Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Municipal Government Personnel Professionals and Performance Appraisal: Is There a Consensus on the Characteristics of an Effective Appraisal System?

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Municipal Government Personnel Professionals and Performance Appraisal: Is There a Consensus on the Characteristics of an Effective Appraisal System?

Article excerpt

Municipal personnel managers play a key role in developing and implementing personnel policies and practices. While their influence varies from municipality to municipality and from issue to issue, the municipal personnel manager is an important source of expertise and knowledge concerning most human resource management issues.(1) A very important responsibility for many personnelists is performance appraisal system design and implementation. Performance appraisal is one of the most widely employed tools and is used for a variety of developmental and administrative purposes.(2) Performance appraisal is, however, a complex process and the center of considerable controversy over its utility and effectiveness.

Proponents of Total Quality Management and other critics argue that individual performance appraisal engenders dysfunctional employee conflict, assumes a false degree of measurement accuracy, underemphasizes the importance of the work group in facilitating effective performance, assigns an inordinate amount of responsibility for poor performance to the individual employee, assumes the role of a hierarchical command and control device, and is subject to a whole host of heuristical and attributional errors.(3) A discussion of the merits of these critiques is beyond the scope of this article, but for those who value performance appraisal, this study is predicated on the belief that a properly designed appraisal system that is congruent with organizational culture can make an important contribution to organizational effectiveness.(4)

Proponents of performance appraisal claim that an effective performance appraisal system produces specific performance feedback to improve employee performance, identifies employee training requirements, and links performance and personnel decision making.(5) The ultimate goal of most performance appraisal systems is to increase employee motivation and productivity. The recent research literature has begun to identify the characteristics of effective performance appraisal systems.(6)

The primary objective of this study is to determine whether practicing personnelists and research scholars agree on what constitutes an effective performance appraisal system. If personnel managers possess knowledge of the characteristics of effective performance appraisal systems, they are more likely to design and/or advocate performance appraisal systems that include these important attributes. In addition, the research is an opportunity for the academic community to learn from the experience of practitioners. Concepts and techniques that are valued by academics may not be functional or effective for those involved in the development and administration of performance appraisal systems. Thus, areas of disagreement can serve to identify subjects for further research and improve both theory and practice.

Research of this genre is also necessary because much performance appraisal research is laboratory based with consequent questionable external validity. This research and other recent works attempt to delineate the contextual factors that affect the operation of performance appraisal systems.

Given the multitude of variables that can influence the development and administration of a performance appraisal system, personnel manager knowledge alone cannot be expected to have a significant impact on a given systems' effectiveness. Knowledge of the elements of an effective system is a necessary, albeit not a sufficient, condition to ensure performance appraisal system effectiveness.

How can personnel managers develop their knowledge of effective appraisal system practices? Formal education is one avenue. Personnel managers with advanced degrees specializing in personnel areas are more likely to be cognizant of the requirements for effective performance appraisal systems. Knowledge about performance appraisal can be obtained through specialized courses and training seminars, membership in professional associations, and self-study of the performance appraisal literature. …

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