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Performance management

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Performance management is the process of communication between employee and manager throughout the year, to support the employee in maintaining and improving their performance, in line with organisational objectives.

Good performance management means that employees:

  • understand what is expected of them via clear delegation, performance standards, behaviour standards and objectives
  • receive regular feedback to help them develop.

Two key elements of performance management are one-to-one (‘supervision’) meetings and annual appraisals.


You are probably familiar with the SMART acronym, which is a useful way of getting objectives right. Objectives should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

See Acas guidance on measuring staff performance

Behaviour standards/competencies

Behaviours are about the way the employee achieves his/her objectives and work. Behaviour standards, or competencies, attempt to define how employees should be conducting their work. Such standards typically cover areas such as communication skills, team-working and planning. The Acas guidance on measuring staff performance provides some example of behaviour standards.

One-to-one/supervision meetings

You may well have a good relationship with your employee, speak with them regularly on an informal basis and perhaps also know them well personally. However, such interaction doesn’t remove the need for regular one-to-one meetings. During the one-to-one meeting, you can talk about work-based matters in a more structured and in-depth way than is possible via day to day informal interactions. You can discuss task-based or developmental objectives and coach the employee in his/her work. One-to-one meetings can help employees to feel that their work is noticed and valued; and keep them on track for future work. In addition, if you have any concerns about the employee’s work, it is easier to address them quickly when you have already established a system of regular confidential meetings.

One-to-one meetings can be held at a frequency that suits your organisation and the experience of the job holders. For example, you may wish to meet fortnightly with a new employee and monthly, or even quarterly, with more experienced employees.

It makes sense to make a record of one-to-one meetings, to ensure clarity of expectations and to be able to follow up at the next meeting. Download a template one-to-one meeting record (Word, 26KB).

Example format

The annual appraisal

The annual appraisal is a round-up of the year just gone – an opportunity to recognise what has been achieved and an opportunity to plan for the coming year. It should not be considered as a once-off activity, but part of a cycle of supporting and managing employees. In effect, the annual appraisal should simply be a more detailed version of the regular one-to-one meetings.

If you have been holding regular one-to-one meetings, the appraisal should run smoothly and any matters raised at the annual appraisal should not be a surprise to either of you.

It can be useful to gain feedback from a variety of sources when undertaking an individual’s appraisal. You could ask for comments (where relevant) from service users, volunteers, colleagues and staff managed. This process is called 360-degree feedback and can give a broad view of the individual’s performance. However, if you intend to seek feedback in this way, discuss it with your staff first and gain their agreement. Be clear exactly how it will operate and think about how you will preserve anonymity with sensitive or difficult feedback. Some organisations use an external organisation to collate feedback confidentially.

Example form

You can download a template appraisal form (Word, 27KB).

Preparing for the appraisal meeting

  • Consider the employee’s work since the last appraisal, consulting where appropriate with others who have responsibility for any aspect of the employee’s work.
  • Have a copy to hand of relevant documents, such as the job description and supervision notes taken during the year.
  • Think carefully about the areas in the appraisal form and make notes. Remember these are your initial thoughts and you need to hear what the employee says first, before confirming your view about any area.
  • Review last year’s appraisal form and notes of any meetings held during the year.
  • Prepare the room and ensure that you are not interrupted.
  • Make sure you are in a relaxed and open frame of mind.
  • Give the employee at least a few days’ notice of the meeting so that they have the time to prepare too. Ask the employee to look at their previous appraisal form as well as recent one-to-one meeting notes, and to consider work undertaken since the last appraisal.

Format for the appraisal meeting

A useful format for the meeting is the WASP format:

  • Welcome
  • Ask
  • Supply
  • Plan and part

Welcome the employee. Try and put them at ease. Offer a drink and explain the format of the meeting. Try and create an unhurried atmosphere, so that the employee does not feel that you are trying to rush things to get to something more important.

Ask the employee to give his or her views on work progress since the last appraisal meeting – what they are proud of as well as anything they feel could have gone better. You could ask them to consider what they think their main contribution has been to the work of the organisation.

If you are concerned about any aspect of the employee’s performance, it may well be that the employee is too! It is easier for the employee to accept feedback and easier for you to give it, if the employee can state the concerns first.

Use phrases that encourage the employee to talk about their work, such as:

  • Tell me a bit more about that.
  • I can see that is a challenge, but what do you think might help?
  • What support do you think you need to become more familiar with…?

Avoid phrases which may discourage the employee from talking, such as:

  • It’s really quite easy when you get the hang of it, it won’t take long.
  • If I were you…
  • You’ll be OK, don’t worry.
  • Everything’s going fine, I expect?

If the employee has had specific objectives/targets to achieve over the past year, ask them their view on the extent to which these were achieved, to standard and to deadline.

Once you have given the employee full opportunity to talk, supply your comments.

Confirm anything you think went particularly well. Explain what you think the employee did that made things go well. This can help reinforce good performance for the future.

Discuss with the employee the areas they have identified that could have gone better. If you feel that there are work performance problems that the employee has not mentioned, raise these with the employee now. Give specific examples of your concerns. Jointly consider the possible reasons for problems and consider how the situation could be improved in the future. Make clear how you want their performance to change – what good performance looks like.

Explore reasons beyond the employee’s control why things may have gone less well than planned. However, ensure that neither of you uses this as a means of avoiding a discussion on any work performance problems that the employee may have.

You might also discuss the following areas with your employee:

  • Whether they are clear about all the responsibilities of their role – you could use the job description as a basis for these discussions
  • If they feel that any aspects of their role should be changed
  • Whether they feel that there is adequate opportunity to discuss the work they are doing with you
  • What they feel that you as a manager could do to further assist them in their role
  • Training and development activities they have undertaken since the last appraisal or supervision meeting
  • Benefits they gained from the activities
  • Any further need for training and development
  • Whether the employee has skills and knowledge that your organisation could perhaps use and is not currently using.

The next stage of the meeting is to plan for the short and the long term. Jointly agree what follow-up actions should be taken, by whom and by when. Discuss the targets for the forthcoming year. It is a good idea to make the targets SMART (see above).

Before you close the meeting, check with the employee if they have any other comments or matters they wish to raise. Thank the employee for their time. Inform them of the next steps:

  • That you will write up the key points from the discussion
  • That you will give them a copy to sign and keep, and that a copy will be put on their personal file
  • When they can expect to receive the written document

After the meeting

  • Finalise the appraisal form as soon as possible and provide a copy to the employee.
  • If the employee disagrees with what you have recorded on the form, listen carefully and try and come to an agreement. You should be reasonable in your expectations; likewise, employees are expected to follow reasonable management instructions, even if they disagree with them.
  • Keep a copy of the form in a confidential file.
  • Refer to the agreements in the form, in one-to-one meetings during the forthcoming year.

Further resources

Page last edited Apr 07, 2022

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