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Performance Appraisal: pro or against?

Author : Rita Rizk

Published : 2016-01-05

I have been realizing lately, through my interactions with clients, how much the Performance Management Process, including the Performance Appraisal tool is misused and misconceived. Few organizations are also contemplating removing it from their practice as they feel that assessments are not relevant nor necessary. 
The crucial question then remains: how do we move the organization towards excellence if we don’t clarify objectives, set expectations and monitor execution?

The first element to consider is the way our assumption and believes regarding the purpose of the Performance Appraisal has been constructed. It is important to clarify that the Performance Appraisal is certainly NOT:
         1. about judging people and their capabilities
         2. a process to initiate only when there is a problem
         3. about putting poor performers down
         4. the only time to give feedback
         5. about salary increase

The most relevant and holistic definition to Performance Appraisal that forms a reliable reference to work performance, decision making, and organizational goals is the Wikipedia definition of PA that stipulates the following:” A performance appraisal is a systematic and periodic process that assesses an individual employee’s job performance and productivity in relation to certain pre-established criteria and organizational objectives”. 

This simple and clear yet subtle definition entails a thorough understanding of the organization culture, the full engagement of employees and their leaders and the existence of a culture committed towards development and growth. Therefore, the following steps will be necessary:

1. Clarify the Organizational objectives: these objectives might change drastically during the year considering the economic turmoil we are facing today. Thus the Performance appraisal should be a living document that is able to capture those changes. 
2. Pre-establish individual objectives: agree upon criteria/set of individual objectives that are measurable, realistic and time bound. Any changes happening during the course of time should be captured and documented.
3. Give Constructive Feedback: giving constructive feedback, not criticizing nor praising, will reinforce good performance and decrease undesirable behavior. 
4. Coach and Mentor: those are the responsibility of every manager, leader or team member. Without them, it will be quite impossible to ensure any transfer of knowledge.
5. Do it frequently: Feedback, Coaching and Mentoring are activities that should be frequent, and might be on a daily basis if necessary.
6. Make sure it is systematic: an effective assessment should be rational and assumption free.
7. A clear, short and simple performance management system should be in place and that entails a straightforward performance appraisal form.