

Content and procedure: what is the appraisal about?

During the discussion, you will discuss your past, present and future in the company with your superior. Usually, the discussion is divided chronologically. Many companies provide appraisal guidelines in order ensure consistency in the evaluation of employees.

First you will talk to your manager about your performance to date. How do you get along working with colleagues and superiors, what successes can you show and what might not have met expectations? If you have already had an appraisal in the company, you usually compare the goals achieved with the goals set at the previous meeting. Using the appraisal report from the previous year, you can prepare for this well. Do give reasons if goals have not been achieved and make sure to identity goals to correct this. Along with assessment of your level of performance, your boss will evaluate soft factors. They will give you feedback on your social competencies such as team skills, communications skills, ability to deal with criticism, motivation or how you organise your work.

The subsequent look at the present will focus on how happy you are in the company. Do you feel sufficiently supported by your superiors? Are you happy with your current tasks? Think about these questions. In these talks, things that are new or surprising for your manager often come to light. If possible, agree to a follow-up meeting in which individual points can be discussed in peace and quiet. But your boss also had the opportunity to provide feedback: are they happy with your motivation and behaviour?

The comparison between the past and the present leads to the future: what are your goals for the next year? Realistic and measurable goals should be agreed upon here. You should also discuss what kind of support you need to reach these goals and what prerequisites must be met. This is important for your evaluation at the next appraisal. Especially if this is linked to a bonus or the next step in your career.
At the end, you should take the opportunity to discuss your personal development goals. What are you prospects in the company? How can you improve how you work together? Which specific development measures or training courses do you want to pursue? You should also use the opportunity to talk about the subject of a pay rise. Especially if you have achieved or surpassed the agreed goals and your boss has given you very good feedback, it is a good time for successful negotiations.

Use your initiative: how do you have a successful discussion?

Your boss has just as much of an interest in the appraisal going well as you do. Although they play the ‘host’ and are responsible for steering the discussion in general. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute to the success of the discussion. Make sure that you are informed about the meeting sufficiently early. Because the basis of a successful appraisal is good preparation. It is therefore worth it to already collect achievements and ideas, as well as problems, in writing throughout the year. The better prepared you go into the discussion, the more you can contribute yourself. This applies especially to your development in the company. The rule here is: make specific suggestions to your boss instead of waiting from input from their side. For example, propose further training measures you would like to participate in.

However, an appraisal also has its limits. It’s not a good idea to collect all the issues and problems from the entire year for this one meeting. If acting fast is important, you must speak to your superior as soon as possible and not wait for the next appraisal.

Checklist for a successful appraisal

We’ve summarised the most important tips for a successful appraisal again here:

  • Organise the meeting early: Usually, your superior will invite you to the meeting. This should be communicated early enough for you to have enough time for preparation.
  • Good preparation: Put together a list with successes, potential improvements and ideas for development.
  • Relaxed atmosphere in the discussion: Make sure you have as little stress as possible before the meeting and have enough time. Don’t make any important appointments directly before or afterwards!
  • Active participation in the discussion: List your successes, propose possible improvements and have a wish list with your desired further training options ready.
  • The tone of the discussion: Be specific, but stay polite. You will be most convincing if you present figures based on facts: for example, the turnover that has been achieved through your work.
  • Ask for an assessment: Ask your superior to give you a clear opinion on your work performance.
  • Don’t make any rushed statements: If you are confronted with unexpected criticism or an offer, ask for time to give a response or an answer.
  • Report: Make sure that the most important points from the discussion are written down.
  • Fixed agreements: Clearly define most importantly goals and courses of actions in writing and have both sides sign this.