Staff appraisals are key to maintaining high standards in early childhood services. The following article provides information on What Is A Staff Appraisal, Components Of Staff Appraisal includes Key Performance Indicators, Preparing For Meetings, Mid Year Review and more.
What Is A Staff Appraisal?
A staff appraisal is a formal, systematic process of determining and reviewing the performance of employees over a period of time, usually a year.
In early childhood services, the aim of a staff appraisal is to:
- acknowledge the contribution and achievements of employees, and encourage a culture of continuous improvement
- foster and provide opportunities for reflective practice for educators
- identify career pathways and professional development opportunities for employees
- improve the employee’s understanding of how their performance contributes to the overall goals of the organisation
- improve the understanding and communication between employer and employees
- contribute to the overall improvement of the quality of the services provided by the organisation
- assist the service to achieve its objectives and goals, and meet legislative and funding requirements.
In early childhood services, staff appraisals should:
- follow ‘no surprises to the employee’ principle – in other words, serious concerns (if any) about the employee’s performance should not be raised at the annual meeting but at the time they occur. This could be done as part of an ongoing appraisal process which includes a number of catch-up meetings with individual staff to discuss professional progress as well as a mid-year review.
- be supported by ongoing informal conversation – about success and its effects, about performance and improvement, and about problems and their solutions.
- approach evaluation in an open, positive, supportive and constructive way so that conversations are future-focused and underpinned by respectful and clear communication
- not to be used for disciplinary processes. If there is an issue of grievance or a matter that requires discipline, then processes under the relevant industrial agreement or award must be followed.
- not include a review of pay rate or salary level. This is deliberate since the process of establishing a staff member’s performance is quite separate from the process of establishing whether a Centre can afford to adjust a staff member’s wage rate or salary level. These should be separate discussions and would normally occur as part of the budget-setting process each year.
- Include two-way feedback so that both parties have an equal opportunity to discuss the performance of the employee, including any enablers and barriers to their performance.
The core of the staff appraisal process is the formal annual evaluation of employee performance and planning development. This comprises four parts:
- Identifying and agreeing on Key Performance Indicators, and any goals and responsibilities to implement the service’s QIP.
In Australia, all early childhood services are required to work towards implementing good practices and processes in all of the seven areas of National Quality Standards. Therefore it makes sense to select the Key Performance Indicators from this list so that there is clarity for both employer and employee regarding the key areas of performance to focus on during staff appraisal discussions.
It is important to remember that key performance indicators and goals should be appropriate to the employee’s role; for example, not all elements of Area 7 of the National Quality Standards are to be applied in an educator’s staff appraisal. The setting of Key Performance Indicators, goals and responsibilities for the service’s QIP, organisational and individual goals etc. is a joint decision between the employer and employee and is subject to ongoing monitoring and review at the end of each 12-month cycle.
- Preparing for the meeting
For the annual appraisal meeting to be meaningful and productive, it is necessary that both the employee and employer be well prepared. On the part of the employer, this will involve a reflection on the employee’s performance during the year, through resources like Performance Observation templates. For the employee, preparation will involve reflecting on their own performance during the year, successes, and challenges as well as the professional development plan they would like to undertake.
At least two weeks’ notice should be given of the meeting. When you hand the guide to your team member, set a date and time by mutual agreement. Be sure that the time agreed to allows between one to two hours of uninterrupted time to be set aside. Before the meeting, ensure that all team members are comfortable and well prepared to deal objectively with the process.
- Annual performance evaluation meeting
The annual performance evaluation meeting involves the employer and employee meeting to discuss the performance of the employee over the past 12 months, the employee’s successes, any challenges and professional development undertaken. It is usually conducted at the end of the year or at the anniversary date of the employee, with a formal mid-year review. The following are the main requirements for a successful review meeting. It must:
- be prepared for by the employer/centre manager – this involves using the employee’s records to become fully familiar with their background, reviewing their existing strengths and weaknesses as well as any factors in their personal situation which may have a bearing on their performance; additionally, the employer should know the results achieved by the employee during the period and refer to the action plan from the previous appraisal and consider what has been achieved since that meeting.
- have one or more objectives – apart from the areas to be covered, the meeting should have an objective or set of objectives, unique to the employee
- Be conducted in a relaxed yet purposeful manner – this involves attending as much to the physical conditions of the meeting, like space and seating as to the preparation of materials and privacy.
- Give employees the opportunity to talk – this involves allowing them enough time to think and not being in a hurry to fill up pauses in the conversation; if the discussion strays, use cues like “You mentioned before that …” or “Would you like to tell me more about …?” to bring the conversation back to issues that should be discussed further. Also help your employee develop their ideas further by paraphrasing, using leads like, “You feel that …” or “So it’s your impression that …”
- Be an occasion for listening – practice active listening so that you not only hear the words but also follow the thought process behind the words and communicate this to your employee by non-verbal cues like steady eye contact and slight nods. If the employee makes any comment or observation, always ask questions until it is clear. Never allow a discussion to continue if there is some aspect of it that cannot be understood.
- Adopt the “problem solving” approach to any needs and deficiencies identified on the part of the employee – this involves working together to examine the effects of previous actions, discussing new alternatives and then jointly deciding on future changes.
- Result in joint decisions being made and strategies to implement those decisions being agreed to – this would involve planning, selecting and confirming the Key Performance Indicators, any goals and Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) areas to be the focus of the employee for the next 12 months. Additionally, any agreement reached will have to be documented and signed as proof of acceptance.
Some practices which can help employers to fulfil the above requirements of appraisal meetings are:
- Giving recognition for successes and achievements and encouragement
- Spelling out clearly and positively the areas where improvement is required
- Encouraging the employee to discuss his or her job performance, how they feel they are performing and any relationship or other problems he or she may be experiencing
- Resolving any grey areas so that mutual respect and motivation can be achieved
- Being objective and factual which means having data to support comments
- Not reacting to comments by placing the blame on others as it is important to maintain confidentiality
- telling the team member that they have done a good job where appropriate, and not just focusing on the areas needing improvement.
- Agreeing on professional development and support options for the employee for the next 12 months
This part of the appraisal process involves creating a plan to support the professional development of the employee. Though drafted at the time of review, it is usually confirmed with the employee at the start of a new year. Drawing up the plan would include:
- discussion with the employee to identify development and support needs
- selection of appropriate courses, conferences and professional development strategies in consultation with the employee
- documentation of the individual development plan for the next 12 months
- approval of the agreed individual development plan by the employer, and allocation of appropriate resources to enable the employee to undertake the agreed PD.
The mid-year review
Having an informal review meeting mid-way through the year helps both the employer to:
- discuss how the employee is tracking in relation to the agreed Key Performance Indicators, goals and responsibilities in relation to the service’s QIP.
- provide feedback on the employee’s performance, and acknowledge successes and challenges
- to ensure that the professional development plans that have been agreed upon with the employee are being implemented by the service.
- The discussions at this review meeting should be documented and placed in the employee’s file and should form part of the formal performance evaluation meeting held annually.
By assessing the performance of individual staff members, improving the communication between the employer and employee as well as supporting professional development, staff appraisals ensure that both the employee and service work towards the well-being of children in their care.
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