Performance reviews are a common exercise at the workplace. The majority of organizations have implemented either manual or electronic systems to periodically facilitate this process through the human resources departments and respective supervisors in different establishment sections. Ideally, the process of evaluating employees during different periods in a given year is meant to align them to the overall company strategy and identify areas of challenges with them as they try to navigate the journey. In this article, we’ll know about the Quality of Work Performance Reviews.
The challenges, in turn, need to be addressed through a training process or adjustment of their current job situation, such as changing departments, resolving conflicts, adjusting the job descriptions, or even restructuring the entire department. Unfortunately, numerous cases reported of organizations or supervisors using this noble cause to frustrate employees who do not ascribe to certain viewpoints. Sadly, people have lost jobs unfairly through performance reviews.
This leads us to the pertinent question; do we need to interrogate the quality of work performance reviews in contemporary society?! Are these processes transparent and just?! Do software systems improve the quality, or do they, in fact, limit the scoring of attributes?!
Quality of Work Performance Reviews
When we refer to something having quality, it implies that it is suitable for its intended purpose and meets all parties’ expectations. Furthermore, it means it must meet certain criteria to attain this status. Therefore, at the bare minimum, it should have the following characteristics:
- Accuracy – The information yielded in any process should be correct. It must not be ambiguous. It should describe the entity as truthfully as possible with no biases. Performance reviews unfortunately rarely meet this threshold. Most reviews are conducted after a prolonged period of time and only describe the performance of the employee in that particular season. Never mind what they achieved previously that didn’t catch the attention of the supervisor o evaluator.
In addition, they are conducted in a hurry since there are deadlines to meet. Hardly does the employee have time to elaborate on their viewpoint. In many cases, when electronic systems are used, the employee is limited to the answers in the system or the length of answers is also limited.
- Completeness – Results of a process need to be comprehensive. It should cover all aspects of the unit. Performance reviews are not this thorough. They mainly focus on the output of the employee and not the factors that influence this output. They don’t focus on all the effort placed to generate the result. Failure to meet a certain target is not interrogated fully in order to say that the person is a non-performer. Yet they could even have sacrificed their personal resources just to reach the break-even point which everyone tagged as “failure”.
- Reliable – Information should never contradict other trusted resources. Legitimate data should be verifiable every single time if all conditions are held constant no matter the environment. The results should replicate with different sources. Performance reviews are highly compromised in this area. Every single person has a different perspective about a certain employee depending on how they relate with them. The supervisor may not have kind words while the colleagues find the same person extremely pleasant. Unfortunately, the supervisors have an upper hand in this debate and in most cases, the final word.
- Relevance – Information needs to be important for it to be used, otherwise, the documents end up in the archives, forgotten. Whether or not a piece of information is appropriate depends on the users. Performance reviews are meant to help in the personal and professional development of the employees however they are sometimes designed to lock them out of these opportunities. They are used to intimidate and frustrate employees even those who are quite good at their duties.
Instead of being used as training and rewarding tools supervisors use them to discriminate and eliminate “foes”. As a result, they end up not assisting the management team in making relevant strategic decisions since they are not accurate, complete nor reliable, especially with the biases. This makes them look for alternatives to corporate advancement. At the end of the day, none of the purposes it was intended for is fulfilled.
- Timeliness – Real-time information helps in proper adjustment and development of appropriate strategies. Performance reviews focus on historical happenings, the past activities, not the present or future endeavors of the employees as a result, this data can be said to be outdated or even unreliable. Employees could have made big changes in their performance but they are judged based on something that happened 3 – 6 months ago. This is demotivating to them since the current status is overlooked by the process and the supervisor.
Employees tend to develop a negative attitude towards this beneficial process because it is wrongly implemented. Supervisors on the other hand will capitalize on the failures of their team members in order to have an element of control over them.
Principles of QM need to be practiced if we will ensure transparency and accountability in work performance reviews. The following need to be considered by the evaluator and company boards while developing the schedules, regulations, and systems to be used in the appraisal processes:
- Engagement of People – The evaluator should ensure that the tools and procedures to be followed will be widely accepted by the target group in order to get full participation and yield reliable information at the end of the exercise.
- Customer Focus – The tools and procedures should be developed with the employee in mind and not other stakeholders who may want to manipulate the process. The idea is to tools and procedures that will generate factual information that is aimed to benefit the employees first, and then management interests can follow in second place and not the other way round.
- Leadership – Supervisors should be given proper training in executing performance reviews. They should also go through independent evaluations to ensure they are free from biases and ill motives. Those found guilty should be taken through corrective, rehabilitative, or disciplinary measures before the mass exercise begins and their replacements are sought. If such inconsistencies are discovered after the exercise, the affected employee deserves a repeat of the review under fair conditions.
