Even if traditional appraisals aren’t right for you, every organisation should have some kind of system in place, says Phil Cookson

The role of performance management, and whether it fits into the modern workplace, has been the subject of much discussion recently. A change in tone has sparked debate as to whether it is an unnecessary process, or should be integral to a company’s culture.

Appraisals are a somewhat traditional management procedure. They were historically put in place to justify an employee’s salary. Nowadays, appraisals are, or should be, much more closely linked to a business’s corporate objectives, and whether an employee is meeting them as part of their role.

Because performance management is not a statutory process, many companies see appraisals as generating additional paperwork, expense and pressure on those carrying them out in a world where time is becoming increasingly precious. This doesn’t always have to be the case, though, if they are performed efficiently. Like other processes, they should be enforced frequently, consistently and as part of a manager’s daily function.

Appraisals document an employee’s performance, with each referring to a previous review to determine whether it has improved or declined. This is measured through objectives set during each appraisal to ensure an employee has goals to achieve, and continues to be, and feels like, a valuable member of staff.

Changes to state pension guidelines and the removal of a default retirement age in 2011 will see employees retiring at a later age and ends employers’ ability to avoid addressing poor performance, safe in the knowledge that an employee will retire at 65.

Benchmarking

For companies to be productive, innovative and competitive, they need to ensure all members of staff are performing to the best of their ability – and meeting the criteria set as part of their roles’ objectives.

Effective appraisals give organisations benchmarks on how employees are carrying out their duties. If, for some reason, performance is not to the required standard, it can be documented as part of the performance management process. If an employee becomes a detriment to the company, management can then refer to this and, if necessary, begin the disciplinary process.

Measuring employees’ performance ensures those who are taken down the disciplinary route are not able to accuse a company of discrimination, which can be costly and damaging to an organisation. Keeping in regular contact with all members of staff, setting clear and fair objectives, and monitoring whether these have been met are vital to ensure businesses only employ people who can fulfil their roles.

Organisations that do not carry out appraisals still need to supervise employees well. Effective managers must be consistent, and put more time into making sure they are aware of how each person is performing. If this is not recorded, companies are putting themselves at risk of backlash from employees who are disciplined.

Performance management should be a priority for any well-run and efficient organisation. Appraisals are an ideal way in which to document and record performance, and are likely to provide useful evidence where things are not working so well.

While many see appraisals as an administrative burden, if used properly, they should prove to be a useful tool in managers’ tool kits. After all, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to appraisals, and they should be adapted to suit the requirements of each business.

Phil Cookson is a partner at Roythornes Solicitors