Small businesses with few employees need to ensure that everyone is performing to the best of their ability in line with the business's goals and targets. A staff appraisal system can stimulate a dialogue between managers and employees that helps align operational performance with strategic goals. If you have an effective staff appraisal system in place, your employees will understand what is expected of them, receive regular feedback on their performance and have an opportunity to highlight their training and developments needs.

A Structured Process

A staff appraisal is a structured discussion between a manager and an employee. Appraisals usually take place annually, with a mid-year review after six months. However, companies should encourage two-way communication between managers and employees throughout the year to ensure that there are no surprises during the appraisal. A manager should not wait for several months before alerting an employee to a performance issue. Nor should they withhold positive feedback until the appraisal. Managers should record the outcome of the appraisal meeting on a form which should be stored in the employee's personnel file.

An Opportunity for Feedback

Part of the appraisal should be spent reviewing the employee's performance over the past year. The manager should provide feedback, both positive and constructive, on the employee's performance. The purpose of this review and feedback is to highlight learning points and identify areas for development. The employee should be encouraged to reflect on why they were successful in some tasks and not in others. Positive behaviors should be praised and reinforced. Negative behaviors should be highlighted so that they can be improved.

A Motivational Tool

During the appraisal, the manager can explain to the employee how the individual's objectives link to the strategic goals and targets of the team and company. When an employee understands how her individual contribution feeds in to the bigger picture, she is more likely to be motivated and inspired to perform to the best of her ability every day. Managers can also highlight potential career development opportunities during the appraisal. This can help to engage and motivate ambitious employees.

Training Needs Analysis

During the appraisal, both the employee and the manager have the opportunity to identify training and development needs of the employee. The employee can make requests for job-related training that will help them improve his performance in the role. If the company has a sufficiently large training budget, training for future roles may be considered at the appraisal, helping the employee to develop the skills and knowledge that will help him secure promotion within the company.