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Dear Workforce How Do We Remove Subjective Appraisals

Dear Being Objective:

Most managers dread performance reviews and consider the process to be an administrative burden. Employees find reviews subjective and punitive. Some notable thought leaders in the field question the validity of employee reviews and suggest that, more than anything else, individual performance is a result of the effectiveness of the system in which they work.

One thing we know for sure: High-performance organizations have a culture of accountability where goal setting is a priority, communication and feedback channels are fluid, and quality coaching and support structures empower employees to maximize their own potential.

Administrative formats and processes will vary, but the following characteristics are common:

• The concept of “boss/subordinate” is nonexistent. Instead, performance partnerships define the relationships between people who are committed to common goals. Partners define their objectives, agree to the work and the process, and everyone has access to the information, support resources and appropriate authority to make it happen. Beyond self-appraisals, the softening of hierarchical barriers, mutual contracting and honest communication about expectations and outcomes are the value-added differences of this approach.

• The organization has a strategic vision and purpose that is understood, well communicated and committed to by the majority of the workforce. Its mission (set of goals) supports the vision, defines the priorities, determines the budgets and sets the direction of individuals and teams throughout the system.

• Every job at every level has quantifiable measures of success based on “SMART” goals that are aligned with the organization’s mission. (SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant [to the mission] and Time-specific.)

• The work and the goals fuel the organization’s economic engine.

• Objective (quantitative) measures and criteria are applied to performance ratings with clear distinction between performance levels. In high-performance cultures, meeting expectations is not considered mediocre, and a rating of exceeding expectations reflects truly extraordinary results.

• The temptation to rate effort, activity or intangible contributions is discouraged. This is the area where subjectivity creeps in. Qualitative contributions are recognized, but ultimately final ratings are based on actual results achieved.

• Performance competencies are important and reflect how the work is done. These work-behavior traits affect the processes and outcomes throughout the organization. To increase the accuracy in identifying strengths and matching people with the right jobs, high-performance organizations also use validated assessment tools that measure cognitive ability, learning aptitude, behavior traits and motivational interests.

Ultimately, a well-designed performance management system should be straightforward and uncomplicated, with the ability to deliver measurable results for the entire system locally, nationally or globally while providing a framework for individuals and teams to do their best work.

SOURCE: Patricia Duarte, Decision Insight Inc., Hopkinton, Massachusetts, December 1, 2006. This response originally appeared in Dear Workforce on February 15, 2007.

LEARN MORE: Please read how bias can creep into the bonus process.

Workforce Management Online, August 2010Register Now!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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