Reengineering Employee Performance Appraisals the TQM Way

Article excerpt

One of Deming's TQM principles warns us to beware of bogus number and measures that try to determine elusive concepts. A subtle example of a process that uses bogus numbers is the employee performance evaluation. Plenty of man-hours are spent every year on ingenious evaluation systems designed to detail the activity of workers, while the evaluation itself rests on the subjective yardstick of the evaluator. Studies and surveys show that most employees disagree with their bosses' evaluation, creating conflicts that seriously affect teamwork

The first question that comes to mind hinges around the objectives of the exercise. Why do companies engage in the performance evaluation process? The list of claimed objectives could contain the following:

* To provide feedback to the employee by using a formal setting for communication between employee and supervisor;

* To provide periodic direction and set goals for the employee's work;

* To provide an opportunity to recognize or reprimand the employee;

* To parallel salary with performance by determining salary increase, decrease, and bonuses;

* To define the employee's needs for additional training or education and to set a new career path;

* To identify candidates for promotions, demotions, or lateral moves;

* To prevent potential legal action by providing an equitable system of evaluation; and

* To encourage performance improvements by identifying both strengths and weaknesses in current performance and by providing the motivational reinforcement to encourage improvements.

To accomplish these objectives, companies and government agencies develop formal evaluation procedures in which a form, composed of the job's critical elements, matches the job description of the individual or group within the same classification. Evaluation of these critical elements follows a scale, usually from 1 to 4 or 5, and at the end of the form a general rating provides a global evaluation of the employee. The form reserves space for the signatures of the supervisor, reviewing officer, and employee, as well as space for comments. In addition to completing the form, some performance procedures call for an interview between the employee and the supervisor. The evaluation cycle demands a repetition of the drill every year, although some organizations do it semiannually.

Knowing the objectives of the performance evaluation and the general procedure used in most organizations, a scrutiny, under the TQM philosophy and reengineering elements, of each objective becomes imperative.

The analysis will indicate that the achievement of the above goals exists within the essential fabric of TQM. Eighty percent of the burden of a formal and costly evaluation system must be eliminated from the business practice to give way to improvements that genuinely benefit customers. Let's review each of the individual objectives.

Provide feedback by channeling communication between employee and supervisor

Under TQM, the annual boss-employee "channeling" gets defeated because of the periodicity of the performance evaluation cycle. In today's business environment, if a manager only gets in touch, formally or informally, with an employee once a year, he or she misses a world of possibilities for development and improvement. The TQM manager becomes more than a boss, he or she constantly coaches the employee to steer the employee's actions toward self-improvement and betterment of the productive systems. When the supervision function gets transformed into coaching, teaching, and listening, the evaluation's feedback cycle changes to weekly or biweekly contacts and monitoring. In a competitive business, a once a year gettogether does not cut it.

Management structures supported by TQM discourage the typical top-down, supervisor-subordinate relationship and emphasizes instead, an intense feedback through teams. In this situation, the sense of top-down gives way to an interactive and vibrant team communication. …