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A key aspect of human resource management is the performance appraisal. The appraisal helps to manage the performance of employees as they themselves will usually require feedback and seek approval of what they are doing right. It also allows for any issues the employee has with the company and the manager to be addressed. This study highlights the various aspects of performance appraisals and how the in-class role plays draw attention to the good and bad points of an appraisal.
What is a Performance Appraisal?
"Performance appraisals, a powerful tool, provide documented feedback on an employee's level of performance" (Mahapatro, 2010). For a manager of an organisation, it is a key responsibility to properly evaluate the performance of its employees. There are many aims of performance appraisal, some of which include: establishing need for training, to improve performance through counselling or coaching and to form the basis for salary increases, rewards and bonuses (Carnell, 2010). When a selection of companies in the Fortune 100  were asked how appraisal data was used, in the order of importance, the number one benefit was it allowed them to improve work performance (Grote, 1996). Other ways the data was used included 'Making promotion decisions', 'Advising employees of work expectations' and like Carnell suggested, 'Identifying training needs'.
Appraisals give the opportunity to evaluate and measure employee performance but also allow for developments in general skills and self-belief of the employee being appraised. Benefits associated with appraisals include: rewarding staff for a job well done, identifying and eliminating underperformers and allowing for employee growth (Admin, 2009). Appraisals allow for crucial interaction between the manager and an employee, something which can be difficult to accommodate during the busy day-to-day duties and tasks a manager or an employee has to account for. Therefore the manager and employee are obligated to complete an appraisal to discuss performance issues. "It is this consistent coaching that affects changed behaviours" (Admin, 2009).
A key disadvantage of appraisals is the fact it can be time consuming. "It is recommended that a manager spend about an hour per employee writing performance appraisals" (Admin, 2009). This may not be an issue for a manager only dealing with a handful of employees but completing appraisals for a hundred employees is going to be significantly tedious. The problems of an appraisal can lie with both the manager and the employee. An employee could already be feeling paranoid or insecure about the appraisal, especially when the manager has the power in terms of awarding rewards, promotion, job security etc. This power the manager has, can be used unprofessionally which could result in an unfair appraisal. Superiority can be tied in with power and can result in actions by the manager that are different and inconsistent to their norm. Linking back to the tediousness of appraisals, if a manager has many appraisals to execute in such a short time frame, the idea of boredom can arise causing a loss of focus due to repetition of paper work (Carnell, 2010).
A Good Performance Appraisal
The crucial elements of a good appraisal according to the (Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD), 2010) are that a good and constructive appraisal meeting is one in which:
Appraisees do most of the talking
Appraisers listen actively to what they say
There is scope for reflection and analysis
Performance is analysed not personality
The whole period is reviewed and not just recent or isolated events
Achievement is recognised and reinforced
Ends positively with agreed action plans
The appraisal should be about developing a plan for the employee. Therefore for an appraisal meeting to be successful, both employee and manager should prepare. Using a document with a few questions to be considered by both parties in the appraisal should be included when preparing. A key element in the appraisal meeting is that the manager should focus on the future and what he or she would like to see rather than dwelling on what has or hasn't worked previously. Probably the most important aspect is the finalising of the appraisal. It is crucial that goals and expectations are set together between the manager and employee. This helps to establish where any further development is required in regards to training the employee.
Role Play Analysis
Role Play A
General observations from the beginning were that the manager seemed distant and wasn't engaged with the employer at all, total unprofessionalism was displayed when the manager decided to read a text message on his phone. Also from the '10 Steps to Flawless Appraisal Interview' DVD, the first step discusses that avoiding surprises are key to a good interview and the fact that the employee was told last minute about her appraisal was a very poor action from the manager.
There was a lack of goals set in the previous year by the manager and he also suggested that the employee should take it upon herself to set her own targets. Other negative points about the manager include not presenting feedback to the employee for her performance and she also wasn't made aware about her drop in performance prior to the appraisal. When the employee suggests for more training to help increase her performance, the manager simply disregards it. Even though the drop in performance was due to family issues, there was an extreme lack of support from the manager.
