Six stages of appraisal and feedback

Six Stages of Appraisal and Feedback

Significant changes in how business leaders work with feedback and development have occurred during the past few years. More and more of the organisations we work with have begun to recognise the connection between clear, relevant feedback, employee development, and the subsequent improvement of business results.

Being transparent and open in giving and receiving feedback, with the aim to set clear expectations and support employees’ development processes, is an important element in creating psychological safety. In return, an organisation that is able to establish a culture with psychological safety will experience a faster development process and higher levels of motivation.

In the past, annual appraisals, where employees received a performance review from management, were rarely likely to happen more than once a year. Luckily, that trend has changed. Today’s agile organisations fully understand that true development and constructive feedback are vital to short-term and long-term excellence. We have seen a clear movement towards monthly or even biweekly appraisal/feedback sessions that utilise annual surveys and more frequent shorter surveys to target the key elements of the company strategy.

This in combination with regular micro-feedback loops establishes a culture of continuous development clearly linked to the ambitions of the organisation. If people grow the business will grow.

What league do you want to play in?

A parallel can be drawn here between a football team and a business team… What would happen if the top level football teams stopped receiving continual feedback and only received feedback on their strengths and development areas once a year? What would their rate of progress be? Just imagine if football players are only given a yearly appraisal after which they then play for a whole year before they received feedback again.

Continuous feedback given before, during and after the game, as well as during training sessions is a well-established process for developing individuals and teams. What if you invested the time and effort into providing employees and colleagues with feedback in the same way that top level football coaches do?

What league is your team playing in? What would the return for your business be if your team was able to develop to the next level?

Six stages of appraisal and feedback

Here is a summary of some of our observations split into 6 stages of ambition levels when it comes to making the connection between feedback, appraisal, and company success. We have found that companies that have made this connection invest more time and effort into individual employees’ development and have shifted the feedback task from HR to all company leaders.

Integrating the feedback process into a normal procedure in the daily operations has in all cases we have seen so far lead to improved business results.

Stage One

None, or very limited, feedback. People are told when things go wrong, scapegoats are appointed. Employee surveys might be carried out, but not on a regular basis. Conflicts are only dealt with when they caused real problems.

Stage Two

Feedback in yearly appraisals. People must wait a year between appraisals. Appraisals are seen more as a ``box to tick`` rather than a support tool to help the organisation to develop. Feedback is mainly limited to when things go wrong. Yearly employee surveys are carried out with low contribution and people don’t see the connection with implemented activities and the overall performance of the company.

Stage Three

Yearly appraisals are implemented and are seen as a useful tool supporting the development process. Feedback in-between is ad hoc, focusing on both reinforcing good behaviours and corrective feedback on non-productive situations and behaviours. Feedback is still seen as either negative or positive. Yearly employee surveys are carried out often with a demand to create follow-up activities on the lowest scores. Activity lists are made, and some follow-up activities carried out. Some parts of the organisation are successful in this process.

Stage Four

Yearly appraisals are fully implemented and are viewed positively as a useful tool to support the development process. Quarterly follow-ups to support the development process. People are more curious to get feedback and there is an alignment between feedback, development, and regular follow-ups. The yearly employee surveys have good participation scores, and people see the connection between the results, the strategy and the activities implemented.

Stage Five

Appraisals are an important tool to align people with the company strategy and reinforce behaviours on a regular basis. Monthly feedback sessions are carried out to encourage people, but also to correct less desirable behaviours before they have caused difficult conflicts. Leaders are receiving more feedback from e.g. 360 tools and development sessions, aligning leadership behaviours with strategy and the desired company culture. People see feedback as a natural part of development and sometimes refer to it as “feed forward”.

Stage Six

Feedback is seen as an essential tool to keep people motivated to contribute to the company result and ensure a sustainable growth and company culture in-line with strategy. It is as natural to give reinforcing feedback as well as corrective feedback to support people and their development.
The term ``feed-forward`` is commonly used. Leadership and employee development activities are carried out on a continuous basis and are integrated into daily activities. Each employee feels responsible for their own development. Employee surveys, pulse tools and 360 degree tools are well integrated into the strategy and are viewed as essential when used in a timely and well-balanced manner.

To Summarise

The benefits of being at stage 5 or 6 are huge, both for individuals working in the organisation and for the organisation itself.

Overall, psychological safety is higher, leading to a long list of benefits.

  • Motivation and engagement levels are higher.
  • The engagement to reach company targets is higher and productivity levels are higher.
  • Creativity is higher, as well as the capacity for dealing with complex issues.
  • The employer brand is stronger and attracts more talented people.
  • More teams in the organisation reach high performance levels.
  • Stress levels are lower (negative stress) reducing sick leave.

We hope this article serves as a catalyst for you to start reflecting on where you are and what could be the next step for you and the organisation you work for. Some questions to think about:


Where are you today with your organisation?

What would be a desired next step for you?

What do you see as a possible outcome?

What could be the first step to take from here?

Written by Peter Lysell