Performance appraisal is a powerful tool to help the supervisor meet the objectives of the department and organization .
The benefits of conducting performance appraisals include providing information necessary for improving performance and motivating employees.
Performance appraisals also provide important records for the company.
Managers use this information for decisions on raises, promotions, and discipline.
There are systematic steps in appraising performance.
First, performance and results expectations and standards of performance are established and communicated to employees.
The supervisor then observes behavior and performance results, comparing them to the standards set.
Finally, the supervisor provides reinforcement for acceptable or excellent performance and works with employees to develop remedies for inadequate performance.
It is impossible for different supervisors to evaluate employees in exactly the same way.
A supervisor may have a tendency to select some specific ratings or identify certain behaviors as problematic over others.
Biases about specific people and groups of people can affect the appraisal process.
For example, supervisors who fail to keep good records may rely on recent events when evaluating an employee.
A supervisor may give a more favorable appraisal to someone who is similar to the supervisor and appraise more negatively a person who is different from the supervisor.
Another bias comes from the halo effect, which leads people to generalize one positive or negative trait to a person’s entire performance.
There are several types of appraisals used to evaluate performance.
Supervisors usually do not choose the type of form to use, rather it is selected by the human resources department or upper management.
The goal of some appraisal forms is to make the process easy and consistent for all employees.
Ideally, the form focuses on behavioral performance and results to reduce bias ant increase objectivity.
The graphic rating scale is an example of this type of appraisal form.
However, this type of form is susceptible to lack of consistency from supervisor to supervisor.
Another type of appraisal is the paired-comparison approach, which measures the relative performance of employees in a group.
This form rank orders all employees to find the best employees.
Therefore, it reflects negatively on other employees.
The appraisal interview provides feedback to the employee and allows the employee to join in the process of performance improvement.
The interview should follow careful and thoughtful completion of the appraisal form, and should be in a private place with plenty of time for the employee to discuss issues raised in the interview.
The final outcome of the interview should be agreement between the supervisor and employee about what improvements need to be made and the method for achieving the improvement goals.
Benefits of Conducting a Performance Appraisal
Performance Appraisal: Formal feedback on how well an employee is performing his or her job.
Performance appraisals may be accomplished with the use of a standard form, which includes questions or items to guide the process.
On the other hand, performance appraisal can be accomplished without a standard form.
In either case, the evaluation should be based on predetermined performance expectations that are communicated to employees.
Performance appraisals provide information necessary for employees to improve the quality of their work .
It can help motivate employees.
Employees like to hear how they are doing, and behaviors that are evaluated or measured tend to get more attention from individuals.
Therefore, when it is useful to the organization to have special attention directed at a goal, it is useful to have that item on a formal appraisal.
For example, if the quality of a product or service is important, it is worthwhile to have a section on the performance appraisalon quality.
Another reason for conducting performance appraisals is that they provide important records for the organization.
They are a useful source of information when deciding on raises, promotions, and discipline, and they provide evidence that these were administered fairly.
In the case of employee behavior or performance problems, an appraisal documents the problem.
Systematically Appraising Performance
For appraisals to deliver their potential benefits, they must be as fair and accurate as possible.
Supervisors should be systematic in appraising performance.
Establish and communicate expectations for performance.
Observe and measure individual performance against standards.
Reinforce performance to provide remedies
Establish and Communicate Expectations
During the planning process and related action plans, the supervisor spells out who is to do what in order to accomplish the department objectives.
This information will indicate what each employee must do in order to help the department or work group meet its objectives.
One approach is to list three to five major responsibilities of each position; then focus on these responsibilities.
It is important that each employee knows and understands what is expected.
The supervisor must communicate the objectives effectively.
Employees are most likely to understand and be committed to objectives when they have a say in developing.
Observe and Measure Individual Performance
Through the control process, the supervisor should continuously gather information about each employee’s performance.
This is an ongoing process, not something the supervisor saves to do when filling out appraisal forms.
Performance appraisals should focus on behavior and results.
