Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

From Performance Appraisal to Performance Management: One Agency's Experience

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

From Performance Appraisal to Performance Management: One Agency's Experience

Article excerpt

Managers and employees generally regard performance appraisals ambivalently, at best. Although most would acknowledge the value, in principle, of documenting, communicating about, and targeting areas of performance, many are also frustrated about the limited value, in actual practice, of performance appraisals in their organizations. Researchers agree. According to a recent major review of appraisal literature, "The appraisal of performance appraisals is not good ... In fact, our review indicates that, regardless of a (appraisal) program's stated purpose, few studies show positive effects." (1)

What might public agencies do about their current appraisal systems? To address this question, this article first outlines recent suggestions regarding performance appraisals: 1) incorporate the developments of Total Quality Management (TQM) and core competencies into appraisals; and 2) move toward performance management--coordinating appraisals and other mechanisms not only to appraise performance, but also to drive and manage performance toward agency objectives. We then relate the experience of a state agency in applying these suggestions during a period of organizational change.

Several authors have concluded it is futile to search for a single, simple solution to "the performance appraisal problem," but one thing agencies can do is adjust their appraisal systems to changing needs and developments. (2,3) Recent appraisal articles have suggested that appraisal systems incorporate the developments of TQM and core competencies. Cardy suggests that appraisal systems incorporate TQM principles by including system factors and considering individual performance in a team or work unit context. (4) Bowen and Waldman offer several ways appraisal systems can be modified to address various aspects of customer-oriented performance--a major focus of TQM efforts. (5) Grote cites "core competencies"--critically important behaviors, skills, and attributes needed by all employees of the organization--as one of the significant recent developments of performance management. (6) He feels core competencies can be identified fairly easily in an agency and can then be highlighted, communicated, and reinforced via the organization's performance appraisal system.

Several authors have pointed out that most performance appraisal systems do not tie individual goals and performance to organizational goals and performance. (7,8) Typically, the completed performance appraisal form/interview is an isolated event focusing on the individual employee's performance, independent of the agency's strategy or direction. Compounding this "disconnect," most appraisals focus on the employee's past performance, independent of the agency's current and future direction. Accordingly, it is suggested that appraisal systems focus on linking the individual's goals/performance with the agency's strategy and objectives, especially future goals/performance. This focus should increase the relevance of appraisals to managers and employees, and help channel everyone's efforts in common desired directions.

The above suggestions certainly seem useful. Agencies applying these suggestions to their appraisal systems would then provide, at least, updated systems incorporating useful developments and systems tying individual efforts more closely to the direction of the agency.

Agencies might also consider expanding beyond performance appraisal to performance management. Performance management refers to an umbrella of all organizational components and activities affecting individual, work group, and agency performance. A performance management system would include performance appraisal, as well as other components such as strategic plans, manager accountability, pay, promotion, training/development, and discipline. And, the system would coordinate these components effectively to improve organizational performance. Some of the problems and frustrations with performance appraisals involve mixed or conflicting purposes of appraisal systems--e. …

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