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Are These Programs A Good Idea?

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?

No. These programs are a very bad idea.

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These computer-based appraisal products provide the manager with a predetermined set of performance factors. The manager evaluates the subordinate’s performance level on each of the factors, typically using a one to five scale. The software product then spews forth text that purportedly duplicates what the manager himself would write to describe Sam’s performance at a ‘‘three’’ level for the trait labeled ‘‘cooperation.’’

All of these programs slight the critically important key job responsibilities and goals element of the performance management process, simply because it is much harder to provide assistance for these elements than it is to merely cook up a bunch of sentences that reflect various levels of performance for various traits. Another problem is that the most important part of performance appraisal can’t be assisted by computer software at all, no matter how sophisticated: the quality of the meeting between the individual and the appraiser.

None of the packages fit any particular organization’s culture. Each was designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience. The stronger the corporate culture, the less appropriate any of these programs is likely to be.

The sterile, machine-generated prose put forth by these programs is often excessively simple, repetitive, and insipid. Although these programs encourage managers to edit the language, most will probably accept the bland words as written.

Any personnel decision made that is based on the data from one of these programs will be very difficult to defend. Avoid using this type of program. It is a lawsuit-in-a-box.