The Collective Wisdom of the Workforce: Conversations with Employees regarding Performance Evaluation

By Clifford, James P. | Public Personnel Management, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

The Collective Wisdom of the Workforce: Conversations with Employees regarding Performance Evaluation


Clifford, James P., Public Personnel Management


During the summer and fall of 1994, employees were offered an opportunity to meet and talk about performance evaluation. A number of questions were prepared to stimulate conversation; but basically, the employees were encouraged to talk about their concerns. Nearly 150 employees attended a variety of discussion meetings to share their views. In some cases, specific groups requested to be included, such as secretaries. Comments were recorded and then returned to the employees for verification. Fourteen meetings were held, which generated more that 450 comments on the topic of performance evaluation and peripheral issues. The basic interest, which drove this activity, was the question is there a better way to conduct performance evaluations?

A panel of six reviewers coded the comments according to: those which were positive on performance evaluation, those which were negative on performance evaluation and those related to peripheral issues. The comments were then sorted according to their code and summarized according the major themes. As might be expected, many of the same or similar opinions were repeated in many of the meetings and these themes became more prominent with repetition.

Professional literature was reviewed relating to performance evaluation in three primary areas; total quality management, communication and legal standards. The comments by employees were considered in terms of these three issues to determine if the experts were consistent with employee comments.

At every level of the process, effort was made to keep employees informed of how the project was progressing. A report containing conclusions and recommendations was written. A major recommendation was to conduct a demonstration project consistent with employee comments and the professional literature. An initial step in the demonstration project was the development of a statement of purpose and the design of reporting forms. These documents are a part of this article, and are a significant departure from traditional performance evaluation.

Governments must continually review procedures if they are going to improve the quality of goods and services they provide. In keeping with this philosophy, a review of employee performance evaluation procedures was conducted. The present performance evaluation procedure, with some minor modifications, has been in place for more than twenty-five years. Since implementation of the current evaluation program many changes have taken place in the field of human resource management. Significant changes have occurred in laws effecting an organization's interaction with its employees. The tremendous increase in information and technology has significantly affected work during that time. Finally, the public demand for improved quality of service, as well as a demand for increased access, has influenced how government does business. These, as well as other changes, call for a vigorous review of procedures to improve government's effectiveness in dealing with its employees and the public.

The procedure of employee performance evaluation has been an issue of considerable irritation through the years. It has been a concern for the organization as well as the individual employee. It is a procedure that deserves close review because of the number of complaints it generates. In the case of performance evaluation, employees are customers and, therefore, their opinions are very important. To learn what concerns employees have about performance evaluation, their opinions were solicited.

In addition to the employee comments there was a review of current professional literature in the areas of total quality management, communication, and the legal aspects of performance evaluation. Based on the employees' opinions and the review of the professional literature, recommendations have been developed. These recommendations suggest that models be designed and tested in an effort to develop a more effective performance evaluation procedure. …

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