Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Apr 18 2014   10:24AM GMT

The Annual Performance Appraisal

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

As we start with the new financial year in April, two of our main obligations come to fore. One is seeking approval for the annual budget already presented and the other one is the year end appraisal of our staff members. While the former is important for working out our plans for the year, the latter I feel is more important as it helps in setting up the morale of the work force and helps enhance their productivity in the period ahead.

I have seen many a drama enacted during the appraisal process when staffs’ performance is assessed and later when the final ratings are announced. The whole exercise leaves a few people happy but many others sad and is a situation which is tough but has to be managed with tact. A lot depends on the process adopted by the organization and the way the manager and the HR deal with this sensitive matter. Some companies have a mature and an equitable system while some others have a process not so well defined and followed more in default than in compliance. Let us examine various elements that can make the assessment process better and enjoyable rather than one that is intimidating and disliked.

We are dealing with a valuable human resource here and therefore there is need for us to be more considerate. The HR department should come out with clear policies which are well communicated. Let us discussing a few good practices below ;

Making the process participatory : Breaking away from the old practice of assessor making unilateral assessment, the process should be made participatory with the appraisee having a say in the assessment. He should be allowed to voice his complaints about factors that hindered his performance or suggestions for improvement.

Assigning of goals : Every employee should be aware of the expectations of him. He need to be assigned clear tasks and told of the desired outcome in the form of deliverables or goals. Only then we can assess his performance vis-à-vis his targets.

Self appraisal and supervisor assessment : It is always a good practice to let the appraisee assess his own performance first and then let the appraiser agree or note down his disagreement. Serious differences could then be resolved by HR.

Appraisal discussions : Oftentimes discussion turn too formal and geared towards on assigning scores for performance. This should change with the discussion focus more on development and helping the candidate get over his failings and build further on his strengths.

Make the process transparent : Employees often wait with a bated breath not knowing how the news will hit them. The assessment is kept secretive and there is an element of suspense. This is undesirable and unfair. The process must be transparent and the appriasee should be aware of the manner of his assessment and the areas that he should have done better. Proper documentation and a process of consultation would make the process much more meaningful. Many companies use an automated work flow with pre-defined rules to enter goals/targets, self assessment, evaluation, remarks etc. thereby making the process transparent.

Avoid rigid adherence to the bell curve : The often talked of ‘Bell Curve’ formula sometimes makes  us force fit people into slots of excellent, good and the poor performance. Though this could be a general guideline, a small deviation will be in order at times to make possible a fair assessment.

Periodic assessment : In a traditional set up, the appraisal is carried out at the end of the year which means that the candidate comes to know of his shortcomings, if any, only then when the year has run out. A periodic and a formal assessment, say every quarter, can give him an opportunity to improve upon his performance based on the feedback he gets. Such a step would be positive, supportive and fair on the appraisee.

The award : The final give-away is in the form of salary increment or promotion to the next level. People tend to mix up the intent of these issues thereby causing heart burn. Increments are incentives for good performers, a step by which they encourage sincerity, hard work and delivery. On the other hand people who show promise and capability of handling higher responsibilities, are elevated to the next level. This needs to be understood by assessors.

Performance appraisal should therefore be an exercise that people look forward to rather than being an activity that people dread. If it is an ongoing exercise with an intent to develop people and provide encouragement for performing better, this exercise could be enjoyable and productive.

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