Reinventing the Appraisal and a Maturity Model for HR

With our Members we have been evolving new approaches that we would like to share in Performance Appraisal and an HR Maturity Model.
Performance Appraisal

As our Members have become more concerned with the impact on performance of staff engagement and development, they have been questioning the effectiveness of the Annual Appraisal/Personal Development Review (PDR) process. PDR should energise staff and identify opportunities for development, but is often a time consuming source of dread or indifference.


The same issues face organisations outside of HE and practice is changing. October’s Harvard Business Review carried a long article on the subject. Firms including Adobe, Dell, Microsoft, and Gap have moved from annual appraisals to more regular, less formal check-ins focused on development and the future.

PDR is complicated in HE by the range of processes that it is closely related to: work allocation, REF and TEF, disciplinary, attendance, wellbeing, promotion and reward. Most of which could be dealt with more effectively elsewhere, for example through line management. 

We have been working with members to separate these processes and allow the PDR to really add value. The new approach is based on:


  • The flexibility to meet the needs of many roles, positions and aspirations
  • Focuses on personal development, separating it from operational management
  • Includes tailored meetings, along timescales to suit work and career/life stage, that are focused on:
    • Mentoring / coaching
    • Longer term organisational and personal objectives
    • Mentors who would be chosen by staff and be supported with training.

Appropriate performance issues are addressed through line management - with a greater focus on training and support for operational management.  People will be mentored by those who enjoy the role and are good at it – those who will appreciate their talents. 
HR Maturity Model

Benchmarking has been popular for many years but often generates more questions than answers. After many years of analysis attempting to answer these questions - drawing upon HE experience and from other sectors - it became clear that we were on the way to developing a framework of HR competences for the whole university. This evolved into an HR Maturity Model for HE that can help with the interpretation of quantitative results (benchmarking) and set a direction of travel and supporting actions.
It soon then emerged that the model has other uses:

  • Many outside of HR do not appreciate best HR practice and how essential it is for universities wishing to deliver their strategic aims - the model can facilitate such discussions.
  • Within HR, it can be used to help develop strategy and identify priorities, identifying strengths and weaknesses and generating actions for improvement
  • Used across the university, it will not only generate actions for improvement, but will also identify differences in understanding and help position a sustainable HR.

For more information visit or contact Bob Walder at or 07816 873929.


Author: Bob Walder, SUMS Consulting