Benefits of appraisal to researchers

Appraisals are designed to enhance the work of your team by helping researchers develop to their full potential. It is also a two-way process that allows the researcher to raise any issues they have about their research, working environment, progress, development or future plans. By giving researchers this dedicated time to discuss their progress and ambitions it can help towards ensuring that:

  • your researchers feel their needs and concerns are being taken seriously
  • their development needs are being met
  • achievements are recognised and your researchers remain motivated
  • there is clarity of objectives, expectations and purpose for the coming year.

Of course, such benefits are not exclusive to formal appraisal schemes and should normally be the goal of any effective research manager. Indeed, appraisal schemes do not stand alone as a management tool but should be just one part of a constructive two-way feedback process and continued concern for the professional and career development needs of your staff. The appraisal is also an opportunity for the researcher to give feedback to the appraiser. Be prepared to receive any comments about your management style with a positive attitude.

What a formal appraisal can achieve, that more informal dialogue often does not, is a full, considered, ‘high-level' discussion of  where the researcher is going with their career. It can also generate a set of specific actions to be taken in an agreed timeframe. Such considerations are especially important where staff are on fixed-term contracts and their concerns over career progression are immediate. Using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) as a reference can be helpful in identifying appropriate areas for action.

When the principal investigator (PI) is also the appraiser, it is essential to ensure that the discussion does cover such ‘high-level' issues. The benefits of having a formal appraisal system will be lost if the meeting is simply a re-run of the regular conversations you have with your researcher.