Non-executive performance appraisal: a good practice guide

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Key principles and tips for conducting appraisals of non-executive directors.

The appraisal process is important to ensure that appointees feel motivated, well supported and confident to deal with the many issues and challenges they will face in their role. An effective appraisal will enable non-executives to evaluate their performance, receive constructive feedback, build upon strengths and address any areas for development. 

General principles

Here are some principles to consider when conducting effective appraisals of non-executive directors:

  • be clear about who is conducting the appraisal
  • new appointees should be told they'll be formally appraised, who will conduct the appraisal, how often they will take place and the standards against they will be assessed by
  • appraisals should look forward, not just back, to take account of the future organisational needs, any learning and development identified and the aspirations of the individual
  • any performance issues should be identified and discussed constructively as part of the appraisal process and there should be clarity about the support individuals will receive to help them improve
  • all documentation relating to the appraisal should be completed during, or shortly after, the appraisal and signed by both parties
  • where there is no agreement, the chair’s assessment should stand with the non-executive director's disagreement noted (any fundamental differences may need to be escalated to NHS Improvement)
  • documentation should be simple, purposeful and easy to use

Designing an appraisal system

As a minimum, the appraisal should include:

  • a review of performance since last appraisal
  • setting new objectives
  • identification of any learning and development needs
  • identification of any issues that may affect the individual's suitability for appointment, including whether they continue to comply with the fit and proper person regulations

The process may also be used to identify individuals with the potential to progress to chair roles and for succession planning. This should be recorded in the appraisal documentation along with any development needs.

Whatever form of assessment used, the criteria shouldn't, directly or indirectly, discriminate against any individual or group of individuals, for example, in relation to time availability.

You should consider what ‘evidence’ might be available to both appraiser and appraisee to support the assessment and consider contributions from other individuals to the overall appraisal. This could include self-assessment, board colleagues or a 360 degree process. 

We can support boards wishing to undertake 360 degree assessments against the behaviours in the NHS Leadership Academy’s Healthcare Leadership Model and have developed a short feedback tool specifically for NHS chairs and non-executive directors.  

If you require any further information about the 360 tool or appraisals in general, please contact our Non-executive Development Manager, Keely Howard. 

NHS trust non-executive director appraisals

Chairs of NHS trusts are responsible for ensuring that non-executive directors receive regular appraisals of their performance, at least annually. Trusts can determine the approach to appraisal that is most relevant to their local circumstances.  

The Healthcare Leadership Model describes nine behaviours which together contribute towards strong and effective NHS leaders.  Chairs and non-executive directors will need to demonstrate this range of behaviours and the highest standards of conduct required to contribute effectively in this board level role. The Leadership behaviours assessment framework provides a summary of these behaviours and a useful framework for assessing positive and negative indicators. 

We are eager to capture details of any learning and development needs identified.  Although we are aware that most of these needs will be addressed locally, we are keen to learn about any areas in which we can provide additional support regionally or at a national level.  

We have developed these forms to help you conduct your non-executive appraisals. Please return your completed forms to our Non-executive Development Manager Keely Howard. 

We have a specific role in ensuring NHS trust chairs and non-executive directors receive an annual performance appraisal. We need assurance that non-executives appraisals have been carried out and therefore ask chairs to return of a single page appraisal summary form to us, as a minimum. 

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