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We’re Getting Ready To Design A Completely New Performance Appraisal System From Scratch?

Where should we start?

Here is a ten-step process that works well in developing a new performance appraisal system:

  1. Get top management actively involved.
  2. Establish the criteria for an ideal system.
  3. Appoint an implementation team.
  4. Design the form first.
  5. Build your mission, vision, values, and core competencies into the form.
  6. Ensure ongoing communication.
  7. Train all appraisers.
  8. Orient all appraisees.
  9. Use the results.
  10. Monitor and revise the program.

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Get top management actively involved. Without top management’s commitment and visible support, no program can succeed. Top management must establish strategic plans, identify values and core competencies, appoint an appropriate implementation team, demonstrate the importance of performance management by being active participants in the process, and use appraisal results in management decisions.

Establish the criteria for an ideal system. Consider the needs of the four stakeholder groups of any appraisal system: Appraisers who must evaluate performance; appraisees whose performance is being assessed; human resources professionals who must administer the system; and the senior management group that must lead the organization into the future. Identifying their expectations at the start helps ensure their support once the system is finally designed. Ask each group: ‘‘What will it take for you to consider this system a smashing success?’’ Don’t settle for less.

Appoint an implementation team. This task force—a diagonal slice of appraisers and appraisees from different levels and functions in the organization—is responsible for developing appraisal forms, policies, and procedures and assuring successful deployment. Effective implementation teams usually divide themselves into two working task forces:

  1. Policies, Practices, Procedures (3P). This task force is responsible for designing the appraisal forms and recommending policies and procedures. They also develop measurement systems to make sure the system is operating properly once it has been installed.
  2. Understanding, Support, Acceptance (USA). This team works as a mini-advertising agency, arranging communication plans and programs to ensure understanding and support by everyone who will be affected by the system.

Design the form first. The appraisal form is a lightning rod that will attract everyone’s attention. Design the form early and get lots of feedback on it. Don’t believe people who tell you that the form isn’t important. They’re wrong.

Build your mission, vision, values, and core competencies into the form. Performance appraisal is a means, not an end. The real objective of any performance management system is to make sure that the company’s strategic plan and vision and values are communicated and achieved. Core competencies expected of all organization members should be included, described, and assessed. If your mission statement isn’t clearly visible in the performance appraisal system, cynicism will likely result. Values become real only when people are held accountable for living up to them.

Ensure ongoing communication. Circulate drafts of the form and invite users to make recommendations. Consider using focus groups to review ongoing efforts. Keep the development process visible through announcements and house organ bulletins. Use surveys, float trial balloons, request suggestions. Remember the cardinal principle: People support what they help create.

Train all appraisers. Performance appraisal requires a multitude of skills—behavioral observation and discrimination, goal setting, developing people, confronting unacceptable performance, persuading, problem solving, and planning. Unless appraiser training is universal and comprehensive, the program won’t produce much. And don’t ignore the most important requirement of all: the need for courage.

Orient all appraisees. The program’s purposes and procedures must be explained in advance—enthusiastically—to everyone who will be affected by it. Specific training should be provided if the performance management procedure requires self-appraisal, multirater feedback, upward appraisal, or individual development planning.

Use the results. If the results of the performance appraisal are not visibly used in making promotion, salary, development, transfer, training, and termination decisions, people will realize that it’s merely an exercise.

Monitor and revise the program. Audit the quality of appraisals, the extent to which the system is being used, and the extent to which the original objectives have been met. Provide feedback to management, appraisers, and appraisees. Train new appraisers as they are appointed to supervisory positions. Actively seek and incorporate suggestions for improvement.