Careers

Performance assessment should be everyday work

Illustration: mihir balantrapu  

Across the world, organisations believe performance appraisal promotes competitiveness, objectivity, transparency and fairness.

In the 1990s and the following decade, organisations invested considerable energy in this process, starting from designing the system to training people to use it and implementing it.

Each year, this internal process in an organisation consumes a huge amount of time of the top leadership, the supervisors and the HR team.

As a result, the appraisal process results in a huge cost to the organisation.

Due to the costly nature of the appraisal process and the entry of millennials, who are keen on having quick feedback, leaders have started evaluating its return on investment.

A couple of years ago, large organisations in technology and consulting domains started revamping the process.

Continuous process

Today’s employee looks for a fair assessment of the performance output and is open to suggestions for change in his working style and behaviours.

The need for course corrections should be communicated at the appropriate time so the process of change is set in motion early. The annual appraisal process creates the setting for a discussion, but one cannot wait for the particular event to offer feedback.

Rather, feedback has to be a part of day-to-day work. Organisations must reset the expectations of their workforce to seek feedback and discuss possible changes in behaviour every now and then. Hence, the new normal on performance appraisal makes it an integral part of day-to-day conversation with the boss.

A typical performance appraisal discussion is a hurriedly-convened meeting by the boss. She/ he normally comes ill-prepared for the discussion, offers a few generic inputs to the employee, ticks off a task on the to-do list, finds no time to record the discussions meaningfully and the employee has no means to know what gets recorded in his or her career records.

I wonder if this helps the employee in his or her development or the organisation in improving its performance levels.

Organisations do well in moving away from the half-yearly or yearly ritual of holding this process all over and spending a huge amount of energy.

Rather, make it a day-to-day practice where the discussion is not limited to the tasks but the process, the behaviours and possible development opportunities. Employees and their supervisors have to learn this new way of engagement.

A record of goals

One of the most wasteful activities in a performance appraisal is ‘re-certifying’ the goals of the review period. And, of course, many a time, the goals are not set in time and hence, there is confusion. Sometimes, the goals are revised along the way due to several factors. Who keeps the records and digs into the past to determine the correct figures?

With the advent of technology, digitisation of work processes is on the rise. Hence, measuring the actuals and keeping a record of the goals is getting easier with each passing day. Organisations have to wake up to this possibility. The discussions have to achieve what they are meant to — recognise the achievements, make the employee feel proud and agree on the opportunities to improve further.

Goal-setting process

In their eagerness to be transparent and objective, organisations prescribe performance scores, salary hikes and bonuses linked to achievement of targets. So, employees aggressively push for a low target to maximise their salary hike and bonus. How counter-productive it is for the organisation when the negotiation of the target is not around the possibilities of achieving an ambitious goal but on an individual’s earnings! The annual appraisal process cannot achieve this. The HR fraternity and business leaders are trying to find a way by which the goal-setting process is not rigged, and is rather anchored in clearly-set goals.

Salary hikes

Typically, performance appraisal processes end with salary hikes, bonuses, promotions, new roles and goals for the next review period. Since many of these are centred on the appraisee’s personal gains, they hinder an objective discussion about performance.

The employee’s mind is fixated on knowing the performance score, salary hike and bonus.

From the days when the appraisal process starts to the time when the final results are announced, employees are quite busy having ‘water-cooler conversations’. The organisation loses momentum.

New practice

To sum up, the new practice is to link salary hikes, bonuses and promotions with the assessment of the individual’s performance against targets, benchmarks and potential. And the appraisal discussion is not a customary annual conversation; it’s part of day-to-day work where good work is recognised and opportunities for improvement identified and worked upon.

Let there not be a specific event called annual appraisal discussion.

(Aditya Narayan Mishra is CEO at CIEL HR Services)

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 4:22:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/performance-assessment-should-be-everyday-work/article18390708.ece

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