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John Thompson

Greater Manchester Police

Leadership Trainer

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Developing Others


I am about to embark on developing a new appraisal course for the company. 

Historically the perception of appraisals around here is "tick the box" lets move on!  Has anyone got any ideas how I can

re-inforce the importance of the whole appraisal process and make it fun and enjoyable for the delegates?

12 Responses

  1. Highlighting the Benefits


    Where I have had similar issues I have delivered the following activity early on in the workshop:

    Split the delegates into 3 groups.

    Ask one group to come up with the benefits of appraisals to the organisation

    Ask one group to come up with the benefits of appraisals to the appraisee

    Ask one group to come up with the benefits of the appraisal to the appraiser

    Discuss the results.

    I have found this effective in helping people understand why appraisals are beneficial and therefore why they deserve to be done well. I usually also ensure we cover what an appraisal actually is so people move away from the ticking boxes idea.

    Hope this helps


  2. Many thanks


    Thank you for your prompt reply, I use that method in my current training but often find that dependant

    on the level of cynacism in the class I occassionally end up with a very heated discussion,

    which presents a real problem trying to retain/reinforce the positive elements against a back drop of negativity.

    of the delegates.  I will still use it as it is a very useful method but I do really have to try and gauge the

    attitude of the delegates, to avoid this happening.  Have you any thoughts on how I could do this I have thought

    about using the "Bin It" icebreaker to see some of the negative thoughts before we begin training, what do you think? 


  3. Perceptions/Expectations
    As a baggage claim activity, I like to split a group into 2 and ask 1 half ‘what do you think of X ?’. The other half are asked ‘what do you expect from X?’

    Interestingly, most sessions identify common ground and these can be used as a basis to recover difference.

    I’d suggest linking the performance appraisal to the Adair Model. Ask the group what size of circle is represented for the Task, Team, and Individual in the current appraisal system/process. Ask again what size it should be to identify where the priorities of the managers lay.

  4. Help participants understand the objective of Appraisals


    Liked Rosanne’s and Andrew’s comments.

    In my opinion the word ‘appraisal’ is looked at negatively – probably a perception built from our experiences of it. There are few words to which most of us react negatively – feedback, performance, appraisal. These words dont have a negative bent but imagine somebody say "I have a feedback for you" or "I will like to discuss your performance in tomorrow’s meeting".

    I find it good to start with an activity on the objective of Appraisals. Bit similar to Rosanne’s exercise but more specifically focussing on the objective of appraisals "to help shape the future". Appraisal meetings quite often spend substantial time on digging the graveyard which creates the negative impression.

    I have found that when we start the session with an understanding of the One Line Objective – "Appraisal is for making the next year better by reviewing the last year" – it makes participants think a bit differently.

    I usually then, pick any activity which highlights this message and have a good response from my groups.

  5. Thank you Andrew

    Thank you for your comments there is real food for thought there and something I will be investigating

  6. Benefits of Appraisals

    Similar to others’ suggestions, but I ask all groups to consider the benefits and the barriers to appraisals.  We collate a list of the benefits which is pinned up and continually referred back to throughout and at the end of the session. 

    I think it important to acknowledge the barriers and generate discussions as to how they can overcome them.  Where the attendees are managers I ask them who will make the difference between employees seeing appraisal as either a positive or negative experience and there will always be some people who acknowledge that it is their responsibility which is a great starting point.  If they generate the solutions they are more likely to take ownership and responsibility for improving things.


  7. Understand the climate of appraisal first

    I find that the appraisal process means different things to different people and organisations.  It is important to understand what it means for the individuals involved and your organisation.

    Some organisations link appraisals to reward and some also have forced distributions (often known as bell curves).  If these exist in your organisation then you may find that the appraisal process become clouded by the competition for ranking and reward.  The people involved are no longer focused on the true appraisal of achievements, strengths and opportunities for development.  Any such development opportunities will tend to be hidden by the appraisee and sought by the appraisor to justify ratings/reward.

    This means the appraisal process needs to be robust and this starts with the setting of SMART objectives at the beginning of the year.  If people have objectives with real measures and there is no subjective assessment about whether they have been achieved, it reduces the debate around ratings/reward.  There is therefore a need for training and development of appraising manager on objective setting. 

