Appraisals in Larger Councils

17 May 2023

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The vast majority of you will be fast approaching your own annual appraisal meeting (and those of your staff) by the time this edition of The Clerk reaches you. If my experiences are anything to go by, you might not have looked at your form, or those of your team, since last year when you agreed the objectives. But some of you may have reviewed progress with your team and the council during the year and even made some changes as events introduced new deadlines and targets. Whatever reviews have taken place, your upcoming appraisal with the council and with your staff will be important opportunities for you to give and receive some feedback and discuss what challenges you and your team are going to tackle next year. 

Most management theories tell us that we should approach our tasks in three distinct stages – PLAN, DO, REVIEW. And many of us will adopt this approach, either through design or by accident.  Appraisals should be no different and, if you are managing staff, the approach is equally valid for you as the manager. Setting objectives, doing the job and reviewing progress should be the key features for us as Clerks or Officers in larger councils.   

At the start of the year we should be looking at a range of useful information that should be readily available to us in order to set objectives. In Dave Martin’s objective setting article, he goes into much more detail about how his council tackles this critical part of the cycle, so I won’t replicate that here. But your objectives and those of your team should be drawn from the council’s plans for the coming year, job descriptions and the personal objectives you and your staff might wish to set – remember your development and skills and those of your staff. 

During the year it’s important to informally review progress if you are to avoid finding out that you or your team are well off target come the end of the year. Just a quick chat with your chair or Staffing Committee three or four times through the year will help you understand how you and your team are doing and will provide an opportunity to change priorities or negotiate changes to deadlines. 

Preparing for appraisal interviews is vital if you are going to make the most of the opportunities they offer. Work to an agenda if you don’t already have one and my strong advice is to hold meetings outside of any formal structure. The council is not going to make any decisions at your appraisal so you should meet informally and just make sure the appraisal outcomes are noted at a relevant council or committee meeting. Equally, if the council is content to leave you to manage your team’s appraisals, make sure that you let the Members know how your team is doing.  

You should make sure you record the outcome and use it to develop or refine objectives for the coming year. Appraisal forms are useful for giving structure but don’t let the forms dictate everything – the conversation is often more important than the process.   

Finally, take some time to review the whole process and think about what you are going to do differently as a result. Share the broad outcomes of your appraisal with your team and think about how your appraisal might have implications for them and their work. Book some review slots with the council and your team during the year and make sure they stick to them.

Don’t have an appraisal scheme? Don’t worry, LCC can help you develop and implement a scheme that will work for you regardless of the size of your council. Contact us for a no obligation discussion.