Top tips for conducting an appraisal

Every member of staff should have an appraisal but, in 2017, the NHS Staff Survey found that not everyone did. Regardless of how busy your practice is, it’s important to find time to reflect on what’s going well and what can be improved. We look at what resources are available to help you manage and improve your annual staff appraisals

The 2017 NHS Staff Survey found that 86.6% of staff had had an appraisal in the last year, with most happy with the process. That’s a slow and steady increase on previous years but it still means that over 13% of all staff didn’t receive any feedback on their performance at all.

An appraisal is your opportunity to chat with each member of staff about their performance – including what’s going well and what can be improved. It’s also a chance to identify areas for development, setting objectives that can support them to grow as a person and to increase the capability of the team. Regardless of how pressurised things are, it’s important to spend some time focusing on the individual.

NHS Employers has created a range of materials that can help you get the most out of your appraisals, with useful advice that can help you improve the process for you and the employee.

  • Prepare. Both appraiser and appraise should prepare for the meeting in advance.
  • Pre-book. The date, time and venue of the meeting should be pre-booked, allowing enough time to ensure both parties can prepare for the meeting. If things have to be moved, then ensure you find a suitable date quickly to avoid missing the appraisal altogether.
  • Venue. The venue should be suitable for the meeting. Key considerations should be privacy, confidentiality and freedom from interruptions (unless clinically unavoidable).
  • Dialogue. An appraisal is not about the appraiser telling the person how they have performed over the review period. Dialogue between the two parties has to take place, with both having equal opportunity and freedom to input and express their views.
  • Paperwork. The meeting itself is not the place to be completing appraisal paperwork; this should be done after the meeting. Any paperwork or documentation that will be required during the meeting – such as details of a course or training programme, KSF handbook, previous period’s appraisal documents etc. – should be taken into the meeting by either the appraiser or the employee to ensure the meeting is not interrupted by searching for them.
  • Recording. After the meeting has taken place the outcomes should be transferred onto the relevant short or long form appraisal document, signed by both parties and recorded on the ESR system within ten days of the meeting. A copy of the signed paperwork should be filed on the employee’s personnel file, with a copy given to them for their own records.


Objective-setting is a key element of a good appraisal. Objectives should be set for both performance and personal development. As a rule of thumb, the lower-banded the job, the more closely linked to the job description the performance objectives will be.

Performance objectives should be linked to personal development to ensure learning is embedded. If it is agreed that the employee will attend a particular course to develop a new skill six months into the review period, the use of that skill should feature in the performance objectives some time after that date.

NHS Employers recommends that performance objectives should be set using the SMART method, which will be familiar to most managers:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time constrained

One completed, appraisals and objectives should be saved somewhere securely to be reviewed when necessary. If there are problems with performance, it’s useful to have appraisals to hand demonstrating to the employee and others what previous discussions have taken place, and what expectations have been established.

Contrary to some opinions, there is no legal requirement to conduct appraisals but there is a moral duty – to the individual and the organisation.

To view the complete range of materials produced by NHS Employers visit the main website.

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