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Dear Workforce How Do We Get Reliable Input From Self-Appraisals?

Each year our management directs our staffers to write their own evaluations for appraisals. These written evaluations then become the basis for appraisals. Realizing that one size does not fit all companies, we nevertheless want to create some type of standardized format to use for these self-assessments. How should we structure it so we are reasonably sure that the questions generate honest responses from employees? What other pitfalls should we take note of?
November 2, 2010
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Related Topics: Career Development, Performance Appraisals, Employee Career Development, Dear Workforce
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Dear Confounded:
In the present economy, organizations are pressed to do more with less. It is critical for management to have a clear view of which employees are doing the best work. Yet job security is likely to be a staffer's highest priority. Candor may suffer, and the self-appraisal format may present a greater challenge than it would when jobs are plentiful.
You mention that staffers write their own self-evaluations, which suggests an essay or some bullet points particular to that person. That's a good format for listing tasks and responsibilities, but not necessarily for evaluating performance or comparing performers. Does your organization already have some competencies or "rating factors" to evaluate performance? If so, these can have significant value for any evaluation—including self-evaluation—and should become a major part of staffers' self-assessments.

If agreed-upon factors don't exist, it is a worthy project to develop some, providing that your organization can muster the political will. The exercise can help the organization to decide, and to make public, the skills and knowledge it values. It addresses the apples-and-oranges phenomenon, in which dissimilar jobs contribute to common goals and get measured by common yardsticks. It lets every employee know how the organization decides who is doing a better job. Some sample competencies include results, decision-making, teamwork and problem-solving.

Research has shown that as few as three or four factors can summarize performance as reliably as a much larger number of finer-cut factors such as "completes paperwork on time." If your company doesn't have universal rating factors, I suggest you develop some just for this group. If peers, supervisors and self-appraisals all use the same factors, staffers can receive a gap analysis showing where the greatest differences lie between self-perception and the evaluation of others. These are blind spots that, with a little effort on the staffer's part, provide big changes.

Research does not show any straightforward correlation between self-assessment, supervisory assessments and peer assessments. Sometimes people inflate their own ratings. Sometimes they are harsher on themselves. But you cannot rely on people seeing themselves as others see them. That's why your company's practice of using self-ratings only as a starting point is a good idea—so that employees are not misled into believing that they have the last word.

SOURCE: Harold Fethe is a business consultant and former senior vice president at Johnson & Johnson.
LEARN MORE. Please read how to use competency maps as a tool for workforce planning.
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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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 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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