Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Aligning Individual and Organizational Performance: Goal Alignment in Federal Government Agency Performance Appraisal Programs

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Aligning Individual and Organizational Performance: Goal Alignment in Federal Government Agency Performance Appraisal Programs

Article excerpt

A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO; 2008) report recently suggested a key to improving government through performance information is to create a "clear line of sight linking individual performance with organizational results" (p. 9). Public managers likewise agree that performance appraisal programs can be used as a management tool for controlling organizational performance (Pulakos & O'Leary, 2011). Human resource management research has examined intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors that affect organization performance, such as pay-for-performance (Kellough & Selden, 1997; Park & Berry, 2014), at-will employment (Kellough & Nigro, 2002), merit pay (Gabris & Ihrke, 2000; Kellough & Lu, 1993; Taylor & Pierce, 1999), and the system itself (Oh & Lewis, 2009). However, one component of performance appraisal programs that has received limited empirical attention is the ability of such programs to create goal alignment. Goal alignment is defined as linking individual goal outcomes with organizational goal outcomes. When individual performance requirements cascade from organizational strategic plan goals, it can enhance organizational performance, assuming the goals and achievement of goals affect performance. This research tests this theory by examining goal alignment in federal agency performance appraisal programs and organizational performance. This research hypothesizes that if performance appraisal programs align with agency strategic plans and ensure key goals and objectives are embedded in the performance appraisal plans, employees will more likely understand and contribute to achieving the key goals and objectives, thus ultimately leading to increased organizational performance. However, goal alignment in a performance appraisal program may be moderated by other performance appraisal factors. Goal alignment alone may not fully contribute to increased organizational performance, factors such as credible measures that demonstrate expected results, distinctions in levels of performance, consequences for action and non-action, employee involvement, feedback and dialogue, and training may further contribute to organizational performance.

Examining this relationship has important implications for the theory of public management, performance management, and strategic human resources management. Performance management does not always work as we expect, but it can have positive impacts (Moynihan, 2008), and public management impacts are not trivial (O'Toole & Meier, 2011). This research contributes to understanding processes within public-sector management and how public managers can improve agency performance through strategic management (Walker, 2013).

Literature Review

Organizational Performance

Researchers have attempted to develop a model to explain public organizational performance and generally agree that any measures of organizational performance must be multidimensional (Boyne & Dahya, 2002; Boyne, Gould-Williams, Law, & Walker, 2002; Brewer & Selden, 2000; Chun & Rainey, 2005; Ingraham, Joyce, & Donahue, 2003; Pandey & Rainey, 2006; Rainey & Steinbauer, 1999; Wolf, 1993). The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) was created to measure agency program performance on a variety of elements: program purposes and design, strategic planning, management, and results. Because each government program is unique, OMB measured the program against performance standards designed for measuring specific program outcomes. This individual approach to program performance where programs are measured against expected outcomes makes PART unique as a measure of organizational performance.

OMB's use of PART from 2004 to 2008 has meant limited use by scholars as a measure of organizational performance when examining federal agencies. Most research using PART concentrates on PART'S usefulness as a performance budgeting tool (Gilmour, 2007; Gilmour & Lewis, 2006a; Moynihan, 2008; Mullen, 2006; Posner & Fantone, 2007; GAO, 2005; White, 2012). …

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