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Do We Need Appraisals?

SHAMEELA WINSTON
Some of us regularly conduct objective appraisals, using sophisticated technologies that give insights into all the critical aspects of the candidate’s measurable constructs, and we actually use that information to develop, motivate, as well as reward growth and performance.

So this question to you would be startling. There are some of us who talk about the importance of appraisals but somehow never manage to conduct them, neither the bi-annual structured assessments, nor the on-going monitoring and feedback between supervisor and colleague. We find that we get so busy doing our work that there really isn’t much time to appraise, especially because everything seems fine, everyone is doing their work and clients are happy. The rest of us are somewhere in between.

First of all, this thing we call appraisals is not the be all and end all of performance management. Appraisals in and of themselves are pointless if they are not linked to (current) job descriptions, and these job descriptions have to be aligned to the organizational structure, and this structure must be relevant to the corporate strategy. When it all hangs together and makes sense on that kind of scale, it is easy to recruit and select the right people, and to help them contextualise and focus their contribution to the organization. When done properly, this level of alignment ensures that appraisal outcomes are consistent with organizational annual performance reports. We would not see individual appraisals reflect outstanding ratings, when their team ratings are satisfactory, and the organization’s ratings are below target. To illustrate, we don’t expect to see a teacher rated as outstanding, when his class pass rate is 48%. Would this teacher deserve whatever performance award he gets while most of his students arrange to repeat the year? Of course there is something wrong with the picture. You are right if you think so, and yet that is what obtains in many organizations. That is the sort of picture you can expect when you focus solely on the bi-annual meeting called the appraisal, at the expense of the critical preparatory work at organisational level as outlined at the start of this paragraph.

But, to answer the question, do we need appraisals, yes, we do. They are crucial for measuring and rewarding performance. When done correctly, they provide a means of evaluating your staff across various performance metrics and assist in identifying

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high achievers. The performance appraisal can help employees understand their strengths and weaknesses, correct bad behaviours, and reach their full potential. On the other hand, managers can use this evaluation system to assess their staff against defined objectives and address performance issues.

The problem is that we mostly still struggle to find a system that really works. Most of what we have in place is often subject to bias and inconsistencies, causing everyone frustration. We know that managers, for whatever reason, don’t always rate employees on objective criteria, and employees may not receive quality performance feedback – or any feedback at all. Some of our systems lead to unhealthy competition in the workplace, leading to higher turnover, conflicts and disengagement. Given these observations, it is all that surprising that some organisations have embraced a hybrid ‘continuous feedback’ system as opposed to the bi-annual performance appraisal.

If there is enough clarity on performance expectations, including personal conduct, development milestones, required outputs, and communication standards for instance, it becomes easier to rely only on the continuous feedback model. Adopting the attitude that there is no ‘bad’ news, and aligning with constructive communication standards, a culture of continuous feedback ensures there are minimal ambiguities, that expectations are clear, and that issues are dealt with. Does this carry more meaning than the periodic appraisal? Well, you know your own environment and what would work better for you. Maybe a combination of both models would be the ideal. I’m inclined to a combination of both. It makes for transparency, information sharing and generally opens up communication in our work relationships, while at the same time providing a measurable set of criteria that we can agree to use to monitor progress. But whatever path you choose to take, you have to commit to doing it objectively and consistently. Have a great Independence Week.

Please note that comments are welcome at  shameeladashboard@gmail.com. Every effort is made to respond to individuals, and mail received is treated as confidential. Please note however that in cases of specific work-related grievances and disputes submitted, Shameela Winston will not pronounce opinions nor prescribe remedies. Thank you.



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