How to conduct an inclusive appraisal

The annual employee performance review is a great opportunity to check in with staff. It is a time to:


  • Review progress
  • Set objectives
  • Discuss development plans
  • See if employees need additional support

Our factsheet sets out how to conduct an inclusive appraisal.

1. Preparing for a review

According to YouGov, as many as 29% of employees report that their annual review is stressful, so you should consider what you can do to minimise stress.


Employee preferences will differ, but some things you can do are:


  • Provide advance notice of when the review will occur,
  • Ensure you provide paperwork in advance,
  • Check any paperwork is accessible that should include simple language,
  • Check online systems meet digital accessibility standards.

In addition, when you are conducting reviews with remote staff, check their preferences and make reasonable adjustments. So, is the camera on or off? Do you need captions?

A hand taking notes behind a laptop. Someone else sits opposite.

2. Use objective feedback

Two chat bubbles with a circle to suggest

When giving feedback, use specific examples of behaviours rather than commenting on the person.

Be aware that there may be a reason for people’s behaviour and that it could be the employer who needs to make adjustments.


One feedback model is SBI – Situation, Behaviour, Feedback. So you might say:


“I notice in meetings you don’t speak out much. It means we aren’t getting the benefit of your insight. I am keen to hear your ideas. Can we change the meeting format to enable you to contribute more?”



3. Be aware of unconscious bias

Everyone has bias. It is part of being human.


Awareness of this bias is part of growth and vital for an inclusive workplace. Harvard has developed an Implicit Association Test,  which can reveal Unconscious Bias.


There are many types of workplace bias which may influence how you treat people in a performance review.


For example, ‘Affinity Bias’ bonds people together. People are predisposed to gravitate toward those with whom they share a connection.


4. Use inclusive language

Words can convey prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination. It’s vital everyone in an organisation embraces inclusive language.


However, we won’t always get it right. 


During a performance review, managers should listen for any language that betrays an unconscious bias. Biases can lead to inflation or deflation of employee ratings and impact promotion, hiring and firing decisions.


Practice using inclusive language with trusted colleagues but be open to challenges and learn from them. 


In addition, you can collect feedback from multiple sources, which can create a more balanced view of an individual’s performance – from peers, colleagues and customers, which can help to eliminate bias. 

scrabble words read 'choose your words'

5. Ask employees what works for them

ClearTalents lets employees and managers create an inclusion passport to safely and securely identify any reasonable adjustments they need. Our questionnaire asks about preferred styles of communication, how people like to receive information in advance of a meeting and more. 


Bring what you have learned about individual employees into appraisals. Has an employee told you they find eye contact difficult in 1-2-1 meetings, for example? Perhaps someone has told you they need a little longer to respond to a question. Apply the same reasonable adjustments in an employee review as you would in any communication.

Apply the same reasonable adjustments in an employee review as you would in any communication

6. Identify inclusion objectives

An excellent appraisal will focus on opportunities for growth, including putting diversity and inclusion on the agenda of every employee. It will help foster an inclusive culture. Set up your performance review system to root out biases as much as possible.


Remind staff to check their language when talking about other people’s performance.


Use appraisals to celebrate inclusive behaviour and recognise it publicly — for example, someone who actively seeks feedback from people who don’t usually contribute. 


It will help to foster a culture of open conversations. 


Multicoloured post-its and highlighter pens. Post-its in the middle read Equality, diversity, inclusion.

7. Foster ongoing communications alongside appraisals

Increasingly, employees and workplaces are turning away from appraisals. Some reasons why people are seeking an alternative to personal development review are:


  • They hold people responsible for past behaviour at the expense of looking forward
  • Performance management is stale and futile – 74% of UK employees say reviews are ‘pointless and futile’, according to YouGov. 
  • There is an increasing focus on teamwork, whereas appraisals only measure individual performance. 
  • It is difficult to recall a year’s activity in an annual review.
  • Annual reviews are stressful for employees and managers. 

Instead, the trend is towards regular meetings between managers and employees. These may take the form of 1-2-1s. ClearTalents (www.cleartalents.info/at-work) encourages an ongoing dialogue about reasonable adjustments to create a more inclusive workplace.


Continuous two-way feedback about diverse needs can ensure that everyone can bring their best, authentic selves to work and can encourage an inclusive workplace. 

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Winner of the 2020Workplace Inclusion Awards in the Tech4Good Awards; CIPD Health and Wellbeing Strategy Award, multiple RIDI Awards, including the Employers' Choice Award, judges described it as outstanding