Do employee performance appraisals work?

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Tricia 8 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #105068

    John Bourdon

    I am in the midst of writing performance plans for some senior managers. There are many arguments in favor of and against the performance appraisals. A well wriiten performance plan can set measurable outcomes and give guidance towards achievable expectations. But is it too restrictive? Can a performance plan/appraisal stifle innovation, thwart creativity, and crush employee autonomy?

  • #105092


    Funny you posted this today. I was listening to NPR today and heard part of a segment on just this topic! The gentleman they interviewed was against them (I see his point, but not sure I totally agree). They do serve a purpose if you ask an HR professional such as myself – In any case, here’s the link to the written article, and audio as well.

    By the way, good luck with the performance plans – not a fun task that I enjoy, and I suspect few do!

  • #105090

    John Bourdon

    Thanks Tricia for your reply.

    I will take a look at the article you sent. BTW the performance plan is a very challenging task. There does not seem to be a plan that satisfies everyone.

  • #105088

    Jim Mack

    There was an interview on NPR this morning with Samuel Culbert, UCLA business professor and author of “Get Rid of the Performance Review.” He definitely believes that performance appraisals do not contribute to organizational success.

  • #105086

    John Bourdon

    Thanks Jim,

    At one time performance plans seemed to reign supreme. Today, there seems to be a rising sentiment in getting rid of the plans. I think the change is stemmed from many motivational theorists finding evidence that the performance plans may in fact hinder not only organizational performance but also individual contributuions beyond a performance plan.

  • #105084

    John Bourdon

    Daniel H. Pink, worte a book on motivation titled “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us” and he also concludes that performance plans provide no value for “outside the box” thinking. Therefore, there is really no motivation in an employee going beyond what is perscribed in a plan. Theresa Amabile, Professor, Havard University stated “The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest levels of creativity…” After writing a few performance plans I found that the managers are not at all motivated or satisfied with the requirements in the plan. In my previous post I stated that performance plans never satisfy everyone.

    There is another side of performance plans that you touched upon and Daniel Pink discusses in his book and it has to do with power. Power is something that is definitely a part of the performance appraisal process. Not so much from the HR professional but from the rating manager/supervisor. Many managers enjoy their power and are not so willing to let it go. A performance plan can, in effect, substantiate that power. Some managers tweak the performance plan to better control (manage) their employees.

    I work for the government and I think that performance appraisals are not as fair as they should be. If two supervisors are given the same exact plan to rate one employee I do not think the employee will come out with the same rating; there is much subjectivity that goes into the process. Until something better comes along, I think managers have an honest obligation to make the plans not only work but be equitable as possible.

  • #105082


    Well said. Believe me, HR doesn’t like performance evaluations (after all we are the ones that pester managers to get them done because of policies put in place by those higher up than HR, which require them to be done, and on file in HR. No one likes to deliver bad news, and so it seems evaluations get inflated.

    Also, if you need some ideas/tools on what to write – I’d be happy to share some things I have found helpful. Drop me an email.

    HR has to wonder what is going on with supervisor/subordinate relationshiops in situations where an employee is given a stellar evaluation, yet the manager comes to visit HR with concerns about the employee (and oftentimes those issues go back years). Nothing has been formally documented, and by this time has become an issue of a serious nature – with the manager wanting to suspend or terminate the employee. With nothing documented, and a great evaluation, how will this stand up in a courtroom if the agency/employer allows that manager to discipline/terminate?

    There is a new trend in performance evaluations where an employee’s rating is based on other people’s interractions with them ( quick example – Nurses. Their patients provide feedback on how they were treated which gives them an automated score). There’s so many different types of evaluations (360, and others come to mind), but each has its pro’s and con’s.

  • #105080

    John Bourdon

    Thanks Tricia,

    I will keep that in mind as a resource to go to. Two things I am working on to incorporate into the performance plans. A section on business acumen and customer service and outreach efforts.The difficult part is creating measurable standards.

  • #105078

    Mark Hammer

    I think the biggest hurdle in using them is that they often need to consist of different approaches, and be used in different ways, for different types of jobs. This necessitates a great deal of forethought by the organization and manager in what to use and how to use it, as well as what to use it for. Ideally, the organization should provide a range of templates adapted to suit different families of jobs.

    My own job tends to be very ad hoc. If I look at the comparison between performance objectives and achievements for previous years, I tend to see far too much “cancelled” for the things I was supposed to achieve, and unexpected things added for the actual achievements. That sort of discrepancy makes any sort of appraisal of performance difficult for many supervisors. But that’s just the nature of the job.

    In contrast, there are many jobs where the duties and tasks and achievements, are pretty standardized and known ahead of time, and relatively stable across time. It strikes me that the one sort of job family needs a different approach to performance appraisal than the other, and that applying the same framework to both may lead to more frustration than effective performance management..

  • #105076

    Henry Brown

    Depends GREATLY on the performance plan! MOST performance plans are written where “one size fits all” and though it is a whole lot easier probably not terribly useful.

    Although a plan which is developed for an individual by someone who “knows” the intended subject can have some or all of the suggested negatives it is much harder to unintentionally to include them.

    When a plan is written/developed based on the position and with very little input from the individual directly impacted the possibility of the negative(s) being included increase dramatically

  • #105074

    Peter Sperry

    Performance plans and appraisals are tools. Some are well designed, others not. Most are mediocre. A skilled craftsman can produce outstanding results with barely functional tools. A lazy or clueless one will be unable to effectively apply the most well designed.

    Back in my National Guard NCO days, we conducted quarterly performance evaluations and used them to develop the training schedule. The process actually worked fairly well and we were able to target limited time and resources effectively to grow and develop our junior enlisted personnel.

    I’ve also seen performance appraisals used as clubs, to justify favoritism and completely ignored as a tedious paperwork drill. It depends primarily on attitude of managment. How they view the process will determine the results you get from it. In general, if you are not getting positive results from your performance plan/appraisal process, it may be time to schedule training for the supervisors, redesign your process or both.

  • #105072


    @Harlan – To answer your question, that performance evaluations are not one of the creations of HR – my response is yes and no. No, because upper management makes the final decision on the evaluation tool; and yes, in the sense that HR is involved in creating the tool for the organization. Typically policies & and procedures come to be due to personnel issues that arise in the workplace. Management typically sets the policy, with input from HR, but ultimately management has the final say (Dilbert comes to mind here, or that saying “don’t shoot the messenger” – HR must implement them, regardless of our opinion)

    Performance evaluation is a formal managment procedure used in the evaluation of an employee’s work perfromance. HR works with management in creating them. Have I seen generic, ineffective ones? Definately. Here’s some background of how they most likely came to be: Management typically wants evaluations to be quick and easy for managers to complete (they complain about the time it takes to complet them & feel their time could be used on other tasks). The result? HR ends up tweaking the evaluation to meet this requirement – this oftentimes dilutes the efffectiveness of the tool. Next, managers request a one-size fits all format. I’m sure both parties like this idea – managers learn the format & complete with ease since their all uniform no matter what the job. HR has less forms to create & maintain. Result? Further diluting effectiveness.

    As people, there is an inclination to judge others. This makes problems (motivational, ethical & legal) in the workplace. Societal belief is that without a structured appraisal system, there is no way to ensure the judgements made are lawful, defensible, and accurate. This document documents the managers judgment. Work performance of the subordinate is examined and discussed, with a view to identify weaknesses & stregnths as well as opportunites for improvement and skills development.

  • #105070

    Doris Tirone

    Check out the featured blog on the topic: Performance Appraisal Rears Its Ugly Head

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