Using performance appraisals as springboards to development

The end of the year is fast upon us – and in most companies that means it’s time for annual performance appraisals. Sadly these performance appraisals have in many cases deteriorated into tiresome rituals of duty. Standard phrases are pasted in, salary raises are fought over laboriously.

In the forefront of your employees‘ minds are two burning questions:

  • Where am I? (performance)
  • Where am I going? (development)

If these two questions are treated in a single discussion, your employee will quickly become demotivated: Too little time is spent focusing on the specific items cited in the assessment and the statements have a reciprocal influence on each other. The fact that feedback is given mostly from the point of view of the superior and typically in the form of standard, non-differentiated utterances, soon makes the discussion irritating for the employee. Benefit? Forget it!

That’s why I consider it advisable the two parts of the appraisal, performance and development, are kept apart. And I would recommend holding two separate interviews – ideally one mid-year, one at the end of the year or set at any other appropriate point in time – as required.


Performance appraisal, end of year:

  • Where is my employee at the moment? What went well? What could be improved?

Development appraisal – mid-year:

  • Where is my employee headed? How would the employee like to develop?


Both appraisals require thorough preparation – particularly on the part of the employee. Several questions should be clarified prior to the talk. That’s the only way to arrive at concrete results from which to draw joint conclusions and take joint decisions about the future. To give a 360 degree review, include feedback from peers or even customers and external partners. This feedback can be gathered in the form of a questionnaire or an app-based appraisal platform.

Questions should be addressed from the point of view of the employee:

Assessment of performance:

Feedback from colleagues or even customers and external partners should be included. This feedback can be given, for example, in the form of a questionnaire or an app-based assessment platform.

  • Questions such as: What is my role like? What should my role be?
  • How would I rate the quality of my work? How do I measure quality of work?
  • What goals do I identify for the organization? How can I contribute to achieving these goals?

Discuss these questions in the context of your own assessment and that of other employees. A bonus should be offered on the basis of the conclusions reached in the discussion.


Assessment of development:

  • Where do my strengths lie? How do I judge my strengths? How can I leverage my strengths better?
  • Do I have some weak points? What can I do to address these?

Discuss these results with your employee at the appraisal – again in the context of your own assessment and that of other employees. On the basis of conclusions reached in this discussion, come to a joint decision about where potential lies and what the next steps to be taken are.


Separating performance and development appraisals is, in my opinion, the secret of success. Your employees feel that you have respected them; they will be motivated by the appraisal and thus show more commitment to their work – the success of the organization goes without saying.

What are your experiences of employee appraisals? Do you conduct two assessment sessions or only one? How effective is your approach?


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