Essay Appraisal is an approach in which the appraiser is asked to present a written statement that describes the subordinate in detail. This could include describing strengths and weaknesses of the employee with supporting anecdotal evidence. The appraisal could further provide the employee with feedback to help him/her improve their performance in the future and also guide them to take the right course of action with respect to their career.
The essay appraisal can be written by the appraiser alone or sometimes in collaboration with the subordinate. Many times essay appraisals are used to complement other objective appraisals. Furthermore in contrast to the name, an essay appraisal does not need to be long, it can be written in a few lines. An example would be a school report card that had marks/grades and also a few comments from teachers.
An advantage of this method is that it is not as restricting as other objective methods and hence has the scope to provide personalized constructive feedback. In addition this process is more flexible hence allowing the manager to focus on whatever he/she believes truly reflects the performance of the employee.
However, essay appraisal is a time consuming process especially if the manager has a large span of control. Furthermore it is very difficult to compare employees and to provide justification for promotion decisions. Essay appraisals are also more demanding of the appraisers especially if they are not comfortable with writing.