Appraisd update - Autumn 2016

We're delighted to announce many improvements and new features that have been added in recent months and are now available on your account at no extra cost.

As ever, we'd like to thank our clients for their suggestions that help us respond to what you, the real users of Appraisd, want and need.


New area: Configuration

"Settings" has become Configuration, and you can now find Configuration under the cog menu, top right:



As a user of Appraisd, you'll know that you and your account manager generally work on the configuration at the outset to make sure everything is set up the way you want it. After that, you might revisit it once or twice a year perhaps, so it makes sense to carve it out of the Administration Centre into a new place on its own.

We also want to help new customers get up and running with Appraisd quickly without being overwhelmed by all the choices. The new design of Configuration achieves this with it's cleaner layout and simpler design.

New colour scheme

All new accounts on Appraisd will be given our new colour scheme which we feel is more engaging and brighter. If you'd like to update your own account to use the new theme, please let us know and we'll do it for you. 


API now live

Our API is now live, enabling system-to-system integration such as your HR database automatically adding new joiners to Appraisd without you lifting a finger. More on our API here.

Private Profiles

Are there people in your HR team or elsewhere in the organisation who need to keep their objectives and reviews hidden from other administrators and moderators? If so you, need our new Private Profiles feature (scroll to the end).

Accessing an employee's appraisal / review history

By default, an employee's new manager can access the entire appraisal or review history for that person. This can now be disabled with the new configuration option.

Personal calendar feed

Any user can now add a feed of Appraisd events (objectives, reviews, reviews you manage etc) to their Outlook or Google calendar, or any calendar that supports and iCal web-feed.

See Adding your Appraisd calendar feed to Outlook, Google Calendar and others.

Single Sign On with SAML and Google Apps

Single sign on (SSO) means being able to log in to Appraisd without having to remember a password. Organisations able to use SSO have found greatly improved adoption from employees as it makes it so much easier to dip in and out of Appraisd.

If you're a Google Apps user, you can now log in with your Google ID easily.

For enterprise customers who use Azure Active Directory, Okta, OneLogin or a similar SAML2.0 enabled identity provider, please ask us to enabled the SAML settings on your account.

Choose your own review / check-in / appraisal date

Enabling this new configuration option allows employees to set up their own reviews without waiting for their manager to do so. Feel free to go ahead an enable this on your account.

Administration Centre changes

There are two changes to the location of reports:

  • Since "Appraisals: List" was such an important and frequently referred-to report, we've moved it it's own tab on the main administration pages
  • If you use the Personal Development Plan or any other custom objectives, you'll now see a separate report for each type of objective

[screenshot of admin center tab menu with Reports menu expanded

In addition, you can now email the employee and manager of a new review you've set up for them, or changes you've made to one:

[screenshot of the appraisal edit popup highlighting the tick box at the bottom]

Other improvements we've made

  • If you're logged out due to inactivity, a popup login box lets you re-enter your password without reloading the page and losing any data you've typed in
  • When adding a new form, you get much broader range of form templates to build from
  • Many more helpful notices here and there to help everyone get around

Coming soon: New email design

We're updating the design of our email alerts and you'll notice the change to your account in the coming weeks. The new design makes things a bit clearer but also enables you to customise the banner colour:


In addition, you can add your own "Where to get help" text at the bottom of each email. Please set your custom help message in the new Configuration area.

One of the big changes is that objectives reminders will no longer contain details on the objective to ensure the privacy of sensitive information.

More coming soon...


  • Improved timezone support
  • Much faster People tab and Appraisals list
  • More API endpoints
  • Public job descriptions board


Performance reviews – back from the dead

You'd have thought that performance reviews were the new Millennium Bug. Everyone's writing about how to get rid of them and how awful they are.

But they just won't go away.

Why? Simple. Because they're useful. There really is little debate to be had about it. I'm willing to bet that even if your ditched your appraisal system, people would still do appraisals in some form. Most people like to know how well they're doing and what they need to change to get what they want. Most people are not happy to just sit at their desk for years without some kind of discussion about their progress. And most managers appreciate an opportunity to take a step away from day-to-day management, and tell their team what the situation is.