A good appraisal should be a two way meeting between both parties but when the employee suggests the manager could improve his performance; he completely disregards it and says the appraisal is for the employee only. An appraisal should also put forward new objectives but the ones set for the employee were so generalised that the employee was confused what was asked of her. When the manager was asked to be specific, it was brushed off even though creating an action plan is crucial to a good appraisal. The employee asked for some overall feedback of her performance in the workplace and even that was very poor from the manager with really generalised comments that would be of no aid. The employee stated he was looking for a new job due to lack of job satisfaction and lack of future prospects and promotion at the current company. Overall a poor appraisal with no action plan created.
Role Play B
General observations of the role play include great support and enthusiasm by the manager for the employee but complete negativity from the employee.
The employee needs to understand that an appraisal is necessary but is adamant her performance is faultless and believes she doesn't need an appraisal and thinks it's the manager that needs to improve. The manager highlights the faults with the employee and is keen to help improve her performance. A poor action by the employee was the answering of her phone mid-appraisal and consistently trying to leave the appraisal early. The manager recognised that the employee had done a great job last year and very much understood and sympathised with the employee for her drop in performance due to family related problems.
The manager was very persistent with what had to be said but was always being overthrown by the employee. There also wasn't a good end to the appraisal rather a 'giving up' by the manager and therefore no action plan was set. Apart from stating the drop in performance, the manager could have given more feedback from throughout the year rather than focusing on that sole event. The overall behaviour of the manager was pleasant, kind and considerate whereas the employee was quite simply rude.
Role Play C
General observations of the role play include a poor attitude between both manager and employee and a general lack of care for the appraisal.
This appraisal was the worst of the three and both parties had minimal care for the appraisal itself. By forgetting the time of the appraisal and the employee's name showed complete unpreparedness. Another demonstration of a poor appraisal was the way in which questions were put forward by the manager and the way answers were referred back to him. The questions seemed very strict to the form as if there was no preparation done by the manager and the answers by the employee again seemed like there was none or minimal preparation. This would tie in with step three from the '10 Steps to Flawless Appraisal Interview' which states that a more productive interview is one with good employee preparation. Both parties were argumentative and never really discussed or reviewed properly the performance of the employee. At times the manager was insulting and complete disregard by the manager when the employee stated family problems. However the employee was also insulting but more so to other staff which is something to clearly avoid in a good appraisal. Overall this clearly was a bad appraisal and the fact that both parties seemed to agree an action plan would be pretty much pointless summed up the quality of the appraisal.
Are Action Plans Needed?
All three role plays failed to create an action plan, one of the key parts of an appraisal. It is the last but one of the most crucial steps in '10 Steps to Flawless Appraisal Interview'. An overall plan should be agreed with the appraisee, which should "take account of the job responsibilities, the appraisee's career aspirations, the departmental and whole organization's priorities, and the reviewed strengths and weaknesses" (Mahapatro, 2010). Without any targets or objectives, an appraisal has minimal or even zero value to both the manager and the employee. The objectives set should adhere to the 'SMARTER' principle: "specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, time-bound, enjoyable, recorded" (Mahapatro, 2010). The benefit therefore is that the objectives are likely to be met before the next appraisal.
Improving Performance Appraisals
"The performance evaluation process is a potential mine field of problems" (Mahapatro, 2010). Several kinds of errors and biases exist in appraisals which commonly influence the performance measurement. Common errors as highlighted in (Steen, Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2009) include 'Similar to Me Error', 'Contrast Error' and 'Halo and Horns Error'. Ways to overcome these errors and improve appraisals would be to introduce in-depth training to avoid rating errors. Using more than one evaluator can also be introduced to increase the chances of more accurate results. Also when a manager evaluates, he or she should only conduct appraisals in the areas they have expertise in which makes the appraisal scheme a much more valid process. These techniques should have been applied to the role plays which in turn would have made them a far better example of a good appraisal.