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TE AM FL Y The PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL QUESTION and ANSWER BOOK: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR MANAGERS Dick Grote AMACOM More Praise for . . . The Performance Appraisal Question and Answer Book: ‘‘An enlightening, practical, and valuable tool. Dick has taken the sometime confusing and frightening problem of performance appraisal and provided effective approaches and answers that can be adapted to any organization. It is a MUST for the human resources professional’s library.’’ —William K. Hill Human Resources Director City of Winston-Salem (NC) ‘‘Dick Grote clearly and eloquently presents a very practical guide for navi­ gating the often-murky waters of the performance appraisal process. The Performance Appraisal Question and Answer Book is a must-read for all who are captivated with the notion that the development, administration, and oversight of an effective performance management system is not only possi­ ble, but indispensable to the organizational life of any business.’’ —Michael S. Sorrells Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice ‘‘Much has been written and debated about the value of performance man­ agement systems. However, the fact remains that top-performing compa­ nies have rigorous performance management systems. The Performance Appraisal Question and Answer Book is a must-have handbook for every manager’s most complex issue: performance.’’ —Don Langewisch Performance Systems Manager ChevronTexaco Corporation The PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL QUESTION and ANSWER BOOK A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR MANAGERS Dick Grote American Management Association New York • Atlanta • Brussels • Buenos Aires • Chicago • London • Mexico City San Francisco • Shanghai • Tokyo • Toronto • Washington, D.C. This Page Intentionally Left Blank Special discounts on bulk quantities of AMACOM books are available to corporations, professional associations, and other organizations. For details, contact Special Sales Department, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Tel.: 212-903-8316. Fax: 212-903-8083. Web site: www.amacombooks.org This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Grote, Richard C. The performance appraisal question and answer book: survival guide for managers / Dick Grote. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 0-8144-0747-1 (hardcover) ISBN 0-8144-7151-X (paperback) 1. Employees—Rating of. 2. Performance standards. I. Title. HF5549.5 .R3 G642 2002 658.3�125—dc21 2002002171  2002 Dick Grote. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. This publication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of AMACOM, a division of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Printing number 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv 1. The Importance of Performance Appraisal . . . . . . . . 1 1.1 What is ‘‘performance appraisal’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.2 Where did performance appraisals come from? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1.3 What is the purpose of performance appraisal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 1.4 The performance management process in our organization has conflicting purposes. We use it to determine merit increases and performance feedback for work done during the previous twelve months, to determine training needs, and as a key tool in succession planning. Can one procedure really serve all those functions well? 7 1.5 How many meetings should I have with an employee to talk about performance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 1.6 All these meetings take too much time. Why should I spend all this time doing performance appraisal when I’ve got much better things to do? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 1.7 If performance appraisal is truly important, why is it the butt of so many jokes and the target of Dilbert cartoons? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 1.8 W. Edwards Deming, the quality guru, said that performance appraisals were an organizational evil that should be abolished. Was he wrong? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 1.9 Even if they try to be objective, managers can’t help but discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, and other illegal considerations. Isn’t performance appraisal actually a very biased process? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 1.10 What are the legal requirements for a performance appraisal system? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 1.11 How do I make sure that our performance appraisal system is legally defensible? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 v vi Contents 1.12 Is performance appraisal really necessary? Can’t the benefits that the system provides to organizations and the people in them be obtained any other way? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 2. Performance Planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 2.1 What is ‘‘performance planning’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2 What are the manager’s responsibilities in the performance­ planning phase of the process? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3 What are the employee’s responsibilities for performance planning? 2.4 When is the best time to set and review expectations? . . . . . . . . . 2.5 I have never held a performance-planning meeting. How do I get the planning meeting off to a good start? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.6 What is the difference between ‘‘results’’ and ‘‘behaviors’’? . . . . . 2.7 How do you determine someone’s key job responsibilities? . . . . . 2.8 Some big rocks may be bigger than others; some key job responsibilities are more critical than others. How do you determine the most important items? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.9 How do you determine a method for evaluating someone’s performance in meeting their key responsibilities? . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.10 Descriptive measures seem subjective. Don’t we have to be objective when we evaluate someone’s performance? . . . . . . . . . 2.11 Where does goal setting fit into the performance-planning process? 2.12 How do I pick the right goals? Where should an individual look to find goals and objectives? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.13 How should a goal statement be written? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.14 What are SMART objectives? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.15 How high should I set my performance expectations? . . . . . . . . . 2.16 What do I do if the individual disagrees with the goals I want set, or says that my standards are unreasonable or that one of the key job responsibilities I’ve identified is not really part of the job? . . . . . . . 