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Are staff performance appraisals really necessary?

Updated: Jun 7

I want to tell you two stories about carrying out formal performance appraisal, review or supervision in two different types of organisations.  Both organisations employ 18 people, one is a childcare pre-school, and the other is a marketing agency.


Little Leapers Pre-school


In the small town of Blissfield, there was a popular pre-school called Little Leapers.  Known for its nurturing environment and dedicated staff, the pre-school was a second home to many children, and parents trusted the pre-school’s outstanding Ofsted reputation for quality care. However, one staff member, Molly, struggled with managing the children's behaviour. Unfortunately, the pre-school's owner, Amanda, found it difficult to address this issue and had difficulty giving constructive feedback during performance reviews.


On a sunny morning, Molly entered Amanda’s office for her supervision. The room was filled with children's artwork and colourful posters promoting positive reinforcement. Amanda greeted Molly with a warm smile and began the meeting.


"Molly, you're doing great! The children love you, and your activities are so creative," Amanda praised. While Molly beamed with pride, Amanda hesitated to bring up the recurring issues with Molly's behaviour management of the pre-school children.


Amanda mentioned in passing, "Just keep an eye on the children's behaviour. We want to make sure everyone is engaged and following the golden rules." However, she failed to provide specific examples or offer guidance on how Molly could improve.


Molly, unaware of her shortcomings, believed she was excelling in all aspects of her job. She left the review with a false sense of confidence, never realizing the impact her lack of behaviour management had on the children's actions.


As time went on, parents grew concerned about the increasing chaos in the pre-school room. The children became more unruly, and occupancy at Little Leapers began to decline. Amanda knew she had to address the situation, but it was too late, as the new September term started next week.


The once-popular pre-school nursery saw a significant drop in attendance, and parents searched for alternative childcare settings in the area. If only Amanda had provided honest and constructive feedback during Molly's performance review, Little Leapers could have maintained its outstanding reputation.


The story of Little Leapers and Molly is a fictional story, but a reminder that even in the most cheerful environments, clear communication, and timely feedback are essential. Providing honest performance reviews can help employees grow and prevent potential issues before they escalate.

For an actual case study, Personnel Today explain the story of the head baker at Leakers that led to an employment tribunal...

'A baker who was dismissed from his job because his bread had too many holes in has been awarded more than £15,000 in compensation because his employer did not adequately inform him about its performance concerns.'

To read the full article, click this link:


Creative Clan Marketing


In the town of Grayville, there was a small marketing agency called Creative Clan. Despite its potential, the company struggled due to the inept management style of its manager, Tom. Unskilled in the art of communication and feedback, Tom conducted performance reviews that left employees feeling disheartened and undervalued.


Jane, a talented graphic designer, was scheduled for her performance review. She nervously entered Tom's office, which was stark and uninviting, much like his personality.


"Jane," Tom began gruffly, "I have concerns about your work." He launched into a tirade of criticism, citing problems with Jane's designs and deadlines without providing specific examples or acknowledging her contributions.


Feeling ambushed, Jane attempted to interject, "I'm sorry to hear that. Could you please clarify which projects you're referring to?" Her question was met with a dismissive wave.


Tom proceeded to lecture Jane on the importance of meeting expectations without offering any guidance or support. The meeting ended abruptly, leaving Jane in tears and doubting her abilities.


In the following weeks, Jane's morale plummeted, and her work suffered. Creative Clan' clients began to notice the decline in quality and slowly took their business elsewhere. The agency's reputation crumbled under Tom's ineffective leadership.


As time passed, Creative Clan became a cautionary tale in Grayville's business community, highlighting the importance of skilled management and effective communication. It reminded other business leaders that valuing employees' input and providing constructive feedback were crucial for maintaining a healthy, successful workplace.


In the end, Tom's incompetence and inability to conduct fair performance reviews led to the agency's downfall. Had he fostered open communication and mutual respect, Creative Clan could have been a thriving, successful agency like others in the town.


Both these stories are fictional but based upon the managers and owners I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. 


We see two extremes in these stories, The pre-school owner who isn’t confident to provide constructive feedback and Tom the manager who launches straight for the problems and criticism.

