Enhancing wellbeing and productivity through human-centred appraisals

Imagine a world where your annual appraisal is not a source of anxiety but an opportunity for growth and genuine connection. Instead of a checkbox exercise, it’s a conversation you look forward to, one that energises you and aligns with your personal wellbeing.

This might sound utopian, but it’s entirely achievable if we reimagine the employee appraisal process with a focus on humanity, kindness, and joy.

An outdated model

The traditional employee appraisal process feels like it's been lifted straight from the 1980s performance management playbook, and has long been criticised for its lack of flexibility and empathy.

These outdated methods can feel more like an audit than a developmental conversation, leaving employees stressed and disengaged. Appraisals are typically tied to annual cycles, filled with rigid rating scales and focused heavily on past performance rather than future potential and wellbeing.

In a rapidly evolving workplace, this approach is increasingly out of touch. It fails to capture the dynamic and multifaceted nature of modern work, where the emphasis should be on continuous improvement, personal growth, and overall wellbeing.

A human-centred approach

To breathe new life into the appraisal process, we need to place wellbeing at the heart of it. This means creating an experience that is not only constructive but also kind and supportive. 

Here’s how we can achieve this transformation:

1. Frequent and informal check-ins


Gone are the days of the annual review as the sole touchpoint. Instead, introduce regular, informal check-ins.

These should be opportunities for open dialogue where employees can discuss their progress, challenges, and aspirations in a relaxed setting. This approach fosters continuous feedback and growth, making employees feel valued and supported year-round.

2. Focus on wellbeing and development

Shifting the focus from purely performance metrics to personal and professional development is crucial.

Appraisals should explore how employees are feeling, what support they need, and how their roles can evolve to better suit their strengths and career goals. Integrating wellbeing into these discussions ensures that employees are seen as whole individuals, not just ‘workers’.

3. Empathy and active listening

Managers need to be trained in empathy and active listening skills.

The ability to genuinely understand and respond to employees’ concerns and aspirations can transform the appraisal process into a nurturing experience. When employees feel heard and understood, they are more likely to engage and thrive.

4. Bespoke goal setting

Each employee’s journey is unique, and so should their goals.

Instead of generic, one-size-fits-all objectives, work with employees to set personalised goals that align with their career aspirations and personal wellbeing. This bespoke approach makes the appraisal process more meaningful, encouraging, and motivating.

Prioritising wellbeing in appraisals

Reinventing the appraisal process to prioritise wellbeing is not just a nicety; it’s a strategic necessity.

Organisations that embrace this shift will likely see improved employee engagement, higher productivity, and better retention rates. When employees know that their wellbeing is a priority, they are more committed and loyal.

Real-world examples

Consider the approach taken by companies like Adobe, which replaced traditional annual reviews with “check-in” discussions that happen regularly throughout the year. This change has not only boosted engagement but also significantly reduced voluntary turnover.

Another example is Microsoft, which emphasises growth mindset in its performance reviews, encouraging employees to embrace challenges and learn from feedback. This focus on development over evaluation fosters a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

Action steps for transformation

1. Train managers


Invest in training programs that equip managers with the skills needed to conduct empathetic and constructive conversations. Focus on active listening, coaching, and wellbeing support.

2. Implement continuous feedback mechanisms

Introduce tools, like our Conversation Canvas, that facilitate regular wellbeing conversations. Ensure these tools are user-friendly and integrated into the daily workflow.

3. Align appraisals with wellbeing initiatives

Integrate these new and improved appraisal discussions with broader wellbeing initiatives within the organisation. This could include mental health support, professional development opportunities, and flexible working arrangements.

4. Solicit employee feedback

Regularly seek feedback from employees on the appraisal process and be willing to iterate and improve based on their input. A participative approach ensures the process evolves in line with employee needs and expectations.

A call to action

The time to transform the employee appraisal process is now.

By making it more human-centred, kind, and wellbeing-focused, we can turn it into a valuable tool that enhances the employee experience. Let’s move away from the sterile, anxiety-inducing methods of the past and embrace a future where appraisals are a source of motivation, growth, and wellbeing.

To help you start this transformation, download our free Conversation Canvas.

The Canvas enables line managers to use a framework for wellbeing conversations based on the "Five Ways to Wellbeing", "Me, We, and Us", and "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" models.

Armed with the Conversation Canvas, colleagues can set goals and explore what is needed by individuals, teams/departments, and their organisation to achieve them.

Ready to make this change?

Download the Conversation Canvas today and start creating appraisals that your employees will look forward to.

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