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In private households, formal processes such as staff appraisals can often be neglected. However, as the private staffing industry becomes increasingly structured, with extensive experience and training required, initiatives such as performance reviews should be considered by chiefs of staff and house managers.
For senior private PAs, house managers or chiefs of staff, it’s not just a case of arranging an appointment with each team member and discussing their role. With a little forward planning and discussions with the relevant parties, a performance review can form an integral part of a wider professional development policy.
Just like any corporate workplace, a staff appraisal should be conducted at least annually, at the same time each year. For ease, consider scheduling appointments at the end of the year in December, or at the beginning of the year in January, linking in with any bonus schemes your household may operate.
Before scheduling any appointments, take the time to prepare some questions for both your principals and staff members to answer before the official chat. This will allow both parties to think about their positive feedback as well as possible criticism/areas of improvement, giving everyone time to consider their response.
For the principal, questions should include:
• How are you finding the staff?
• Is there anything you would like to implement over the next year?
• What are you most appreciative about for each staff member?
• Do you have any suggestions for each staff member?
• What positive feedback do you have for each staff member?
It is worth asking for specific and practical examples for each of these answers so that you can communicate them to your staff.
For the staff member, questions should include:
• How are you finding your role? Is it meeting your expectations?
• What part of your role do you enjoy the most? Where do you think you’ve delivered fantastic work?
• What areas do you find tricky or challenging?
• Are there any elements of the job you aren’t enjoying and why?
• Do you have any concerns?
• Was there any training you’d like to implement over the next year?
Once again, specific and practical examples will be needed from each staff member in order to communicate their achievements or concerns back to your principal.
Moving forward, in your second and third years of appraisals, it would be worth referring to the previous years’ notes to ensure that any developments or improvements discussed previously had been implemented.
When asking these questions, it should be understood that any requested or discussed training initiatives (within reason) will be funded and implemented. For example, if a principal mentions that they thought that a butler could improve their service at the dinner table, a silver service course could be arranged. Alternatively, if they mention a housekeeper packed their travel bag really well, that housekeeper could share their knowledge with other members of the team.
The meeting and follow up
Once you have collated all the information, it’s time for the actual meeting. As the chief of staff or house manager, arrange an informal one-to-one chat with each staff member, where you can go through all notes together. It’s worth considering ending on a positive note, in order to leave the staff member feeling supported and encouraged.
After the meeting, email both the staff member and principal with shared feedback and suggestions for training, help and improvement. Both parties should sign a printed copy of the email to confirm they agree with everything discussed.
For a personal touch, consider having your principal write a short card after the performance review in order to thank their staff member for all their hard work. This can correlate with any bonuses handed out.
At the end of the day, a private household should be run as a professional entity, respecting the effort and experience that staff members hold. By making them feel valued with positive and practical objectives to work towards, you will be able to foster an environment of growth and development.
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