Focusing on behavior means the appraisal should describe specific actions or patterns of behaving.
Focusing on results means describing the extent to which the employee has satisfied the objective for which he or she is responsible.
Sometimes a supervisor needs to appraise personal characteristics, for example, an employee’s dependability or attitude.
While such ratings are necessarily subjective, the supervisor can try to base them on observations about behavior and results.
To keep employees motivated and informed, the supervisor needs to tell them when they are doing something right, not just when they are making a mistake.
Reinforce good performance by pointing out to employees the areas in which their performance is good.
In areas where the employee falls short of the standards, he or she needs to know how to improve.
An effective way to help the employee is for the supervisor and employee to work together in solving performance problems.
To move beyond discussing symptoms to uncover the underlying problems, the supervisor can ask which of the following kinds of causes led to the poor performance:
(1) Inadequate skills.
The supervisor should see that the employee gets the necessary training.
(2) Lack of effort.
The supervisor may need to apply the principles of motivation.
(3) External Additions.
If the problem is something beyond the control of the supervisor and employee, such as a poor economy or lack of cooperation from another department, the appraisal standards and ratings should be adjusted so that they are fair to the employee.
(4) Personal problems.
The supervisor should handle the situation as described in Chapter 14.
Avoiding Discrimination in Performance Appraisals
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency charged with enforcing federal laws against discrimination.
The EEOC has published the Uniform Guidelines of Employee Selection Procedures, which include guidelines for designing and implementing performance appraisals.
In general, the behaviors or characteristics measured by a performance appraisal should be related to the job and to succeeding on the job.
The supervisor and others responsible for the content of performance appraisals should make sure that what they measure is still relevant to a particular job.
Ratings of performance should not be discriminatory.
That is, they should not be based on the employee’s race, sex, or other protected category, but on whether the employee meets standards of performance.
Types of Appraisals
Types of commonly used performance appraisal techniques include:
Graphic rating scales.
Graphic Rating Scale
Graphic Rating Scale: A performance appraisal that rates the degree to which the employee has achieved various characteristics.
The graphic rating scale is the most common type of appraisal used.
Various characteristics such as job knowledge or punctuality are rated by the degree of achievement.
The rate usually receives a score of 1 to 5 , with 5 representing excellent performance.
Some forms allow for additional comments.
The advantage of this type of appraisal is that it is relatively easy to use.
However, the ratings themselves are subjective.
What one supervisor considers “excellent” may seem just “average” to someone else.
Also, many supervisors tend to rate everyone as being at least a little bit above average.
Additional descriptive information is an attempt to overcome these problems.
Paired-comparison Approach: A performance appraisal that measures the relative performance of employees in a group.
This is a method of performance evaluation that results in a rank ordering of employees to come up with a best employee.
This type of approach measures the relative performance of employees in a group.
Employees are ranked by comparing the first two employees on the list.
The supervisor places a check mark next to the name of the employee whose performance is better.
The process is repeated, comparing the first employee’s performance with that of the other employees.
Then the supervisor compares the second employee on the list with all the others, and so on until each pair of employees has been compared.
The employee with the most check marks is considered the most valuable.
The paired-comparison approach is appropriate when the supervisor needs to find one outstanding employee in a group for a promotion or special assignment.
The fact that paired comparison makes some employees look good at the expense of others makes this technique less useful as a method of providing feedback to individual employees.
Forced-choice Approach: A performance appraisal that presents the appraiser with sets of statements describing employee behavior; the appraiser must choose which statement is most characteristic of the employee and which is least characteristic.
This type of appraisal form gives the supervisor sets of statements describing employee behavior .
For each set of statements, the supervisor must select the one that is most and the one that is least characteristic of the employee.
These questionnaires prevent the supervisor from saying only positive things about employees. It is used when an organization finds that supervisors have been rating an unbelievably high proportion of employees as above average.
Sometimes the supervisor must write a description of the employee’s performance.
The essay appraisal is often used along with other types of appraisals, notably graphic rating scales.
