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How to Use Employee Performance Appraisals to Facilitate Employee Growth & Development (Guest Post)

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One of the important roles for managers and leaders is to support the growth and development of their employees. One of the chief tools they use for this is the employee performance appraisal. But because they often misuse or underuse this important performance management process, it fails to achieve its goal – fostering employee high performance. Instead, it becomes a tedious, dreaded task that often discourages, rather then encourages employees.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some basic things you can do as a manager to ensure your performance appraisals facilitate your employees’ growth and development. But before you choose the employee for appraisal, ensure that you are appraising the right one. According to the check people, preference must be given to employees with the cleanest DBS record. 

Foster Self-Awareness

We know from research that real personal change comes from self-awareness. Telling your employee about a behavior they need to change or a skill they need to further develop won’t result in change. The employee has to first acknowledge the need for change and understand the roots of their behavior. You can foster this self-awareness with a couple of simple tools: performance journals and self-appraisals.

Performance journaling helps the employee record details of their performance highs, lows and milestones on a regular basis. Keeping track of these details while they’re fresh in their minds makes it easier to generate a summary when annual performance appraisal time comes around. But it also encourages them to reflect on what they’ve done and how they’ve done it, and communicate that. This kind of reflection and journaling fosters better self-awareness and can help identify trends or patterns that open their eyes to a need for change.

In a similar way, self-appraisals invite self-reflection: How did I perform on key competencies? How well did I achieve my goals? How would I rate my performance? Where are there opportunities for development? What goals should I set for next year? These are important questions that everyone needs to face if they want to change and improve. Self-appraisals also give the employee an important voice in the process. Their perspective is being sought first, before their manager completes their appraisal. It’s much easier to receive feedback from another when we’ve first been heard.

Do Root Cause Analysis

When discussing your employee’s performance with them, whether the performance is stellar or comes up short, it’s always important to do some root cause analysis to understand the underlying and influencing factors. These are the things you need to either replicate or change in order to foster growth and development. Discuss things like:

  • What work ignites your passion?
  • What kinds of people do you work best with?
  • What are the “conditions” that support your success or happiness?
  • What are the “conditions” under which you struggle?
  • What work/people open up new avenues for creativity?
  • Have you learned new skills or applied old ones in a new way?
  • What would you have done differently?

And with each question, probe “why”. This kind of discussion foster the deeper self-awareness that can underpin true change, but it also gives both the manager and employee greater insight into what is needed to help the employee succeed and be their best. Armed with this knowledge, you can both work to recreate the conditions needed for high performance.

Encourage Development

Performance appraisals ultimately have little impact on employee performance if they don’t include employee development planning. Simply rating someone’s performance doesn’t engender change. You need to put development plans in place to help further develop the employee’s knowledge, skills and experience. This should be done to further develop areas of strength as well as to address performance gaps. Development shouldn’t only be remedial; it should focus primarily on growth.

You should also invite your employee to reflect on and identify their preferred learning style, and look for development activities that suit that style. Think beyond traditional training courses to include a variety of learning activities like job shadowing, reading, podcasts, volunteer activities, mentoring, on the job training given by another employee, webinars, etc. For example, if an employee hates reading, and learns best by doing, don’t assign them books to read; look for on the job training experiences or hands-on learning activities for them. That way you set them up for success.


Employee performance appraisals done well can be an invaluable tool to help facilitate employee growth and development. It just takes the right perspective and focus.

Sean Conrad, Halogen Software

Sean Conrad is a Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, a market leading vendor of performance appraisal solutions. He’s passionate about is helping managers adopt talent management best practices that foster employee high-performance.  For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen blog, and to learn more about best practices visit Halogen’s Talent Management Centers of Excellence.

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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