- Process Approach – The performance review exercise should have one goal, to improve conditions whether individual, group, or company. Hence, it should be approached with a neutral attitude by all stakeholders. Mechanisms to detect and manage vested interests should be developed in advance. The exercise should be transparent and all participants whether evaluator or employee should remain accountable throughout the exercise. A pragmatic approach should be taken while conducting this exercise.
- Improvement – Whenever mistakes are detected, they should be rectified immediately in order not to compromise the results. If faults are identified in the system or process they should be amended quickly in order to ensure smooth flow of the operations. The faults or errors should not feature in the next phase.
- Evidence-Based Decision Making – Embracing pragmatic approaches in the process keeps all stakeholders focused and confident. Any information concerning the employees should be investigated and proof provided to such claims. Evidence should be gathered from multiple sources and not just one party such as the supervisor who may be prone to biases. This will make all stakeholders confident with the results and decisions are taken thereof.
- Relationship Management – The human resources department should act as a mediator throughout the process. Employees should be made aware that this office is accessible should there be disputes. On the other hand, the supervisor or evaluator should be aware that they are also being monitored in order for them to conduct themselves ethically. The outcome of such a process would be just and fair.
Quality Management seeks consistency. To ensure this is realized, four levels must be exhaustively covered before implementing performance reviews at the workplace. These stages are explained below:
- Quality Planning – There should be proper planning of the exercise from start to finish. In order to achieve representatives from different stakeholder groups should participate in this planning meeting to get their perspectives. All resources that will be required need to be identified and budgeted for to the last penny. Tools and systems to be used need to be developed and pre-tested to eliminate or reduce error margins. Procedures and regulations need to be determined and action people identified. A contingency plan should always be shared.
- Quality Assurance – Risk management procedures need to be identified and documented. This is aimed at early detection and curbing risks or errors in the ongoing process. The idea is to be vigilant and ensure high monitoring levels of each stage of the process.
- Quality Control – Set standards must be followed if the exercise will remain authentic. These standards were developed at the planning stage hence all parties are aware of them. Employees are also made aware in order to remain compliant and to identify flaws that can be reported and corrected.
- Quality Improvement – The entire performance review process seeks excellence. It must therefore remain effective and efficient. The process must yield the desired results as per goals and standards set at the planning stages. There should not the unnecessary delays and deadlines must be met. If not, logical reasons should be provided and the situation resolved as soon as possible.
In conclusion, we can say that performance reviews should not be entirely scrapped out of the corporate calendar of activities. As we have seen, when properly designed and implemented, they can be an extremely fulfilling exercise for both the employees and the management team. Not to mention a powerful change management tool. The solution then is to ensure we have proper reviews free from flaws either by design or accident.
Performance reviews align employees to corporate strategy: They help employees understand the organization’s strategic plan fully in terms of vision, mission, and values. This, in turn, helps them see the bigger picture and their essential contribution to this great undertaking. In addition, these reviews facilitate employee recognition and issuing of rewards.
This motivates them to improve in their work and makes them loyal to the organization. Performance reviews allow employee retention and reduce high turnover among them. Respected employees treated well and felt appreciated as they fulfill their duties will rarely seek new job markets. These reviews also assist in monitoring professional development. Since the exercise is periodic, we can determine whether or not the employee has made any effort to improve their skills and knowledge. That is, whether they are stagnant or has acquired additional qualifications.
Performance reviews identify training needs in a team. The challenges pointed out during the process imply that extra skill or knowledge is needed in that area. This is placed in the next training schedule for that employee and others having similar difficulty. The reviews also identify promotion areas for employees who excel in certain areas, such as leadership. They can be given supervisory roles and be incorporated into management. Performance reviews improve employee relations by encouraging teamwork and effective communication. The process is a dialogue, and both the supervisor and employee can listen to a different perspective of a case or situation, or challenge. As a result, both become better equipped in handling situations.
The reviews will also increase productivity and revenue. Weaknesses are identified and resolved; hence the teams work better when there are no obstacles. This, in turn, translates into profit when properly channeled. Performance reviews enhance the competitive advantage of the company in its industry. When employees are aligned to corporate strategy, their individual contribution trickles down to the department and company as a whole. With better productivity, revenue, and loyalty, the company is better placed among its competitors. Finally, these reviews are restructuring tools. With promotions and challenges identified, the management can reorganize the company departments to get the maximum benefit. This increases efficiency and effectiveness.