A Good Staff Rating System Benefits All

(By Samuel Mallare, MIS Asia Magazine, March 2003)

An effective performance review not only helps your employees do better, it also adds value to the whole organisation.

Staff appraisals can contribute to the improvement of the organisation. I see three critical factors for success.

First, the appraisal or performance evaluation instrument should be aligned to the mission, vision and objectives of the organisation. It should help nurture the culture the company aims to build, it should reflect what the organisation values and, most important of all, the appraisal instrument should enable the organisation to measure the quality and extent of execution of its strategies.

Second, the appraisal should be accurate, or at least be based on the objective opinions of the raters. Some companies require the rater to discuss the appraisal results (“ratings”) with the employee involved. The employee then indicates whether he or she agrees with the results. Both parties should have the common objective of assessing and improving the status quo, instead of trying to get even, be nice, and/or to please everyone.

There should be clear expectations between the two parties. It would be best to involve internal and external customers in the appraisal. All parties involved, including the human resources department, should take the initiative to review and improve the appraisal instrument.

Third, the appraisal should take into account factors such as the relationship (professional or otherwise) between the rater and employee, the project concerned, the customers involved, and the target objectives.

An appraisal instrument may have one item on “project management skills”, for example, but if a manager has poor project management skills, this should be given much weight in the overall assessment.

Anonymity versus transparency

There are some interesting things about staff appraisal practices. One is the need for anonymity. This may not be effective in all organisations. Transparency should be present. There are disadvantages, like when unhappy staff seek to “get even”, but the benefits far outweigh them.

To appraise an individual, the manager must know that individual’s actual performance. The manager must also know all other raters involved.
Some organisations implement 360-degree appraisals. This means an employee is rated by his or her immediate supervisor, peers and subordinates. However, peers who do not work closely with you may only be able to give accurate ratings on a few areas in the appraisal.

Give specific pointers

Many staff performance appraisal forms solicit non-numeric feedback—requiring you to suggest improvements on an employee’s work efficiency or administrative skills, or to state his or her strengths. This type of feedback often does not give clear points for action to the employee.

For my unit, I added an item in the appraisal instrument: “Contribute to the improvement of a) supervisor, b) peers, and c) subordinates.” Each sub-item should be rated. This fosters in employees the mindset of consciously helping one another to improve in a team environment.

I also remind team leaders to write down specific strengths and suggestions for improvement. This way, those appraised know what strengths they need to build on and which weaknesses they need to eliminate or minimise.

Such input will enable the staff to be proactive and help them define action items for self-improvement.

Staff appraisals are really about having the appropriate structure to nurture the shared institutional values, improve the performance of employees, and support the strategies of the organisation.

Samuel Mallare is IT director at the De La Salle University-Manila in the Philippines.