Staff Appraisals 'a waste of time''
'Evaluate the reasons as to why some of these practices and perceptions might still exist?'
For businesses appraisals are essential for effectively managing and evaluating their staff, they help to develop the individuals within the business, improve the performance of the organisation, and also help with business planning. 'Appraisals regularly record an assessment of an employee's performance, potential and development needs. The appraisal is an opportunity to take an overall view of work content, loads of volume, to look back on what has been achieved during the reporting period and agree objectives for the next' ( ACAS 1994 cited in Foot and Hook 1996). This definition shows that employees receive feedback regarding their performance, but indicates that an appraisal is also an opportunity to asses various aspects of an employees work performance by looking at their past performance and agreeing on future objectives. Fletcher and Williams (1985) have indicated that the word 'appraisal' is also used in another way. When we appraise people we try to help them to improve on their performance as well as judge them. We could make suggestions or provide developmental opportunities that will help employees improve their performance. Therefore the appraisal is about giving employees feedback but also involves the appraiser in being both judge and helper to an employee. (Cited in Foot and Hook 1996)
Recent investigations have shown that that practice of appraisals seems to be increasing, for example there has been an increase in the use of appraisals for supervisors, clinical/secretarial staff and skill/semi skilled staff. (Goss 1994). There are many advantages of having an appraisal system in practice as it means that the appraiser and appraise are forced to meet formally, it makes it clear to the employer what is expected of them, targets can be set and agreed upon, valuable feedback can be received by both the employer and the employee, and managers can learn what the employee is doing, rather than what they think the employer is doing. (Maund 2001)
It has been suggested by Randell et al (1984) that there are there are three main uses for appraisal schemes. Which are performance, potential and reward. Managers want to review the past performance of individuals and assess strengths, level of effort and any areas where development may be useful. This is done by focusing on what the employee has done in the past and building on the employees strengths and make improvements in areas where it is needed allowing the employee to perform more effectively in the future. Although many managers will argue that they give this sort on feedback to their staff regularly and informally and so there is no need for a formal appraisal, it is unlikely that all managers in an organisation will do this constantly and affectively. Without a formal system and proper training, managers may be appraising infrequently or not at all or not appraising fairly so a formal appraisal system is necessary. Employers also use staff appraisals to identify individuals who may have the potential to take up new roles with more responsibility. Appraisals can also be used to try and reward employees for their past work, while hoping that this will encourage others in the organisation to work harder in the future. (Foot and Hook 1996).
It could therefore be said that staff appraisals are vital for managing the performance of people and organisations. However although the reasons discussed above show this importance of staff appraisals in organisations there are also many problems associated with them. This could be because many organisations try to get too much from one appraisal scheme and try to fulfill all purposes with this one scheme. This is not likely to work and instead the scheme could fall into disrepute. There are a number of problems which may stop the appraisal from being as affective as it should be. This could include the organisation not being clear about the purpose of the appraisal system, instead trying to fill too many different purposes with it. Other reasons include, links with pay stopping open discussion of problems where improvement can be made, employers keeping information secret from the employee, the appraiser attacking the appraises character, being too subjective in arguments or using the appraisal as part of the disciplinary process. . (Foot and Hook 1996).
As said before most appraisals fall into one of three different categories, these include performance potential and reward. An organisation should not try and fulfil all of these categories using one appraisal scheme. Appraisals focus on what has been achieved and what needs to be done to improve it. The problem is that many employers try to make performance appraisals do too many things, which makes it complicated. (Maund 2001). It should be clear what the appraisal is trying to achieve and this should be communicated with everyone. Therefore for an appraisal to be affective everyone must know what is trying to be achieved. Furthermore it is recommended that employers should try and keep reward separate from other areas of appraisal. When pay and appraisal are closely linked, the issue of pay may take the focus away from all the other important purposes of appraisals. (Goss 1994)
In order to help employees it is important that they know about the judgements that have been made about them and that they receive feedback about these. Therefore things should not be kept secret from employees as this could make them feel that their appraiser was dishonest with them. This is shown in the BBC article where 44% believed their appraiser had been dishonest with them, which therefore could be a reason why the appraisals were seen to be a waste of time. Finally disciplinary matters should not be left to be dealt with at the appraisal interview; they should be dealt with immediately. The appraisal interview should be about aiming to motivate employees and not an opportunity to discipline them. . (Foot and Hook 1996).