So why the complaints? Why the constant nagging to get it done? The answer is simple. The system is the problem, not your people.

You need two elements for any kind of performance management system to work: it needs to be easy and it needs to provide value... to everyone, not just to HR. Consider this: why would you fill in a form if you're never going to look at it again? Why would you upload a document when you don't know what's going to happen to it? Why would you give a rating when you don't know how it will be used?

5 signs you're not putting managers and appraisees first

Take a look at your existing process, forms, Word docs, whatever you use. If you can spot any of the following thoughts then let me guess... you spend a lot of time chasing people to complete their appraisals:

The most important thing is to get some kind of record of the individual's performance for our file. 
Mistake: Thinking appraisals are just a legal formality.

Our HR system has a bolt-on module that can store this data... let's just use that.
Mistake: People will not want to use a half-baked bolt-on, even if it seems like a good idea from a procurement point of view.

The form must be signed off by the appraisee, then the manager, then the appraisee again and then the senior manager and then HR.
Mistake: This is asking for trouble. Is it really necessary?

Let's hand out this 4 page guide to completing your appraisal too.
Mistake: Do you really think anyone will read this?

We changed it last year so we can't change it again for another two years.
Mistake: Thinking people prefer consistency over correctness.

If these sound familiar to you, then something needs fixing.

So, what should you be thinking?

What would be the best thing for the appraisee to take away from their review?
How about: new knowledge about themselves, clarity on where their career is going, a visualization of their progress over the last 12 months.

What system could we provide to our people that provokes delight rather than ire?


How can we get the information HR needs (training needs, overall performance indicators) in the most discreet and painless way possible?
Hint: A system strongly focused on an excellent user experience for employees, not just another HR database module.

What system can we provide that will shape and guide performance management not just once a year but throughout the year?
Hint: A light-touch system with simple workflow that people can use as often as they like.

How are we going to use that data? How are we going to show that we're using it effectively? What can we give back to the employees that shows how we're using it to help them?
Hint: After appraisals, send round some interesting facts you discovered from the data e.g. a visualisation of performance in different competencies, or an analysis of training needs.

Does everything we're asking our people to do provide tangible value for employees, managers and the organisation as a whole?
Hint: If the sales department cares only about sales, don't appraise them on their ability to work as a team.

Are there insights in the data that we're not using?
Hint: How about a mini-organogram for managers, colour coded by progress on objectives? How about a monthly email to the training manager of suggestions employees have added to their personal development plan?

Are we training people effectively?
Hint: Are you taking two hours out of everyone’s day when a one-on-one, targeted web-chat would have a much greater impact at lower cost?

I could go on...

Either way, this conversation is not going to go away. We know people will never stop appraising each other – but what you do, and the framework you provide, can make all the difference between a pain in the neck and genuinely powerful tool that can be a major influence in the success of your organisation.

Make the most out of: Auto-creating reviews

While developing Appraisd, we always try to create features that benefit both the employees and you, the administrator. 'Review Auto-create' is a feature that falls directly into this category. Let's have a look at why...

How it works

Imagine you're Jon's reviewer/manager. You've just had a performance review meeting – where you recorded your fruitful discussion about past achievements and future objectives onto the appraisal form – and you're ready to close the review. Normally, once the appraisal is closed, you (as the manager or administrator) must take another step to set up a new future appraisal for you and Jo. With the auto-create feature, however, once one appraisal is closed, another one is set up automatically.

The main benefits

  • no need to set up reviews for everyone manually – use your time for more exciting tasks
  • encouraging an ongoing performance management dialogue – employees don't always want to wait until appraisal time to write down their thoughts, ideas and comments. By having the appraisal form available at all times they can record and collect bits and pieces over time reducing the amount of work at appraisal time and making the conversation more objective and evidence-based.

Who it is suitable for

As long as you know at least approximate timing of all the appraisals for the upcoming year, we can set it up for you. Just get in touch at +44 20 7202 7979 or with your account manager and we can discuss the options.

However, if your reviews are ad-hoc and/or you want the managers to set up reviews with their teams whenever they want, auto-create is not the way to go. 