2.17 How do I wrap up a performance-planning meeting? . . . . . . . . . . 21 22 24 26 26 27 29 32 32 34 36 37 39 41 42 44 44 3. Performance Execution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 3.1 What is ‘‘performance execution’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2 What are the manager’s responsibilities in the performance execution phase? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 What are the employee’s responsibilities in the performance execution phase? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 46 48 Contents 3.4 How should I keep track of employees’ performance? Should I keep a journal? And should I record day-to-day performance or just note the exceptional positive and negative events? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5 Should employees have access to my performance log? . . . . . . . . 3.6 How do I motivate people to deliver good performance and to correct performance problems? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.7 What about pay? Isn’t money the only thing that really motivates? 3.8 What can a manager do to create the conditions that motivate? . . 3.9 What about recognition? Isn’t recognizing an employee who’s done good work an effective motivational tool? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.10 We’re considering starting an employee-of-the-month program. Is this a good recognition tool? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.11 Do people need praise every time they do a good job? . . . . . . . . 3.12 I don’t have a budget for awards to recognize people. How can I recognize their good performance if I can’t demonstrate financially that we appreciate good work? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.13 Is recognition just a matter of heaping on the praise? . . . . . . . . . . 3.14 How do I actually use recognition? Is there more to it than just saying, ‘‘Thanks . . . nice job’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.15 Won’t some people—the better performers—end up getting more recognition than others who don’t perform as well? Isn’t that discriminatory? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.16 Won’t people complain when I deliberately treat some people better than others? Won’t I be accused of favoritism? . . . . . . . . . . vii 50 51 52 55 57 64 65 67 68 69 70 72 73 4. Performance Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 4.1 What is ‘‘performance assessment’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2 What are the manager’s responsibilities for performance assessment? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3 What are the employee’s responsibilities in the performance assessment phase? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.4 What are my boss’s responsibilities in the performance assessment phase? Does she have to review and approve my appraisals before I deliver them to my staff? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.5 Should I ask the individual whose performance appraisal I am preparing to make up a list of accomplishments? . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.6 Should I ask the individual to complete a self-appraisal using the company’s performance appraisal form? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.7 I have to write a performance appraisal. Where do I start? . . . . . . 74 75 77 78 80 82 83 viii Contents 4.8 What information do I need to write a valid performance appraisal? 85 4.9 What about collecting data from other people to use on the performance appraisal form? Would it be a good idea to ask for information from a salesman’s customers, or ask a manager’s subordinates about her performance as a supervisor? . . . . . . . . . . 87 4.10 I’ve asked the employee to write a self-appraisal. Should I use what the employee has written in the self-appraisal as part of the official appraisal I’m writing? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 4.11 Should I put more emphasis on the results the individual achieved or on the way the person went about doing the job? . . . . . . . . . . 89 4.12 One of my subordinates works in a different city and I don’t see her very much. How can I appraise her performance accurately? . . . . 90 4.13 Should I include the employee’s successes and failures in completing the development plan as part of his formal performance appraisal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 4.14 What are ‘‘rating errors’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 4.15 Should I go over the employee’s appraisal with my manager before I review it with the individual? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 4.16 How do I go about convincing my boss (assuming her approval is needed) that one of my people deserves a particularly positive or negative review? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 4.17 If the appraiser’s boss approves the appraisal before the employee sees it, hasn’t the door been closed on the possibility of any changes? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 4.18 The individual failed to achieve an important objective, but there were extenuating circumstances. How should I rate her performance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 4.19 In writing the individual’s performance appraisal, should I consider how well he performs compared with other people in the department who are doing the same job? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 4.20 Our performance appraisal form has a rating scale that asks whether the performance failed to meet expectations/met some expectations/met all expectations/exceeded expectations/far exceeded expectations. If I haven’t discussed my expectations with the employee, how do I rate performance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 4.21 Our rating scale is numerical: one, two, three, four, and five, with five being the highest on the scale. Sally basically did a good job this year. Should I rate her a three, a four, or a five? . . . . . . . . . . . 103 4.22 Should employees in new roles be measured and evaluated the same as employees who have been in a role for a length of time? 104 Contents ix 4.23 How can we take the ‘‘personal’’ out of a review and still give an accurate picture of the employee? For example, Joe’s going through a divorce. His performance has suffered, but I empathize and want to give him a passing review. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 4.24 One of my subordinates does a very good job . . . not breathtakingly outstanding, but solid and strong and better than average. Should I rate her in our middle category of fully successful or push her evaluation over the line and into the superior category? How do I figure out the right category? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 4.25 I have a concern about one of my people’s performance, but I haven’t previously discussed it with him. Is it okay to bring it up for the first time on the performance appraisal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 5. Performance Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 5.1 What is ‘‘performance review’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 5.2 What are the manager’s responsibilities in the performance review phase of the process? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 5.3 What are the employee’s responsibilities in the performance review phase? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 5.4 What should I do before the meeting? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114 5.5 Before I sit down to conduct an appraisal discussion with an individual, is it appropriate to talk with others to get some insights into what I might expect? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 5.6 How should I open the discussion? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 5.7 How do I start the appraisal discussion with an individual who has a great deal of experience and has worked for the company much longer than I have? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 5.8 It’s easy to discuss the performance appraisal when the individual and I are in agreement. But what do I do when we disagree about something important? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 5.9 How do I figure out what the employee is feeling? . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 5.10 How can I get someone to agree with an honest and accurate performance appraisal rating? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 5.11 The employee I’m about to review is an unsatisfactory performer and the appraisal tells it like it is. How should I start the meeting? 127 5.12 What do I do when an employee disagrees with something I have written on the performance appraisal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128 5.13 How do I handle those awkward moments that always seem to arise in performance appraisal discussions? For example, the employee x 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 Contents who is silent, or makes excuses, or turns the conversation around so that we are caught up in irrelevancies? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . How do I handle defensive reactions? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . How should I react when an employee starts crying during the appraisal discussion . . . or gets mad at me? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . When should I talk about the pay increase? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . How do I bring the performance appraisal discussion to a successful close? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . What’s the best way to deal with an employee who refuses to sign the performance appraisal document and refuses to provide his own comments? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 131 133 134 135 137 6. The Performance Appraisal Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 TE AM FL Y 6.1 Is there an ideal performance appraisal form? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2 How does a company determine which competencies are truly core competencies? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3 Why is it better to write the narrative that explains what is meant by a competency as a description of master-level performance? Wouldn’t a dictionary definition work just as well? . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.4 What’s the difference between organizational core competencies and job family competencies? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.5 How do I determine the key job responsibilities of a position? . . . 6.6 Aren’t goals and projects part of a person’s job responsibilities? Why does an ideal appraisal form have a separate section for goals and projects? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.7 The last part of the recommended performance appraisal form covers the individual’s major accomplishments over the course of the appraisal period. Shouldn’t the individual’s achievements be described throughout the appraisal form? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.8 Are there any other elements that could be included on a performance appraisal form? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.9 How many different forms should there be? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.10 How many rating levels should there be on the form? . . . . . . . . . 6.11 What should we call the different levels? Does it make any difference whether we use words or numbers? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.12 Should we use different rating scales for assessing different areas within the form? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.13 Should the form provide for putting different weights on the various sections? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 141 145 147 149 150 151 152 155 156 157 161 162 Contents xi 6.14 Should the form provide a recommended distribution of performance appraisal ratings? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163 6.15 Some computer-based performance appraisal systems offer an electronic form with different traits listed: quality of work, quantity of work, attitude, or dependability. The manager clicks on a one to five scale and then the machine generates the text for the appraisal. Are these programs a good idea? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165 6.16 Most people do a good job—not outstanding, not unacceptable—and therefore get rated in the middle category. But they all hate getting rated there. They see it as being labeled as a ‘‘C’’ student. How do we explain that getting the middle rating is not a bad thing? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166 7. The Performance Appraisal Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 7.1 What does an effective performance appraisal process look like? . . 169 7.2 We’re getting ready to design a completely new performance appraisal system from scratch. Where should we start? . . . . . . . . . 170 7.3 What should top management, appraisers, employees, and human resources professionals expect from a performance appraisal system? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172 7.4 What kind of training do managers need to do a good performance appraisal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 7.5 Do we need to provide training to employees about our performance appraisal process? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 7.6 Should we provide managers with samples of completed appraisal forms that they can use as models when they have to prepare performance appraisals? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 7.7 How can an organization determine whether its managers are doing a good job in performance appraisal and that the system is working well? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178 7.8 Both appraisers and employees are confused about what the different rating labels actually mean. How do we solve this communication problem? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180 7.9 Managers don’t seem to understand all the things that they need to do and end up waiting until the last minute to meet their performance appraisal activities. Human resources then ends up playing policeman. What can HR do to help them do a better job? 181 7.10 We use a lot of self-directed work teams in our organization. Should we evaluate team performance in addition to the performance of individuals? And how do we evaluate the performance of teams? . 183 xii Contents 7.11 We are concerned that people who perform the same may get different ratings from different supervisors. How can we make sure that appraisers apply consistent standards across our organization? 184 7.12 What Is ‘‘upward appraisal’’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 7.13 Should forced ranking be part of our performance appraisal procedure? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188 7.14 We are considering either turning our existing performance appraisal form into an Internet-based application or purchasing a web-based performance appraisal system. Is either a good idea? . . 191 8. Building Performance Excellence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193 8.1 What does building performance excellence involve? . . . . . . . . . . 193 8.2 What influences an individual’s development? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193 8.3 How do I determine where I, or someone on my team, should concentrate development efforts? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195 8.4 Why is the ‘‘achievement orientation’’ competency so important? 196 8.5 Why is the competency of ‘‘impact and influence’’ so important? 197 8.6 How do I create a development plan that works . . . one that actually produces results? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198 8.7 Isn’t development the responsibility of the individual? What are the manager’s responsibilities for developing subordinates? . . . . . . . . 200 8.8 Most development plans seem to involve little more than just signing up for training programs. Where does training fit into a development plan? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202 8.9 How can I use the job itself as a developmental experience? . . . . 203 8.10 Should I evaluate the employee’s success in completing his development plan as part of the performance appraisal? . . . . . . . . 205 8.11 I have an employee whose performance is not acceptable. I have had one or two informal conversations with him, but nothing’s changed. What should I do? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205 8.12 How do I identify exactly what the gap is between the desired performance and the employee’s actual performance? . . . . . . . . . 207 8.13 How do I make sure that I’m on solid ground before beginning the discussion about poor performance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210 8.14 How do I get the discussion off to a good start? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212 8.15 How do I get someone to agree to change and correct a problem? 214 8.16 How do I document a performance improvement discussion? . . . 215 Contents xiii 8.17 The individual’s quality and quantity of work are okay. It’s his attitude that’s the problem. How do I solve an attitude problem? . 217 8.18 The individual’s performance is very good, but her attendance record is spotty. How do I convince someone that we need to come to work, on time, every day? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219 8.19 Our discipline system seems harsh and inappropriate for professional employees with its warnings and reprimands and suspensions without pay. Is there a better approach? . . . . . . . . . . 8.20 Why should we suspend the employee as a final step of our discipline system? Why not just issue a final written warning, or create a performance improvement plan, or place the individual on probation? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.21 If a suspension is the best final step strategy, why should we pay the employee for the time he is away on suspension? . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.22 Will Discipline Without Punishment work in my organization? . . . 221 223 224 224 9. One Final Question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 9.1 Now that all is said and done, is performance appraisal really all that important? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229 About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237 This Page Intentionally Left Blank Introduction In sophisticated, well-managed organizations, performance appraisal is the single most important management tool. No other management process has as much influence over individuals’ careers and work lives. Used well, performance appraisal is the most powerful instrument that organizations have to mobilize the energy of every employee of the enterprise toward the achievement of strategic goals. Used well, per­ formance appraisal can focus every person’s attention on the com­ pany’s mission, vision, and values. But used poorly, the procedure quickly becomes the butt of jokes and the target of Dilbert lampoons. For over thirty years, I have helped organizations create highly ef­ fective, world-class performance appraisal systems. In this time, I have learned what actually qualifies as ‘‘best practice.’’ I have learned how to help companies incorporate the most effective procedures there are for guiding, directing, assessing, and developing human performance. I have helped them use performance appraisal to achieve important organizational objectives. I have taught their managers how to become masters of this challenging and difficult management technique. Make no mistake. Performance appraisal is difficult. Doing per­ formance appraisal is like being in the Olympics of management. Few people ever get the chance to participate; even fewer are true masters. My goal in this book is to make you and your organization a true master of performance appraisal. The questions in this book have come from two sources. First, they have come from the thousands of questions I have responded to from top executives, human resources professionals, managers, and individuals both in my consulting practice in helping companies cre­ ate a new appraisal system, and in the management seminars I have conducted to help managers maximize the effectiveness of their exist­ ing systems. Second, questions poured forth from hundreds of managers in response to the e-mail I sent clients, colleagues, and friends just before I began writing this book. I explained the project that I had under­ taken and asked them to send me the most difficult and important xv xvi Introduction questions they had about performance appraisal. They responded al­ most overwhelmingly. The questions in this book are real; they repre­ sent the actual issues of managers whose goal is to create a climate of performance excellence. The book begins with an overview of why performance appraisal is an incredibly powerful but underappreciated management tech­ nique. Chapters 2 through 5 deal with the four phases of an effective performance management system: performance planning, execution, assessment, and review. The sixth chapter deals specifically with the performance ap­ praisal form. Yes, there is an ideal form. In Chapter 6, I will tell you exactly what an ideal appraisal form looks like—what it contains and how to create one. But we all know that performance appraisal isn’t a form. It’s a system. In Chapter 7, I will explain exactly how the most effective performance appraisal process works. Chapter 8 deals with building performance excellence. In this chapter I will cover two critical issues: First, I will describe what actu­ ally works in developing human talent. Second, I will tell you how to solve people problems when they arise. The last chapter is the shortest. In this final chapter, I will respond to only one question. But this question is the most important of all the questions, and the one that truly does deserve a chapter all to itself: Now that all is said and done, is performance appraisal really all that important? Yes, it is, and I’ll tell you why. For almost thirty years, I have been a consultant whose work fo­ cuses exclusively on performance management. My goal is to help organizations create performance management systems that reward excellence and demand personal responsibility; to help their manag­ ers understand how to maximize the contributions of every person on their team. I know that the single most important competency re­ quired to build performance excellence is not knowledge or skill or desire: It is courage. I hope this book gives every reader the incentive to muster the courage to build performance excellence into every as­ pect of life. This book will probably generate as many questions as it an­ swers. If you have a question—or an insight, or a success story— please share them with me at DickGrote@GroteConsulting.com or visit my website, www.PerformanceAppraisal.com. The PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL QUESTION and ANSWER BOOK Chapter 1 The Importance of Performance Appraisal 1.1 What is ‘‘performance appraisal’’? Performance appraisal is a formal management system that provides for the evaluation of the quality of an individual’s performance in an organization. The appraisal is usually prepared by the employee’s im­ mediate supervisor. The procedure typically requires the supervisor to fill out a standardized assessment form that evaluates the individual on several different dimensions and then discusses the results of the evaluation with the employee. Tell Me More Too often, performance appraisal is seen merely as a once-a-year drill mandated by the personnel department. But in organizations that take performance appraisal seriously and use the system well, it is used as an ongoing process and not merely as an annual event. In these compa­ nies, performance appraisal follows a four-phase model: Phase 1: Performance Planning. At the beginning of the year, the manager and individual get together for a performance-planning meet­ ing. In this hour-long session they discuss what the person will achieve over the next twelve months (the key responsibilities of the person’s job and the goals and projects the person will work on) and how the person will do the job (the behaviors and competencies the organization ex­ pects of its members). They typically also discuss the individual’s de­ velopment plans. Phase 2: Performance Execution. Over the course of the year the em­ ployee works to achieve the goals, objectives, and key responsibilities of the job. The manager provides coaching and feedback to the individ­ 1 2 The Performance Appraisal Question and Answer Book ual to increase the probability of success. He creates the conditions that motivate and resolves any performance problems that arise. Midway through the year—perhaps even more frequently—they meet to review the individual’s performance thus far against the plans and goals that they discussed in the performance-planning meeting. Phase 3: Performance Assessment. As the time for the formal per­ formance appraisal nears, the manager reflects on how well the subor­ dinate has performed over the course of the year, assembles the various forms and paperwork that the organization provides to make this as­ sessment, and fills them out. The manager may also recommend a change in the individual’s compensation based on the quality of the individual’s work. The completed assessment form is usually reviewed and approved by the appraiser’s boss. Others—perhaps the department head or the compensation manager—may also review and approve the assessment. Phase 4: Performance Review. The manager and the subordinate meet, usually for about an hour. They review the appraisal form that the manager has written and talk about how well the person performed over the past twelve months. At the end of the review meeting they set a date to meet again to hold a performance-planning discussion for the next twelve months, at which point the performance management process starts anew. Of course there may be many individual variations on the basic theme, but most sophisticated companies generally follow this four­ phase process. Figure 1-1 illustrates the basic four-phase process. 1.2 Where did performance appraisals come from? There are early references to performance appraisal in America going back over a hundred years. The federal Civil Service Commission’s merit rating system was in place in 1887. Lord & Taylor introduced performance appraisal in 1914. Many companies were influenced by Frederick Taylor’s ‘‘scientific management’’ efforts of the early twenti­ eth century and concocted performance appraisals. Before World War II, however, very few organizations conducted any formal performance appraisals. A handful of companies and the military were the only ones using the procedure regularly. Most ap­ praisals that were done concentrated more on an individual’s personal­ ity and traits than on actual achievements against goals and formal analyses of the behaviors that produced those results.
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