Another main problem with appraisals that stops them from being affective is that Managers and appraises dislike them and try to avoid them. Appraisals should give people feedback on their past performance and should set goals for the future. However this is impossible if people dislike them and dread them. Studies show that if you're in a bad mood which it seems people are during their review meetings they are not open to criticism and suggestions. People therefore are not in the mood to make big plans for their future growth and development. 'Managers cite performance appraisals or annual reviews as one of their most disliked tasks' (Human resource management)
Many people see appraisals as daunting and time-consuming. The process is seen as a difficult administrative task and emotionally challenging. Reasons for this could be due to the fact that the annual appraisal is maybe the only time since the last year that the two people have sat down together for a meaningful discussion. This may be why the appraisals are stressful which then defeats the whole purpose. Appraisals can be much easier and more relaxed, if the manager meets each of the team members individually and regularly for a discussion throughout the year. This regular discussion about work and life can make appraisals so much easier because people then know and trust each other which can reduce allot of the stress. Appraisals and work tend to be easier when people communicate well and know each other. Therefore people should sit down together and talk as often as they can, and then when the actual formal appraisals are due everyone will find the whole process to be far more natural, quick, and easy as well as a lot more productive.
Another reason why people do not look forward to being appraised could be because people feel that they work hard and criticism is a sensitive issue. However a lot can be gained from well conducted appraisals. Constructive criticism does not only help us improve our performance in the job we do but also helps us to make decisions about the skills we need to develop in order to develop in our future careers.
Many of these negative attitudes towards appraisals are likely to be because they are not conducted properly. If appraisals do not seem to be working, instead of blaming the process people should consider whether it is being properly trained, explained, agreed and conducted. Appraisals shouldn't be closed-door meetings in which the employer only brings out the employees' faults. . 'Research into British workers found a quarter of respondents thought managers simply regarded the reviews as a "tick-box" exercise, while one in five accused their bosses of not even thinking about the appraisal until they were in the room'. ( Michael Holden 2007). If appraisals are conducted properly, they can be helpful in building better relationships with the staff members. People have less and less face-to-face time together these days, appraisals offer a way to protect and manage these valuable face-to-face opportunities 'Many said they would prefer more regular feedback, which might explain why 40 per cent said they had been surprised at what they were told during an appraisal, said Investors in People, the organisation that commissioned the survey'. ( Michael Holden 2007)
Another reason why people may see appraisals as being a waste of time may be because they are often rushed. Appraisals require extra work from both the appraise and the appraiser which they may not be prepared to do, and if so the appraisal will just be a quick meeting with a few comments from the appraiser and appraise. (Maund 2001). If Appraisals are not prepared for properly and instead are rushed the whole process is useless.
There are many different ways of conducting appraisals, some people prefer traditional appraisals and forms; others prefer 360-degree-type appraisals. In fact performance appraisals of all types are effective if they are conducted properly, and if the appraisal process is clearly explained to, agreed by, the people involved. Managers need guidance, training and encouragement in how to conduct appraisals properly. This will help anxious managers develop and adapt appraisals methods that work for them. During an appraisal it is important to look out especially for the warning signs of 'negative cascaded attitudes' towards appraisals. This can be common when the manager dislikes conducting appraisals, usually because they are uncomfortable and inexperienced in conducting them. The manager/director typically will be heard to say that appraisals don't work and are a waste of time, which for them becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This attitude and behaviour can then be passed down to their appraises, who then not surprisingly also apply the same negative attitude towards appraisals. (Business Balls)
If appraisals are administered without training for those that do need it, without explanation or consultation, and conducted poorly will not be affective and so are a waste of everyone's time therefore it is likely that in the performance appraisals talked about in the BBC Self Appraisals article have not been conducted properly, possibly with no training whatsoever and also with a negative attitude from the appraiser which has then been passed down to the appraise. If the self appraisals had been well prepared and well conducted they would provide unique opportunities to help appraises and managers improve and develop, and can also help the organisations that they work for.
Foot, M and Hook, C, (1996) 'Introducing human resource management' 3rd edition, Prentice. Hall, Harlow
Gross, D, . (1994) 'Principles of human resource management', London, Routledge
Maund, L, (2001) 'An introduction to human resource management' Palgrave
humanresources.about.com/od/performancemanagement/Performance_Management_Evaluation_Review_Improvement.htm Assessed; 1/12/2009
Holden, M (2007) www.news.com.au/business/business-smarts/reviews-are-a-waste-of-time/story-e6frfm9r-1111115035598 Assessed; 3/1/2010
Holden, M (2007) http://www.news.com.au/business/business-smarts/reviews-are-a-waste-of-time/story-e6frfm9r-1111115035598 Assessed; 3/1/2010
http://www.businessballs.com/performanceappraisals.htm Assessed: 19/01/2010