What is to be done about appraisals?

According to an article in The Times (behind paywall) the BBC has more than lived up to the stereotypical portrayal of it in comedy series W1A by abandoning appraisals “because the meetings risk making staff members feel that their performance is being appraised”!

Appraisals are to be replaced with “performance development reviews” which are intended to promote “an honest two-way conversation”. According to the Daily Mail Head of People Development (HR Manager) Kate Sloggett said:

We’ve changed the name to reflect the fact that these conversations shouldn’t be just about one person ‘appraising’ the other’s performance.
A Performance Development Review should provide an opportunity to discuss a person’s role and career in a honest conversation.
We want staff to focus on their ideas and ambitions for development and how they might want to get on in their career as well as receiving feedback on their work over the past year.

There is a serious message behind the obvious humour. In my experience the approaches taken by employers to appraisals and staff reviews vary widely from one organisation to another. Some completely ignore them while others have introduced sometimes wildly complex “360-degree performance reviews” which are so convoluted and protracted as to render them utterly meaningless. I wonder how many HR managers are aware that 360-degree appraisals originated with the military in Germany in World War Two when, one might imagine, the consequences of a poor review were probably pretty severe!
While large organisations need to have fairly rigid processes, one of the benefits of having a relatively small workforce in an SME is that there can be far more flexibility