    It is then good practice to complete mid year reviews, if appropriate, the bell curve can be applied to manage people’s expectations and give those lower performers a chance to improve.  Training to address underperformance is important here so all staff appreciate that the organisation supports people to improve.  Along side this thought has to be an understanding of the bell curve (in any large population, there will be a range of performance levels). 

    If part of the appraisal process allows for peer performance levels to be taken into account when assessing the ratings/reward, and people truly understand the bell curve, then I have generally found less resistance from appraisees.  This gives another area for training in terms of how to effectively do fair calibration and peer rankings and also how to ensure staff understand the way the process is applied.  They can hopefully then see that the process is fair even if they don’t like their own appraisal.

    With this structure to the process, focus can then move to identifying the development needs and making sure these are delivered by both parties.

    Hope this helps


  8. Further thoughts

    Hi John and all

    This question looks like it has resulted in some great discussion with some really good ideas.

    My only additions would be to understand where the heavy cynicism stems from. If it is cultural or because the appraisal process is not robust and well managed then it may highlight some other areas that need fixing. If it is purely down to the attitude and behaviour of the delegates then there are some other tactics, such as

    Set up a contract with the delegates for the running of the workshop that everyone will manage. Make sure behaviours etc are covered as well as agreeing what to do with subjects outside the remit of the course, such as using a park list.

    Use a system a bit like on the quiz programme QI where the delegates have fun identifying words, mood hoovers or things that might stop the session being effective and sound a buzzer if someone mentions one which means there is a time limit on how long that item can be discussed, and it cannot be raised again.

    Tackle the issue head on. Get the delegates to write down everything that is wrong about appraisals and then use reverse contingency to get them to write down what they can do to turn each negative into a positive. People are great at coming up with bad things and reversing them into good things is easier than getting them to come up with good things straight off. Focus them on what they each can do rather than what cannot be changed.

    It may also be an opportunity to revisit the role and responsibilities of a manager. Even if your appraisal process has its faults, as a manager you can make sure your delegates have a good appraisal with positive outcomes through your own belief in what being a manager is all about.

    You could ask delegates to think about a great manager they have had and what they did and link what they come up with to what proper appraisals are designed to do, like my manager having time for me, investing in my development, believing in me, thanking and praising me for a job well done, giving me opportunties etc.

    I hope some of these might fit your situation and good luck





  9. If Carlsberg didn’t do Appraisals…

    Hi John

    One way to have a bit of fun with this (or other subjects) is to get the delegates to come up with the worst appraisals they can, singly or in groups.  Be as outrageous as they want.  You can then turn it round to what the opposite is.  Get some interesting discussions about how you can work with your manager to get the appraisal you need.

    Having said that, I’ve introduced three appraisal systems in different organisations and I still feel that managers who don’t manage well day to day won’t be better in the appraisal process, and managers who do, don’t need it.  A bit radical but I would scrap the appraisals and focus on day to day management, giving constructive feedback, saying thank you, etc.  If objectives are measurable you don’t really need an appraisal to discuss them.  Instead, have a career development discussion.

    Not helping for the training session but worth considering?

  10. Appraisal of the Appraisal

    I’m preparing exactly the same thing at the moment, for an organisation that’s had all the technical training they can take, including videos, but still see the appraisal as a boring hassle.  As well as the great suggestions already made, I’m presenting this short (2hr) session as an appraisal of the appraisal, asking the same questions of the system as the system asks of the employees.

    An additional, related, spanner in the works, is that this is called the PDR, but no-one can pin down whether it’s the Personal Development Review or the Professional Development Review, or something else.  You’d think this would be fundamental to the outcomes and expectations of the process! The joys of abbreviations!

  11. Thumbs up on “Managers who manage well day on day”


    Agree with Rosanne. Good thoughts & ideas.

    I find the point "managers who don’t manage well day to day, may not be better in the appraisal process" very important. Sort of personally believe in it.

    Will introducing appraisals, this is one point I find worth touching upon. Its an on-going process and no magic can be done if a manager hasnt managed well through the year.

    All posts very interesting. Thanks, John!!

  12. A big thanks to you all!!

    Dear All

    Sorry I have been out of the office for the last two days, but would like to express my gratitude to all who have read and replied to my question.  Many things to consider and I will try a few at the pilot stage and see how it goes.  If there others with thoughts please let me know

    Thank you again

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John Thompson

Leadership Trainer

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