May 2019

You are here: Case studies

Creating Local Appraisal questionnaire using ESR Development & Review Functionality

A Case Study by Dudley & Walsall Mental Health NHS Trust 


Dudley & Walsall Mental Health Trust provides a wide range of integrated mental health services to children, adults and older people across the communities of Dudley and Walsall. We employ around 1,000 staff and provide care for more than 20,000 people each year, across 23 community sites and three acute hospitals; Dorothy Pattison Hospital in Walsall, Bloxwich Hospital in Walsall and Bushey Fields Hospital in Dudley.

The Trust was set up on 1st October 2008, with both boroughs joining together to combine their resources and expertise. 

Current ESR Self Service Footprint

We have successfully rolled out Employee Self Service to all our employees and Manager and Supervisor Self Service.

The Case for Change

A recent staff survey in early 2018 identified a discrepancy between the annual staff survey results and ESR data on the completion rates of staff annual appraisals.

92% of staff surveyed stated that they had undergone an appraisal in the last 12 months with their manager, but ESR BI reports identified that only 86% were actually recorded by the Workforce team in ESR via the current paper process. The paper system meant that there was no real evidence of appraisals being undertaken to match the feedback and it was an onerous task for the workforce team to trawl through responses to paper questionnaires to identify key areas such as training needs etc.

The Workforce Committee (Chief Executive, Director of Finance, Director of People, Director of Nursing, Key Service Leads and the ESR Manager) were made aware of this in the spring of 2018, and the Director of People and the ESR Manager were tasked with looking at alternative options to accurately record and monitor staff appraisals, including potential 3rd party systems. However, with the new pay deal being introduced for Agenda for Change staff in April 2019, it was subsequently agreed that the organisation should only use ESR so we immediately began to evaluate the ESR appraisal functionality in Self Service.

In addition it was also agreed that the project should also include capturing annual appraisals for Medical and Dental Staff which would complement their mandatory Revalidation process.

Previous Paper Appraisal Process

The Appraiser and Appraisee completed the Appraisal documentation together, either electronically but more likely on paper. This included reviewing the previous year, personal development, feedback from the appraiser and the plan for the year ahead. The final section of this documentation was an Appraisals Outcomes Monitoring Form, which covered the overall appraisal outcome and identified future training needs; this was completed and signed by both the Appraiser & Appraisee and sent to the Learning & Development Team. Once the form was received, only the date the appraisal took place and who was the Appraiser were entered onto ESR, the form itself was archived.  This process made it difficult for us to identify any key areas such as training needs for staff without having to review all paper based documentation.

The New Appraisal Process and Project

The scoping exercise identified that a number of changes were required in order to streamline and improve the current process; including the ability to accurately record and monitor appraisal KPIs.

It was agreed that the manager would continue to hold face to face meetings with their employees using a new electronic form to capture the broader conversation outcomes, but that ESR would be used to record the overall outcomes of the appraisal in order to support the reporting needs of the organisation as well as enable employees to have sight of the outcomes via their Employee Self Service access.

The key purpose of the project was to establish how ESR could:

  1. a) enable the manager to record the agreed responses to a locally defined questionnaire easily;
  2. b) support the reporting needs for both the manager and the Board.

Our ESR Manager identified that a bespoke local Appraisal Template and Questionnaire could be created using ESRs ‘Form Builder’ capability, so we created a bespoke local appraisal template and questionnaire, with a mix of free text and lists of values responses as well as a local BI report and we agreed a local naming convention to ensure that managers could easily select the right appraisal template in ESR.

Below is an example of how the questions and responses appear in the local BI Appraisal Reports for AfC and Medical and Dental staff groups:

AfC staff group questionnaire/Report

Medical & Dental staff group questionnaire/Report


The Project

Pilot Group

We undertook an initial test in the live system with the Workforce Team during June to August 2018.  One of the key requirements was to establish how easy it was for our managers to select and complete the bespoke template and what they were able to view in the Self Service screens.  A couple of managers who were familiar with ESR agreed to take part for a period of two months and fed back their views to the ESR Lead, which concluded that this was a good viable solution that made the task relatively straight forward to undertake.   During this period of review and feedback the local BI report to capture the outcomes was also created.

Go Live

Following the successful pilot and feedback from managers a ‘soft launch’ ran from October to December 2018, targeting departments that already used ESR functionality.  This ensured that the new process was fully utilised and we were able to monitor the success of the new functionality, including the reporting capability.

The soft launch enabled us to roll out to the wider organisation from 1st Jan 2019, and by 1st April 2019 all managers had transitioned from the old paper process to the new electronic/ESR process. We did continue to allow a mixed approach of the old and new processes between December 2018 to end of March 2019 to allow managers less familiar with ESR and IT, to transition to the new process. This approach also enabled us to complete the full rollout of Supervisor/Manager Self Service across the organisation. 


A number of key benefits have been identified from moving to this new approach. 

  • Streamlined appraisal process by removing the paper associated with the old process
  • Provides evidence based appraisals for the manager, employee and the organisation
  • Able to easily identify via the questionnaire and the report, any employee training needs and take appropriate action
  • Accurate and up to date reporting for the manager and the Organisation, including over the internet
  • Appraisals recorded in real time by the manager, thus providing an accurate picture of the team
  • Managers will soon be able to see accurate appraisal KPIs for their team on the Manager Self Service Dashboards via a local BI Appraisal portlet in development
  • Administration costs saved as responsibility moved from workforce team to managers –estimated saving to be approx. £2.60 per entry made (admin time, paper saving), therefore approx. £5000 per annum
  • Gateway into broader ESR usage by managers via MSS, thus improving ESR knowledge and usage
  • Empowerment and ownership of the process by managers
  • Providing employees notifications when appraisals are completed
  • Will prepare managers and employees for the new pay progress process from April 2019 onwards

Key points to Consider

  • Get Executive Support for the new process
  • Review the ESR user guides and get support from the NHS ESR Regional Account Manager/Functional Advisor with queries
  • Understand your organisations vision and the end goal
  • Don’t try to shoehorn current processes into ESR. Use this as an opportunity to review current processes and assess how ESR can help to you to streamline ways of working g. remove or cut down onerous paper work
  • Test the new process with relevant staff groups and local champions
  • Create local user guides for managers on how to complete the process in ESR
  • Communicate the process to all staff as early as possible and be prepared for questions.

Next Phase

We will continue to review the new process, particularly in light of the new pay deal that came into force from April 2019 onwards, and where necessary take account of the new appraisal process.

In addition work is under way to add the local BI Report to a new BI portlet on the ESR Manager Dashboard.

By giving managers the ability to enter their staff’s appraisal data onto the system we support them to feel empowered and responsible for their own staff data. The new systems means we can replicate our appraisal documents and enter directly into ESR moving away from paper based systems to real time electronic data where we can extract training needs. We are hoping to not only see an increase in our appraisal rates but also the satisfaction levels from staff/managers increase.

 Ashi Williams, Director of People

For More Information

If you would like further information on how your organisation can adopt a similar approach then contact Daniel Peniket, ESR Manager on


No comments have been left for this article

Have your say...

Your name will be published alongside your comment but we will not publish your email address.

All comments will be reviewed by a moderator before being published.

Please ensure you complete all fields marked as mandatory.