Appraising Performance

There are several reasons to appraise subordinates’ performance. First, appraisals play, or should play, an integral role in the employer’s performance management process; it does little good to translate the employer’s strategic goals into specific employees’ goals, and then train the employees. Second, the appraisal lets the boss and subordinate develop a plan for correcting any deficiencies the appraisal might have unearthed, and to reinforce the things the subordinate does correctly. Third, appraisals should serve a useful career planning purpose by providing the opportunity to review the employee’s career plans in light of his or her exhibited strengths and weakness. And, last but not least, the appraisal almost always affect the employer’s salary raise and promotional decisions.

In reviewing the appraisal tools we discuss below don’t miss the forest for the trees. It doesn’t matter which tool you use if you’re less than candid when your subordinate is underperforming. Not all managers are devotees of such candor, but some firms like GE are famous for hard-hearted appraisals. GE’s former CEO has said, for instance, that there’s nothing crueler than telling someone who’s doing a mediocre job that he or she is doing well. Someone who might have had the chance to correct bad behavior or find a more appropriate vocation may instead end up spending years in a dead-end situation, only to leave when a tough boss comes along.

There are many practical motivations for giving soft appraisals: the fear of having to hire and train someone new; the unpleasant reaction of the appraisee; or a company appraisal process that’s not conducive to candor for instance. Ultimately it’s the person doing the appraising who must decide if the potential negative effects of less-than-candid appraisals on the employee’s long term peace of mind and on the performance of the appraiser and his or her firm outweigh the assumed benefits. They rarely do.

Appraising performance is both a difficult and an essential supervisory skill. The Supervisor not HR usually does the actual appraising and a supervisor who rates his or her employees too high or too low is doing a disservice to them, to the company, and to him or herself. Supervisors must therefore be familiar with basic appraisal techniques, understand and avoid problems that can cripple appraisals, and know how to conduct appraisals.

The HR department serves a policymaking and advisory role. Generally, the HR department provides advice and assistance regarding the appraisal tool to use, but leaves final decisions on procedures to operating division heads. In some firms, HR prepares detailed forms and procedures and insists that all departments use them. HR is also responsible for training supervisors to improve their appraisals skills. Finally, HR is responsible for monitoring the appraisal system and, particularly for ensuring that the format and criteria being measured comply with laws if any and aren’t outdated.

The performance appraisal process itself contains three steps: define the job, appraise performance, and provide feedback. Defining the job means making sure that subordinates agree on their duties and job standards. Appraising performance means comparing subordinate’s actual performance to the standards that have been set; this usually involves some type of rating form. Third, performance appraisal usually requires one or more feedback sessions. Here the two of manager or boss or superior discuss the subordinate’s performance and progress, and make plans for any development required.

The manager generally conducts the appraisal itself with the aid of a predetermined and formal; method like one or more of those described in this section. The two basic considerations in designing the actual appraisal tool are what to measure and how to measure it. For example, in terms of what to measure, we may measure the employee’s performance in terms of generic dimensions such as quality, quantity and timeliness of work. Or, we may measure performance with respect to developing one’s competencies as in the ability to use Java or achieving one’s goals. In terms of how to measure it there are various methodologies, including graphic rating scales the alternation ranking method and MBO.

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