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Making Reviews More Efficient and Fair

April 22, 2001
Related Topics: Performance Appraisals, Featured Article
Ideally, performance-appraisal software streamlines the evaluation process,reduces paperwork, and encourages objectivity. But the gains aren't givens.Managers have to spend some time tailoring the systems to their own workforces.If they don't, says Gene Drumm, senior partner with the Vector Group, Inc. inDenver, "it's a more efficient way of doing a bad process."

    The problem, Drumm says, is that many software programs have a generic set ofquestions that too often aren't customized for the jobs being evaluated. Itdoesn't have to be that way. Despite charges of "cookie-cutter"evaluations, managers have the option of customizing most programs so theyaccurately reflect the goals and values of the organization and, perhaps moreimportantly, so they fairly evaluate the jobs being appraised.

    Independent research on performance-appraisal software, as yet, is virtuallynon-existent. Anecdotal reports tend to focus on speed and objectivity. Forexample, Walker Information, a survey firm in Indianapolis, developed its own360-degree appraisal software for in-house use only, three or four years ago,according to Ray Becker, senior vice president for organizational effectivenessand ethics. "It's easier, faster and uses less paper."

    Appraisals donewith paper-and-pen would take about six weeks from the beginning of the processto the time that final reports were issued. Now reports can be completed in oneday. As a result, Becker says that more appraisals are completed on time. As forthe outcomes, "Some employees don't like the results, but they're happywith this system."

    For managers, many of whom are uncomfortable giving feedback,performance-appraisal software helps to pinpoint areas that need improvement andto communicate the information to their staffs. According to the "2000Performance Management Survey," conducted for the Society for HumanResource Management, only 33 percent were satisfied with coaching efforts. Thesurvey also found that only 34 percent were satisfied with their developmentalplanning.

    Yet, if companies focused on the developmental side of performancemanagement as identifying training needs or coaching, they got far more out ofthe evaluation process, says Scott Snell, professor of business administrationat Penn State University. When goals are agreed to by the employee and themanager, he says, employees are more likely to accept the standards, becausethey had some input.

    Since software-based performance-appraisals tend to focuson results and actions rather than personality traits, employees are more likelyto view them as fair. They provide objective facts that can be used to craftindividual development plans, and to help employees not only improve performancebut also focus more closely on achieving the organization's key goals.

Workforce, April 2001, pp. 76-81SubscribeNow!

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