Performance appraisals are supposed to be a chance for employees and line managers to enjoy a fruitful evaluation of the previous year and create an individual development plan for the period ahead.

However, through my consultancy role, I meet many who either don’t care about this process, or do not feel it is as effective as it should be.

It’s important to know that performance appraisal (PA) is only a part of a bigger process – the performance management (PM) system. This is an organisation-wide program that offers a structured approach to:

  • Communicate business strategy
  • Establish a shared understanding of what must be achieved, and how
  • Facilitate management of self and others
  • Measure and motivate performance (organizational and individual)

In other words, PM is a process for ensuring employees are focusing their work efforts in ways that contribute to achieving the organisation’s mission. PM consists of three phases: setting expectations for employee performance; maintaining a dialogue between line manager and employee to keep performance on track; and measuring actual performance relative to performance expectations, which is PA.

In order to have a solid, reliable, and accurate PA, it is crucial to avoid these common pitfalls facing appraisers.

  1. Scoring errors

This is when the manager rates too many performance objectives on one part of the rating scale—high, middle, or low—without basing the ratings on concrete data or knowledge.

  1. Recency:

Focusing only on recent performance within the evaluation period. For example, a manager should not just consider an employee’s performance within the last three months during an annual evaluation. The entire period of employee performance must be evaluated, or risk inaccuracy.

  1. Similarity errors:

Managers sometimes rate employees more favourably if the staff member consistently performs job functions in the same style or by using the same process as the managers do.

  1. Contrast errors:

If a manager stereotypes—due to race, religion, or age—when rating, a contrast error results. Each employee’s performance, not his/her background, characteristics, or lifestyle, should be rated.

Also, a contrast error can result when two employees with similar performances are compared. The error occurs when the manager rates one employee lower than the other because the manager likes the other employee better.

  1. Negative approach:

When managers begin a performance evaluation with a negative tendency. Avoid at all costs!

Having a successful performance appraisal is the responsibility of both employee and line manager; both should be aware that this process is for giving and getting feedback—not criticism—as well as for the employee’s personal development.

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