Appraisal is at the heart of career development, which is itself at the heart of a good place to work. As well as annual appraisals, many of the award-winning and shortlisted companies in Best Places to Work in IT2005 did more and were adamant that investing in good appraisal methodology gave handsome returns in getting the best out of their staff and letting employees get the best out of their jobs.
At corporate services firm Hogg Robinson, performance reviews are designed to identify personal development and training needs. This ensures immediate objectives are met and employees are prepared for future career opportunities. All performance reviews are logged on a central tracking system to ensure they are being carried out and followed up.
Communications consultancy Fishburn Hedges is committed to avoiding a steep hierarchy. There is no formal line management; instead each member of the IT staff is mentored by a "personal manager" who looks after their interests and advises them about career development and training.
Kingston Communications is an advocate of biannual appraisals and additional quarterly performance reviews. It has also extended its balanced scorecard and benchmarking assessment to its staff, as part of its ISO9001 accreditation.
At construction and project management firm Mace, IT manager Brian Pearson said, "It is my practice to tell every new joiner to the IT team that it is in their hands to shape their career at Mace. Everyone has an annual appraisal when they discuss their goals for the following year. Both I and the company place great importance on trying to ensure those aspirations are fulfilled."
Tips for effective appraisals
- Annual appraisals may be too infrequent. Monitor staff performance quarterly or monthly
- More frequent appraisals are necessary at times of change
- Find the right balance between formality and informality
- Adapt comprehensive benchmarking systems, such as balanced scorecards
- Include key 'soft' skills, such as customer relationship and negotiation skills
- Check the effectiveness of performance monitoring and follow up the findings of assessments
- Appraisal should be two-way and career-enabling
- Comprehensive appraisals must be budgeted for in cost and time.