Assignment # 2
Current Debates: Evaluation of Performance Appraisals
Joseph I. Williams
February 6, 2003
This literature review discusses current debates on evaluation of performance. The first article, Performance Appraisals Dont Work written by Susan M. Heathfield and the second article, Don't Redesign Your Company's Performance Appraisal System, Scrap It! written by Fred Nikols, both conclude that performance appraisal systems could be eliminated and lead to improved performance.
A current debate on the use of performance appraisals is whether or not to use a performance appraisal at all. In two separate articles both authors suggest that the best way for proactive organizations to create a values-based, vision-driven, mission-oriented, participative work environment is to eliminate performance appraisals altogether. In the article Performance Appraisals Dont Work, Heathfield 2003 wrote:
Second only to firing an employee, managers cite performance appraisal as the task they dislike the most. This is understandable given that the process of performance appraisal, as traditionally practiced, is fundamentally flawed. It is incongruent with the values-based, vision-driven, mission-oriented, participative work environments favored by forward thinking organizations today. It smacks of an old fashioned, paternalistic, top down, autocratic mode of management, which treats employees as possessions of the company.
Many managers dislike doing performance appraisals because they are uncomfortable in the role of judge. Manager needs to be able to justify her or his opinions with specific examples when the staff member asks. If the manager lacks skill in providing feedback it could provoke a defensive response from the employee, who may justifiably feel he or she is under attack. Consequently, managers could potentially avoid giving honest feedback, which would potentially defeat the purpose of the review.
In an article that appeared in the May-June 1997 issue of Corporate University Review Fred Nickols, executive director at Educational Testing Service (ETS) and a senior consultant with The Distance Consulting Company suggests a radical approach to performance appraisal systems. You can eliminate them "with no harm done and with great economic and emotional benefit." Nikols (2002) wrote:
In conclusion, performance appraisal systems could be eliminated with no harm done and with great economic and emotional benefit. Consequently, change-minded executives should not listen to pleas to redesign their companys performance appraisal system but should instead give serious thought to scrapping it.
The Benefits/Myth of Performance Appraisal
From the traditional viewpoint of HRD performance appraisal systems are generally regarded as a necessary part of the organizations management system. According to Nikols (2000) this condition seems to exist because of the widely accepted, generally unquestioned benefits of performance appraisal systems, which are:
1. The system provides employees with an opportunity to receive feedback regarding their performance, usually at least once a year and often on an interim basis during the year. This leads to reduced error and waste, increased productivity, improved quality and service for customers, as well as enhanced employee motivation, commitment, and a sense of ownership.
- The system provides an opportunity for performance related discussions that include the following aims: setting work objectives for the employee, aligning individual and organizational goals, identifying training and development needs, and discussing career progression opportunities.
- The system standardizes performance appraisals and makes them objective by providing uniform processes and criteria. This further results in a fair, valid, and legally defensible basis for rewarding and recognizing individual performance.
- The system affords the corporation legal protection against employee lawsuits for discrimination and wrongful termination.
Nikols (2000) claims that these generally accepted benefits of performance appraisal systems should be regarded as myths or perhaps as urban legends. However, many myths and urban legends have a ring of truth that surrounds them.
A performance management system should replace the old approach and not just renaming performance appraisal as performance management (Heathfield, 2003). Heathfield continued that, Performance management starts with how a position is defined and ends when a manager has determined why an excellent employee left the organization for another opportunity (2003).
Personally, Im not sure what to think. I dont think my organization is ready to toss out the traditional performance appraisal. It will be necessary to conduct further research and discuss the various components of a successful performance management system. In the meantime, I will think about a change for my organization.
Heathfield, S. M. (2003) Performance Appraisals Dont Work. Available Online http://humanresources.about.com/library/weekly/aa061100a.htm
Nikols, F. (2000). Don't Redesign Your Company's Performance Appraisal System, Scrap It! Available Online: http://humanresources.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fhome.att.net%2F%7Enickols%2Fscrap_it.htm