Staff Appraisals

Carefully planned and managed staff appraisals can help ensure your practice is always developing, says Sandhya Godhania…

Developing a culture that embraces change and the means by which to implement it is vital. One way of achieving this outcome is by introducing six-monthly appraisals, which can demonstrate an ethos of self-development and help practitioners show a desire for more responsibility, evaluate their performance and check that targets set have been achieved, giving them a measure of accountability.

Conducting appraisals is not an easy process; the appraiser must have clear goals – perhaps relating to areas within the setting that need developing – and an aspiration to develop the team. The key is having a sound knowledge of staff’s strengths and weaknesses. At the beginning of the process, the appraisal form needs to be simple with self-explanatory questions designed to help each practitioner reflect on their practice. Over a period of time, as your team grows, the form should be adapted and changed to ensure that practitioners are being challenged by the questions – try rewording them or changing the format, as well as asking the practitioners for feedback on how to refine the appraisal process. This exercise can prove invaluable if carried out constructively, and recommendations can be implemented.

It is vital that both parties understand just how valuable the appraisal process is and that it is not conducted to tick a box for Ofsted or the local authority. A lack of understanding can result in an element of cautiousness on part of the practitioner, and leaders must understand that conducting an appraisal is a skilled job that needs refined people skills. The appraiser must ensure that the practitioner is made to feel at ease, empowering them to discuss the skills they want to develop or issues outside of work that might be affecting their performance. Joint decisions should be taken about the training, mentoring and coaching needed in order for the objectives to be achieved at a pace that is comfortable for the practitioner.

Continuing to refine the appraisal process will ensure a culture of continuous development and produce a team that has a skill set to enhance the team’s, child’s and parent’s experience.

Sandhya Godhania is deputy leader at Training Depot Day Nursery.