They provide an opportunity for supervisors to describe aspects of performance not thoroughly covered by an appraisal questionnaire.
The disadvantage of this method is that their quality depends on the supervisor’s writing skills.
Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales
Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales: A performance appraisal in which the employee is rated on scales containing statements describing performance in several areas.
This is a method of performance appraisal that is tailored to the organization and positions within that organization.
Some organizations pay behavioral scientists or organizational psychologists to create behaviorally anchored rating scales.
These scales rate employee performance in several areas.
The supervisor selects the statement that best describes how the employee performs.
Each job title in the organization has a different set of rating statements.
The advantage of using this technique is that it is tailored to the organization’s objectives for employees.
It also tends to be less subjective than some other approaches.
However, developing the scales is time-consuming and therefore relatively expensive.
A checklist appraisal is a record of performance, not an evaluation by the supervisor.
It contains a series of questions about the employee’s performance.
The supervisor checks boxes to answer the questions yes or no.
The human resources department has a key for scoring the items resulting in a rating of the employee’s performance.
The advantage of this type of appraisal is that it is easy to complete.
However, it has several disadvantages.
The checklist can be difficult to prepare, and each job category will probably require a different set of questions.
Also, there is no way for the supervisor to adjust the answers for any special circumstances that affect performance.
Critical-incident Appraisal: A performance appraisal in which the supervisor keeps a record of incidents that show positive and negative ways the employee has acted; the supervisor uses this record to assess the employee’s performance.
To conduct a critical-incident appraisal, the supervisor keeps a written record of incidents that show positive and negative ways in which the employee has acted.
The record should include dates, people involved, actions taken, and any other details that are relevant.
At the time of the appraisal, the supervisor reviews the record to reach an overall evaluation of the employee’s behavior.
During the appraisal interview, the employee has a chance to respond to each of the incidents recorded.
The advantage of this method is that it focuses on actual behaviors.
However, the recordkeeping is time-consuming, and since negative behaviors are more likely to be recorded than positive behaviors, it can be overly harsh.
Work Standards Approach: A performance appraisal in which the appraiser compares the employee’s performance to objective measures of what an employee should do.
This type of appraisal requires the supervisor to establish objective measures of performance.
A typical work standard would be the quantity produced by an assembly-line worker.
The supervisor then compares the employee’s actual performance with the standards.
This approach works best with production workers.
Management by Objectives (MBO)
In organizations where MBO is used to set goals and objectives for employees, the supervisor will use this approach for performance appraisal also.
The appraisal is based on whether or not the employee has met his or her objectives.
The advantage is that employees know what to expect.
The supervisor focuses on results rather than more subjective criteria.
Agents by Someone Other than the Supervisor
360-degree Feedback: Performance appraisal that combines assessment from several sources.
Because the supervisor cannot know all of an employee’s behaviors and their impact on others in the organization, the supervisor may combine his or her appraisal with self-assessments by the employee or with appraisals by peers or subordinates.
Combining several sources of appraisals is called 360-degree feedback.
The self-assessment may be done before the interview.
Then the supervisor and employee can compare the employee’s appraisal with his or her own evaluation.
Peer Reviews: Performance appraisals conducted by an employee’s co-workers.
Peer appraisals are less common.
In organizations that use teams, the members may appraise the performance of their team members.
There are many techniques for appraising performance.
Usually the human resources department or higher-level management dictates which type(s) the supervisor will use.
All supervisors will likely use the same approach because it is easier to keep records showing performance over time.
The supervisor may be able to supplement the appraisal format with other techniques if they seem helpful by using the “Comment” section of the form or an attached addition.
An increasing number of major companies are having subordinates rate how well their bosses manage.
The purpose is to give managers information they can use to supervise more effectively and make their corporations more competitive.
Bias in Appraising Performance
Performance appraisals should be free of bias, but this is impossible.
There are several identifiable biases in the performance appraisals by supervisors.
Harshness Bias: Rating employees more severely than their performance merits.
Leniency Bias: Rating employees more favorably than their performance merits.
