The Process of Performance Appraisal

It almost goes without saying that the annual or semi-annual performance appraisal is one of the most maligned events in modern organizations. All you have to do is take a look at the titles of stories from various sources such as the following:

  • Time to Scrap Performance Appraisals? (Forbes)
  • Is it Time to Give Up on Performance Appraisals? (HR Magazine)
  • It’s Time to Abolish the Employee Performance Review (Psychology Today)

performanceappraisalbluesIn far too many organizations and businesses, the annual performance review has become a “tick-the-box” activity that doesn’t seem to add much value for the employees who undergo it or the managers who administer them. That doesn’t mean, however, that they should be entirely scrapped. Performance appraisals are a necessary part of any performance management system, and understanding what’s involved in the process can help many organizations execute them more effectively. This article will cover the three essential phases of the performance appraisal process.

Phase 1: Job analysis. This is a logical initial phase of the performance appraisal process, but it’s surprising how many organizations don’t even have clear job descriptions for each position. Even when they do, it’s even more surprising to see how poorly they match up with what the employee in that position actually does. Not only should you create and/or review a job’s full description, it should also be double-checked with the employee for accuracy. It should also then be analyzed in terms of how well it fits with the organization’s mission and objectives. Only by fully analyzing a job will there be even a glimmer of hope for getting the performance appraisal process off on the right foot.

Phase 2: Develop standards and measurement methods. The second phase of the performance appraisal process entails determining what good performance looks like and then developing the standards and tools to accurately and effectively measure performance. What makes for a good performance measurement tool includes the following considerations:

  • It must be valid and reliable. Validity means that the tool is both true and correct, while reliability means it delivers its results consistently across the board.
  • It must be acceptable and feasible. What I mean by acceptable is that the people using it understand it and find it appropriate for the task at hand. Feasibility refers to how easy and streamlined the tool is in actual use. You might come up with a very thorough performance measurement tool that unfortunately is nearly impossible to use in practice because it’s too long or complex. Then again, if it’s too simple, it may lead those using it to believe it’s simply not a very good reflection of what’s taking place. This is a tricky balance between being thorough but not overly complex, simple but not overly simple.
  • It must be specific. As with feasibility, the measurement tool you create must not leave out large segments of a position’s responsibilities. It has to be specific enough that you can really identify what’s going well and what’s not going so well with performance. Employees must come out of the performance appraisal process understanding what is going well and why and where there is room for improvement and how to get there.
  • It must be linked to organizational mission and objectives. It’s important to create a performance measurement tool keeping in mind the job analysis done during phase 1 of the process. You’re measuring specific aspects of performance against wider organizational goals in order to make sure you’re getting the performance needed to achieve those goals.

Phase 3: Prepare for and conduct the formal performance appraisal. After phases 1 and 2 have been completed, then you’re ready for phase three, which is to prepare for and then conduct the performance appraisal. The considerations here include the why, what, how and who of the performance appraisal process, which you can read about in the following two articles:

The Why and What of the Performance Appraisal Process.

The How and Who of the Performance Appraisal Process.

It’s easy to throw up your hands and do nothing about what is all too often the mind-numbing, no-value performance appraisal. But by taking the time to work through the process with care and attention, you can make the process of performance appraisal one that not only adds value to the workplace, but also helps your organization be more effective in accomplishing its mission and goals.

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