The 'technicalities' 

So you're now saving yourself time and headache – congratulations! There are just a few points you should know before you sit back and relax completely:

  • auto-create starts working for each individual only after their first review is closed. So when you add a new user, don't forget to set up their first regular review manually
  • auto-create doesn't apply to probationary reviews. Any time a review with a word 'probation' or 'probationary' in the title is closed, no future review is set up so don't forget to log in and set up the first regular review for that individual manually
  • if a review is closed by an Administrator using 'Edit', a future review is not set up automatically.

What's been going on at Appraisd in Q3

We don't want to bore you with a long list of all the updates we released, improvements we made, events we attended and people we talked to in past months so we thought summarising the three months of Quarter 3 2015 in three points would be just enough to keep you hooked...

1. Our CEO talks in Personnel Today about why Appraisd was born

"It’s about trying to help employees feel more empowered to set their own path through the organisation and ultimately to get where they want to be."

2. Feature highlight: Real-time training needs analysis

Did you know Appraisd can alert you when someone adds a personal development activity to their wishlist? Read more about this feature here.

3. Labs: Analyse your team

Wouldn't it be nice if your managers could produce their own reports on objectives, scores and comments for their direct reports and below? Well now they can thanks to a new Analyse your team feature we've been working on. It's not quite ready for prime time but if you'd like to enable a sneak preview for your managers, let us know.

See the full version of our newsletter.

One more thing...

Hard works deserves a reward. Here we are, tucking in to some great drinks while chatting to fun and innovative people who all share an interest in the future of HR at a great event hosted by Corporate & Cocktails.


Photo by Corporate & Cocktails

What should you have on your performance review form?

With only slight exaggeration I can say that we've seen pretty much every performance review form under the sun here at Appraisd – from a simple 'quick check-in' to complex bonus-related forms with ratings and weightings. Every organisation rightly has its own requirements that correspond to the skills and behaviours it considers will lead it to success.

Despite this, there are some maxims that you should always stick to and that your people will thank you for:

  1. keep the forms short
  2. keep the forms relevant
  3. structure the questions in a way that promotes ownership and engagement from the appraisee 

Keeping the forms short

We've seen (particularly in the Middle East and Asia) a trend for very long appraisal questionnaires with tens and even hundreds of performance indicators. The resultant data may be interesting from an HR perspective (although I doubt it is as meaningful as they hope it will be) but the amount of time that the appraisee and manager need to spend on it quickly becomes overwhelming. Instead of making a final assessment of their objectives, they now have one and only one objective: avoiding the appraisal for as long as possible. 

Every Appraisd demo account has an example form that is adapted by many of our customers. From their experience, it has the right balance between the depth of information they get and the commitment required from the appraisee. Just sign up here for a free trial account and click "Your appraisal" to explore the questions in a greater detail.

Keeping the forms relevant

One of the biggest turn-offs for individuals at a review time is being asked to rate skills that simply aren't important to the job. While it may seem obvious that 'teamwork' is a strength valued by all companies, it may not actually be that important to all of them. In some of our work with professional services companies we've often had to strip out well-meaning but actually redundant competencies, since sometimes what really matters is simply the number of billable hours they've achieved.

Your junior software developer might get confused and disconnected when asked how confident he is about his client communication skills when in reality he actually never gets in touch with them. Be more specific. You can, for example, create several versions of your form where you update the competency section according to what's required at different positions. Just a little bit of extra work from your side translates into no confusion and raised eyebrows from your staff anymore. They will be pleased that the performance reviews are truly about them!

Promoting ownership and engagement from the appraisee

Putting the appraisee at the centre of the whole performance management process is essential. Employees must feel like the process has been designed to ensure the company continues to provide the challenges and development opportunities they need to grow and stay motivated.

So when you're creating or revising your form, think about the following elements:

  • start the performance review with self-assessment and direct the questions to the appraisee (e.g. How well do YOU think you have you performed since your last appraisal?)
  • don't make the review just about organisational goals, let people set their own personal development goals and training needs – skills and knowledge growth is what makes employees satisfied in their role
  • ask employees to suggest what objectives they would like to achieve in the upcoming period rather than letting the managers add the objectives for them – the employees will be more likely to take ownership of them and will feel empowered to achieve them

Hopefully it's a good starting point for you to go ahead and put together a new appraisal form. And don't forget to let us know what has worked for you, we look forward to hearing about your experience. 

