It’s time to retrench Performance Appraisal. It’s outlived its usefulness. It’s just not needed in 21st Century business. Like the fax machine and typewriter, it’s been overtaken by superior technology. Performance Appraisal just has to go.
A Flawed Process
Managers around the world will be glad to be rid of Performance Appraisal. It was a cumbersome, time consuming, awkward and confronting process. It involved elaborate form filling. Over time, the HR gurus made it more difficult. To basic performance measurement they added career development, attitude assessment, salary increase and behavioural counseling among other issues. It became a bureaucratic excuse to avoid confronting staff performance issues except once or twice a year.
Performance Appraisal v. Performance Management
Let me make myself clear. I am totally committed to the necessity of measuring staff performance. Performance management is a key part of every manager’s job. Performance Appraisal may have been a useful, if flawed, way to help do so. It no longer is.
We don’t need an alternative. We need a completely new system. Modern technology facilitates such as a new system. I call it Employee Self Assessment.
Employee Self Assessment
Employee Self Assessment -ESA – is not a fancy name for another bureaucratic construct to replace Performance Appraisal. Ideally, it involves little or no bureaucracy. It means, simply, that employees measure their own performance.
Nothing Really New
Employees at Ricardo Semlers’s Semco in Brazil have been measuring their own performance for about 20 years. A client in Melbourne introduced ESA nearly 10 years ago in his assembly line operation with sensationally successful results. A retail client has a system that provides instant feedback on sales performance to each sales assistant each time they process a sale at the store.
What’s Stopping Us?
Today’s technology – it may already be yesterday’s – contains all we need to enable staff to measure their own performance at least monthly, preferably weekly and ideally, daily. We have the technology. All we need to use it effectively is the will to use it. And the will to discard outmoded practices like Performance Appraisal.
Who’s Running This Show?
“But I’m the Boss”, you may say. That’s correct. You are ultimately responsible for the performance of your people. That’s no reason why the employees can’t have the primary responsibility for performance measurement.
You must set the goals and standards. That’s no reason why you shouldn’t collaborate with your people to do so. You may be surprised. There’s some evidence to show that self motivated employees set higher standards for themselves than those set by their managers.
I’m here to make life pleasanter, easier for managers and more enjoyable and productive for employees.
Imagine a situation where you never again had to ask “How’s it going?” “What’s the situation with…?” “Did you get?”
Instead, all you needed to do was press a key or two or your computer keyboard.
That’s the ultimate payoff for asking 3 simple questions and establishing systems to enable you to get the answers.
Just Three Questions
To measure performance, only three questions need to be answered:
1. What is the job designed to achieve: the job goals?
2. How will we know that the goals have been achieved?
3. How can we measure our progress towards achieving the goals?
If your records, performance systems and performance standards are sound, you can measure performance without conversation or discussion. You need only to look at a computer screen. An employee can do that as well as a manager.
Systems and Procedures
A great benefit of my three questions is that they enable you to establish good systems
- because the desired performance is clearly specified, your systems must be prepared to support that performance. They aren’t longwinded sets of rules that everyone tries to ignore. Many conventional procedures inhibit performance
- because they have a very clear focus, the goals and standards demand clarity in the systems
- systems developed in this way allow quick resolution of errors rather than blaming and scapegoating
- where it becomes apparent that the system is inadequate, it can be promptly changed to meet operational needs. Changing a system is much easier than convincing people to adopt different work practices.
The examples I’ve given are just that: examples. You must develop your own goals and performance standards to satisfy your business needs.
Other Major Benefits
Employees become the performance appraisers. They become the major performance information source for the manager. And the manager is in a position to consider performance without the inhibiting factor of behaviour.
This should lead to much greater collaboration between manager, employee and team and make the manager’s role less complex.
Employees, with the guidance of clear goals and specific performance standards, are well placed to recommend systems changes and improvements.
And managers can evaluate these recommendations readily. They too know the goals and performance standards.
Each team member would assess their own performance as well as their contribution to the team. All other team members would have this information too. In conjunction with team based rewards this would create a powerful evaluation tool.
You can establish structures within teams to enable internal team assessment of both individual and team performance. Peer pressure is a very powerful tool often overlooked by managers.
I know that I may be asking you to think a little differently about the whole issue of performance. I’m trying to provide a system for you to put daily measurement of performance where it belongs: in the hands of employees doing, or not doing, the performing.
Team sport coaches do this. So do orchestra conductors, movie and stage directors, choirmasters and mistresses, executive chefs and other team leaders. They know that ultimately, performance gets down to the individual. The leaders merely create the environment and provide the systems. But the individual’s really “gotta wanta”.
Giving primary responsibility for performance measurement to employees only needs answers to 3 questions and systems to support the answers. Truly, that’s all.