Appraisals on the increase


Growing numbers of employees can expect to have their work assessed more frequently than in the past. While annual appraisals are still the norm, over a third of now carry out six-monthly reviews, a new survey has found.

The study of 145 UK employers by IRS Employment Review found that more than half the organisations surveyed (55 per cent) conduct appraisals annually, a third run them at six-monthly intervals, and seven per cent quarterly.

Compared with the same survey in 2003, however, it is clear that more frequent appraisals are on the rise.

Then, seven in 10 respondents carried out annual reviews, fewer than a fifth ran them at six-monthly intervals and just four per cent quarterly. A handful of employers use other types of schedules for appraisals.

But where an employee's performance is of concern, just under half the employers surveyed arrange more frequent review sessions. These are also more common in the first year or two after an employee joins the organisation and for newly promoted employees.

The survey forms the second half of a two-part IRS Employment Review report on appraisals. This takes a detailed look at the processes and evaluation methods used by UK organisations and explore some of the issues that can arise.

IRS also found that around half the respondents use competencies to measure performance, and nine out of 10 measure accomplishments against objectives or goals. Fewer than half use numerical scores to rate individual staff. Self-appraisal forms part of the process at nine out of 10 organisations.

Although the link between appraisals and pay is rarely a major reason for setting up an appraisal scheme, half the organisations surveyed use the results to help decide pay rises and almost a third to determine bonuses.

Six in 10 use the information to help with succession planning and a similar number to plan promotions.

Almost all employers offer training for appraisers, usually on a one-off basis, but managers in 13 per cent of organisations receive regular training. Formal training is provided in six out of 10 organisations, while and three-quarters say their appraisers are encouraged to use coaching techniques during the appraisal interview.

Appraisal continue to be a source of friction, however, with one in three employers admitting it caused problems, most commonly disagreement between a manager and appraisee about negative feedback or the way a review was handled.

Four out of 10 employers insisted that they had no problems with their appraisal system, but more than a quarter admitted that they did not know.

"Appraisals are central to company productivity. When managers have a good system to work with and implement it effectively, they can help improve both individual and organisational performance," said IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said.

"But all too often things go wrong – so it is essential to keep any appraisal scheme under review. Our research shows that HR departments are well aware of this, with almost half those we spoke to planning to introduce changes in the near future."