An Alternative to Performance Appraisal

An Alternative to Performance Appraisal

Back in the 1950s academics including Likert (1959) were reporting that “Performance Review interviews as a rule are seriously deflating to employee’s sense of importance and self-worth.” Many years later and still many employees question the value of the appraisal discussion.  In 2010, for example, Duncan Brown chaired the annual CIPD Performance Management conference and likewise he found that delegates questioned the “practice and quality of performance management in their organisations.”

I have worked in organisations myself where I have been tasked with ‘reviewing the performance appraisal system’ which I have done with great diligence, only to find a year later that people are still not motivated by it and view it as the ‘annual ritual.’

One of the problems with performance appraisal could be the idea of ‘saving it all up’ for that once a year discussion, rather than an on-going, developmental approach, perhaps using coaching and mentoring for example.  Think about this in the context of sport; what if a sports person played all year round and only got feedback from their coach in a one-hour meeting once a year.

S. Culbert (2012) talks about the idea of performance previews – “…problem-solving, not problem-creating, discussions about how we, as teammates, are going to work together even more effectively and efficiently than we’ve done in the past. They feature descriptive conversations about how each person is inclined to operate, using past events for illustrative purposes, and how we worked well or did not work well individually and together.”

This reminds me of ‘critical incident’ discussions, but with more of the softer stuff about what the boss and subordinate need from each other; a good way of supporting the psychological contract. Rather than using the approach commonly experienced in performance appraisal, where the discussion begins with the manager evaluating the subordinate, having already decided what needs to be improved, the performance preview focuses on how the 2 parties can work together as a team to get the job done to a high standard.

Culbert suggests that the questions asked by the manager should inquire about how the individual feels they can perform best, before asking the employee what else they need to know, what help they need, how they will go about the job.

To me this seems a really positive approach that encourages people to take joint responsibility for identifying how they can work well together and develop their relationship, rather than focusing on the negative bits.  The negatives still get to be addressed, but by asking the right questions and exploring how to get to the best outcome.


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