Other considerations whilst carrying out performance reviews are to ensure they are adapted to meet your peoples needs.

An article in Personnel Today explains...


'Three-quarters of employers do not adapt their performance management systems for staff with disabilities or conditions such as dyslexia and autism, according to ACAS.'

To read the full article, click this link:



To help carryout performance reviews, appraisals, supervisions or whatever your organisation chooses to call a formal review, let’s first look at why they are important.


Why performance reviews are important:


The system of performance reviews will provide the means for you and your team member to jointly review their performance and in doing so it will:


  • help improve your employee's future job performance by identifying strengths and areas for improvement, and determining how strengths can best be utilised and how weaknesses can be improved.

  • help reveal problems which may be restricting your employee's progress and causing inefficient work practices.

  • encourage regular dialogue between yourself and your team about their work performance which will result in improved communications and clearer direction.

  • develop a greater degree of consistency by ensuring that you and your people meet formally and regularly to discuss performance and potential issues.

  • assist succession planning and determine suitability of staff for promotion.

  • move away from us reacting to an event into preparing for the event.


The purpose of performance reviews is to:


  • ensure an understanding and awareness of the individual/business objectives and the barriers preventing their achievement.

  • develop a knowledge and agreement of what is expected of individuals and how their contribution fits into the organisation.

  • review the individual's performance, giving a formal opportunity to discuss progress and identify improvements and build on strengths.

  • review potential development needs and to predict the employee's future capabilities and how these can be developed.

  • review progression and to assess the employee's eligibility to achieve promotion.

  • develop individuals so that job satisfaction and job performance is maximised, thus increasing effectiveness and efficiency resulting in the provision of an improved service for our clients/customers.

  • ensure we use our workforce in the most effective way.


The eight do’s and don’ts of conducting a performance review




1. Be prepared

Familiarise yourself with the employee's performance, goals, and achievements before the review.


2. Set a positive tone

Begin with positive feedback and recognition of the employee's strengths and contributions.


3. Use specific examples

Provide detailed examples of the employee's performance to illustrate areas of strength and growth.


4. Invite self-assessment

Encourage the employee to share their perspective on their performance and progress.


5. Focus on development

Discuss opportunities for learning and growth, setting achievable goals and development plans.


6. Provide constructive feedback

Offer clear and actionable feedback for improvement, focusing on specific behaviours and outcomes.


7. Ensure clarity

Communicate job expectations, goals, and performance standards clearly and concisely.


8. Be open-minded

Listen to the employee's input and concerns, creating a dialogue to address any issues.




1. Avoid personal bias

Focus on objective performance measures and avoid personal opinions or biases.


2. Refrain from generalizations

Steer clear of vague or generalised statements, instead using specific examples and data.


3. Don't compare employees

Evaluate each employee's performance individually, without comparing them to their colleagues.


4. Don't make assumptions

Be open to the employee's perspective and ask clarifying questions to understand their point of view.


5. Don't overlook achievements

Ensure you acknowledge and recognise the employee's accomplishments and successes.


6. Avoid surprises

Don't introduce new information or issues during the review; discuss ongoing feedback and address concerns as they arise throughout the year.


7. Don't be overly negative

Avoid dwelling solely on areas for improvement; maintain a balanced perspective of strengths and growth opportunities.


8. Don't rush the process

Allocate adequate time for the performance review to ensure a thoughtful and thorough discussion.


So, are performance appraisals really necessary? The answer isn't a simple yes or no. Traditional, one-size-fits-all reviews can feel dated and ineffective. But the core concept of regular feedback and development conversations is crucial for employee growth and organisational success.

By approaching them with the right mindset and utilising the tips outlined above, you can transform them into valuable opportunities for growth, both for your people and your organisation. 

Remember, clear communication, constructive feedback, and a focus on development will set the stage for a successful review conversation. When used effectively, performance reviews become a powerful tool for boosting employee engagement, motivation, and ultimately, driving overall company success.


If you need advice or support to implement an effective performance management system in your organisation, or have a tricky issue in the team and need an expert help then contact us today, by clicking this link:


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