Harshness bias tends to frustrate and discourage workers who resent the unfair assessments of their performance.
At the other extreme is the leniency bias, where supervisors rate their employees more favorably than the performance merits.
Employees who receive favorable ratings may see it as an advantage.
However, it cheats them and the department of the benefits of truly developing and coaching employees.
There are also supervisors who tend to select ratings that are related to the structuring of answers on the questionnaire.
A tendency may be to select ratings in the middle of the scale, which is called central tendency.
This type of bias misses important opportunities to praise or correct employees.
Proximity bias, or assigning similar scores to items that are near each other on a questionnaire, can result in misleading appraisals.
If the supervisor is uncertain about specific questions or wants to adjust a low score, he or she may resort to making random choices.
This should be avoided by trying to apply objective criteria.
Personal preferences of the supervisor will bias performance appraisals also.
There is a tendency to judge others more positively when they are like oneself.
There is also a tendency to place most weight on the events that have occurred most recently.
This is called recency syndrome.
The supervisor should be careful to consider events and behaviors that occurred throughout the entire period covered by the review.
Similarity Bias: The tendency to judge others more positively when they are like oneself.
The halo effect refers to the tendency to generalize one positive or negative aspect of a person to the person’s entire performance, resulting in either a higher or lower rating than the employee deserves.
Finally, the supervisor’s prejudices about various types of people can unfairly influence a performance appraisal.
The supervisor must remember that each employee is an individual, not just a representative of a group.
This is especially important in light of the EEOC guidelines discussed earlier in the chapter.
Purpose of Conducting Performance Appraisals
The interview between the supervisor and employee is where performance is reinforced or remedies are provided.
The supervisor describes what he or she has observed and discusses this appraisal with the employee.
Together they agree on areas for improvement and development.
Supervisors often dread conducting appraisal interviews.
Pointing out another person’s shortcomings can be unpleasant at best.
To overcome these feelings, if helps to focus on the benefits of appraising employees.
The purpose of holding an appraisal interview is to communicate information about the employee’s performance.
An interview is an appropriate setting because if sets aside time to focus on and discuss the appraisal in private.
It is a two-way communication with the supervisor and employee working together to devise ways to improve performance.
Preparing for a Performance Appraisal
Preparation for the interview begins with completing the appraisal form.
The supervisor should allow enough time to complete the form carefully and thoughtfully.
The supervisor should think about how the employee is likely to react to the appraisal and should plan how to handle the employee’s reaction.
Also be ready with some ideas for how to correct problems noted in the appraisal.
Notify the employee ahead of the time of the interview.
Arrange for a private place to hold the interview.
Make arrangements to prevent interruptions.
This is a very important event for both the supervisor and the employee--treat it as such.
In preparation for the appraisal interview, it is also useful for the supervisor to review for himself or herself why appraisals are important for the organization, department, and most of all for the supervisor to be competent at the job.
When the supervisor is convinced the performance is a positive enterprise and that it can be a win-win situation, it will be easier to do the interview.
Guidelines for Conducting the Interview
Begin the interview session by an attempt to put the employee at ease.
A refreshment and small talk may help break the ice.
Review the employee’s self-evaluation first, if there is one.
Ask for reasons for the various ratings.
Then the supervisor describes his or her evaluation of the employee.
Start with an overall impression, then explain the contents of the appraisal forms.
Most employees are waiting for the “bad news,” so it is probably most effective to describe areas for improvement first.
Then describe the employee’s strengths.
Allow time for the employee to respond to the performance appraisal.
The employee should be allowed to agree or disagree with the supervisor’s conclusions, as well as to ask questions.
It is important for the supervisor to keep an open mind and listen to the employee.
When the supervisor and employee understand each other’s point of view, they should reach a decision on how to solve problems described in the appraisal.
At the end of the interview, the supervisor and employee are usually required to sign the appraisal form.
By doing so, they acknowledge that the interview has been conducted and that the employee has read and understood the form.
After the interview is over, the supervisor continues to appraise performance.
Training and coaching for improvement should ensue.