Salim Al Riyami -
WITH all respect to Shakespeare’s famous quote “To be or not to be that is the question”, Performance Appraisal (PA) or Performance Review becoming very debatable and questionable by many business practitioners and organisations on its uses and benefits.
Last week, I met a friend of mine; a young HR Manager for a small firm, who just had his first experience with managing and implementing the employee performance appraisal process. He is a bright fellow, and he carefully implemented the process in a way that was aligning with “best practices” suggested by HR gurus and leading HR professionals. I guess things did not come out as well as he hoped; as he asked me, “I am wondering if the process does more harm than good.”
His question really made me remember how some companies I know, during my career, were dealing with the PA process. Some organisations are doing it as part of their routine system with huge time and effort consumed, while some do not believe in its use assigning only a couple of peers to decide on bonuses and promotions. It is claimed by many practitioners that very few organisations implement effective Performance Appraisal process.
In order to understand why all these debates on PA, let us first understand its definition. In simple terms, PA is a process by which a Manager or a Supervisor evaluate, provide feedback and set goals to someone he/she supervise. In most cases, organisations do their PA annually, but in others they do it biannually or even every interim quarters. No matter how much the frequency is, its reliability remains questionable; how far is it good and how far is it bad?
Let us start with the good ones:
• Enhance face-to-face communication between Manager and Subordinate.
• Previous Goals and targets are reviewed and assessed.
• New goals and targets are set for the coming year.
• Identify Training and development needs.
• Affect increments, bonuses and promotions.
While among the bad ones or rather pitfalls:
• Time and money consuming, as Managers will spend time on this process, which is costly if time translated to money for the period not utilised in core business activities.
• Poorly structured PA with no previous goals clearly set for the period appraised or reviewed.
• Untrained Managers/Supervisors, who do not know how to handle the PA process.
• Appraisee’s or the subordinate’s reactions towards bad or unfair evaluation.
• Behavioural and attitude characteristics by the appraisers that affect the whole process.
Therefore, PA may be a successful one or otherwise a failure due to the above factors. Therefore, here are good suggestions on how to deal with PA in order to minimise the pitfalls:
• Set a period: The PA process should have a deadline for completion, which should be well communicated among, HR, business units and the Management.
• Be prepared: The managers should go through each criterion to be evaluated, noting in advance the goals to be assessed and the goals set for the next period.
• Use the SMART formula in goals setting: This means. make the goals Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic and Time framed. How many times we see goals are not clearly stated, not assigned to specific personnel, cannot be done by an individual and not time bound to achieve the goals and targets.
• Training: Managers and Supervisors should be well trained on the process of PA. Training sessions should be conducted by HR or even external consultants to those Managers, as they may get adversely affected by: 1) Bias: basically, favouring one employee to the other one, or being harsher on one while soft with the other, 2) The ‘halo’ effect: This means Manager fall prey of pre-judgement of an employee without considering the main criteria of evaluation. For example, a Manager may get impressed with an employee and ignoring his core accountabilities to be evaluated, 3) Behaviours: Managers should not be very lenient nor be over strict; the former will not flag weaknesses, while the latter will cause demoralisation.
So, what do you think; Is performance appraisal to be effectively implemented, or to be routinely implemented, or even not to be implemented at all…? That is the question. I will leave the answer to the reader to reflect on his/her current or previous organisation(s).
“Evaluate what you want — because what gets measured gets produced.” — James Belasco