Suggestions for improving Performance Evaluation

The performance evaluation process is a potential minefield of problems. For instances, evaluators can unconsciously inflate evaluations (positive leniency), understate performance (negative leniency), or allow the assessment of one characteristics to unduly influence the assessment of others (the halo error). Some appraisers bias their evaluations by unconsciously favoring people who have qualities and traits similar to their own (the similarity error). And, of course, some evaluators see the evaluation process as a political opportunity to overtly reward or punish employees they like or dislike. Although there are no protections that will guarantee accurate performance evaluations, the following suggestions can significantly help to make the process more objective and fair.

Use Multiple Evaluators: As the number of evaluators increase, the probability of attaining more accurate information increases. If rated error tends to follow a normal curve, an increase in the number of appraisers will tend to find the majority congregating about the middle. We often see multiple evaluators in competitions in such sports as diving and gymnastics. A set of evaluators judges a performance, the highest and lowest scores are dropped, and the final evaluation is made up of those remaining. The logic of multiple evaluators applies to organizations as well.

If an employee has had 10 supervisors, 9 having rated her excellent and 1 poor, we can safely discount the one poor evaluation. Therefore, by moving employees about within the organization so as to gain a number of evaluations or by using multiple assessors (as provided in 360-degree appraisals), we increase the probability of achieving more valid and reliable evaluations.

Evaluate Selectively: Appraisers should evaluate only in areas in which they have some expertise. This precaution increases the inter-rater agreement and makes the evaluation more valid process. It also recognizes that different organizational levels often have different orientations towards those being rated and observe them in different settings. In general, therefore, appraisers should be as close as possible, in terms of organizational level, to the individual being evaluated. Conversely, the more levels separate the evaluator and the person being evaluated the less opportunity the evaluator has to observe the individual’s behavior and, not surprisingly, the greater the possibility for inaccuracies.

Train Evaluators: If you can’t find good evaluators, the alternative is to make good evaluators. There is substantial evidence that training evaluators can make them more accurate raters.

Common errors such as halo and leniency have been minimized or eliminated in workshops where managers practice observing and rating behaviors. These workshops typically run from 1 to 3 days, but allocating many hours to training may not always be necessary. One case has been cited in which both halo and leniency errors were decreased immediately after exposing evaluators to explanatory training sessions lasting only 5 minutes. But the effects of training appear to diminish over time. This suggests the need for regular refresher sessions.

Provide Employees with Due Process: The concept of due process can be applied to appraisals to increase the perception that employees are being treated fairly. These features characterize due process systems: (1) Individuals are provided with adequate notice of what is expected of them; (2) all evidence relevant to a proposed violation is aired in a fair hearing so the individual affected can respond and (3) the final decision is based on the evidence and free of bias.

There is considerable evidence that evaluation systems often violate employees’ due process by providing them with infrequent and relatively general performance feedback, allowing them little input into the appraisal process, and knowingly introducing bias into performance ratings. However, when due process has been part of the evaluation systems, employees report positive reactions to the appraisal process, perceive the evaluation results as more accurate, and express increased intent to remain with the organization.