For more thoughts on performance reviews in general, check Performance review – Back from dead.​

Making the most of: Objectives

Keeping the conversation going

Out-of-date, irrelevant, forgotten… these are the most frequent adjectives we hear when talking to people about their objectives set and reviewed during their performance appraisals. Yet we still agree that setting objectives is a good way to ensure the right things happen. That’s why we decided to make objectives on Appraisd a key priority from day one.

When we developed Appraisd, we wanted to make sure it would be effortless for you to stay on track and keep your objectives relevant – even if you have just 10 minutes spare on the way home from work. Simply log in to the Appraisd account on your phone, tablet or desktop, click Objectives and you have all of them at your fingertips. Update them or comment on the progress you have made as often as you like.

The beauty of this simple system is that it reduces the amount of work you need to do come appraisal time. No more scratching your head wondering what you achieved over the last 12 months, instead it’s all laid out ready for you to make your final comment: ‘Completed’.

It’s not just the fact that you’ve completed your objectives, but the way they’ve been done is also important.  How do we reflect this in Appraisd? A stream-like commenting system making it faster and easier to record your progress and to have a quick objectives-led 1-to-1 with your manager throughout the year.

Appraisd objectives progress updates

4 top tips to get the most out of objectives on Appraisd

  1. SMART: Appraisd objectives are Timed by default – but make sure you respond to all the questions to make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Relevant too. Some of our clients ensure relevance by asking employees to pick an overall strategic goals that their objective contributes to.
  2. Get the balance right. Set just the right number of objectives you can realistically achieve and keep track of – keeping yourself motivated and avoiding disappointment is vital.
  3. Review your objectives regularly – at least once a month. Most people work in environments where individual and organisational goals change all the time and keeping your objectives aligned is essential.
  4. Don’t be shy and ask your manager for regular informal 1-to-1 meetings to review your objectives. Regular feedback is a good way to optimise your performance and stay in the loop. And why not to keep it healthy at the same time by taking a walk? 


Your HRIS: A poor appraisal system

Expenses uploaded? Tick.
Annual leave approved? Check.
Personal development plan agreed? Er... what?

Your HRIS / Sharepoint / self-service portal is an administrative tool. But setting objectives, working on your career and taking a step back from daily management are strategic tasks that require reflection and creativity.

Your head needs to be in a different place when thinking about performance and appraisals. So why do so many HR departments try and bolt an appraisal system on to something that's more about ticking boxes?

Answer: it suits HR. Maybe there's a good relationship with the supplier so it sort of makes sense. And there's only one login.

This thinking is wrong.

An appraisal system is for employees and managers, not just for HR. What suits them? What will actually help them? What will encourage them to set meaningful objectives and keep track of them?

A good appraisal system can change patterns of behaviour for the better. Seriously. In the way Hailo and Uber have changed the way we think about getting home, the right system can get people doing better one-to-ones, giving continuous feedback and updating objectives as priorities change. All this is a far cry from just uploading a Word template at the end of the year.

So what do you need to look for?

The key thing is the user experience (UX). Those of you in the tech scene know already that UX is the killer skill these days and UX professionals are in very high demand. Companies rise and fall based on the UX of their products - and many notable large scale IT disasters can be attributed to a terrible user interface.

When reviewing an appraisal system, put yourself into the shoes of a line manager and ask:

  • Can I get a feel for the way the system works just by looking at the home screen?
  • Is it interesting and attractive to look at? If it's boring, it's probably generic. And generic is the enemy of engagement.
  • Is it obvious what these buttons will do?
  • Does it put you into an appraisal "frame of mind"?
  • Does it help you spot patterns that only emerge over months and years?

If it piques your curiosity, engages you and maybe even gets you a little excited, it will work for your staff too. That will be the one to go for - so don't settle for anything less.

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