HOW TO DO A SUPERIOR PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL
by William S. Swan with Philip Margulies. John Wiley & Sons, 1991



PREFACE --- How to use this book (pv-viii)

    All the nuts and bolts of a painless, mutually profitable performance appraisal process that will increase quality and productivity and help you know your EEO guidelines with the help of checklists, fact sheets, and sample dialogues!

PART 1 --- BACKGROUND (p1-39)

    1) INTRODUCTION --- Why managers and employees dread performance appraisals? (p3-14)

      [1] Why do employees dread performance appraisals? (p4-5)

      [2] Why do supervisors dread the performance appraisal? (p5-10)

      [3] Performance Management" vs. "Performance Appraisal" (p10-11)

        (1) Continuous "performance management" has superior value compared to once-a-year "performance appraisal."

        (2) "Performance management" unites a number of related tasks: monitoring, coaching, giving feedback, gathering information, and honestly assessing an employee's work!

        It accomplishes these tasks by systematically implementing them in the context of "work objectives" --- the immediate objectives of the organization and the overall goals of the organization.

    2) Performance appraisal systems (p15-30)

    3) What goes wrong and why ---the eight common appraisal errors are: (p31-40)

      [1] Inadequately defined rating "standards" of performance! (p32)

      [2] Over-emphasis on recent performance! (p32-33)

      [3] Reliance on gut feelings (p34)

      [4] Miscomprehension of "performance standards" by employee or supervisor/rater! (p34-35)

      [5] Insufficient or unclear performance documentation! (p35-37)

      [6] Inadequate time allotment for the discussion (p37-38)

      [7] Too much talking by supervisor (p38-39)

      [8] Lack of follow-up plan! (p39)

PART 2 --- RECOMMENDED APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT (p41-141)

    4) The "swan approach" to performance evaluation (p43-67)

    The complete process of performance management consists of, one, giving subordinate employees feedback on their performance with reference to the performance objectives or "focused activities" and, two, giving them feedback on the ongoing job requirements or "performance factors" set at the beginning of the year.

    No performance appraisal process can give a balanced picture of actual performance unless it addresses itself to both the "work behaviors" of employees and the "performance activities or objectives" of those employees! (p43-67)

    The eight steps to accomplish the two-part process of good performance management are: (p47)

      [1] Performance plan and development plan are agreed to by both the supervisor and the subordinate employee.

      [2] On-going feedback, coaching, counseling, and documentation are maintained for the next year.

      [3] As the time of the appraisal approaches and prior to writing the performance appraisal, the supervisor solicits the subordinate employee's self-evaluation.

      [4] The supervisor meets with the subordinate employee to discuss the employee's self-evaluation.

      [5] The supervisor completes the "report card" portion (Parts I - III) of the performance appraisal form.

      [6] The supervisor previews appraisal with his or her supervisor or human resources unit.

      [7] The supervisor schedules an appraisal of performance meeting with the subordinate employee.

      [8] The supervisor conducts the appraisal discussion with the subordinate employee in a timely way.

    It is an abuse of the appraisal of performance process to make subordinate employees write their own appraisal! (p61)

    Model annual performance appraisal form (p62-67)

    5) Setting good performance objectives (p69-84)

    6) Defining performance factors (p85-94)

      [ 1] Performance Factors --- the following list outlines the "values" of performance factors, which: (p85-87)

        (1) Provide supervisors and subordinate employees with consistent definition of "quality performance." (p86)

          What kind of on-the-job professional behavior goes into doing the job right?

          What are the ingredients (or "agreements" between supervisor and subordinate)?

          The performance factors not only set a standard to be used to evaluate the subordinate employees, but they also show those subordinates what to shoot for and the supervisors what to watch for!

        (2) Reinforce the core values of the organization. (p86)

          Performance factors are generally chosen determined at the policy-setting level of the organization.

          Performance factors are meant to embody the values the organization considers important.

          Performance factors are the "action plan" that puts the organization's Mission Statement into action! They are the "values" which leaders want subordinate employees to actualize since they represent what the organization stands for!

        (3) Provides coaching tools for improving future performance. (p86)

          A good supervisor needs to monitor his or her subordinates to see how they are performing their jobs --- if they are going to "coach" and "counsel" them effectively!

          If subordinate employees are not meeting their performance objectives that fact should be recorded in their performance factor ratings!

        (4) Support individual effectiveness and overall organizational performance.

          Performance factors are chosen because they work! Experience or formal analysis of the job verifies that they are important standards of work behavior.

          Performance "objectives" provide a way of measuring that part of a subordinate employee's contribution to the group effort (teamwork) that can be isolated and requires the employee to measure up to those standards of work behavior. By using "performance factors" that directly relate to the agreed upon "performance objectives," performance factors encourage work behaviors which are known to be beneficial in the long run to the success of the organization's mission!

      [2] Sources of performance factors (p87-91)

        (1) Knowledge, skills, and abilities (p88-89)

        (2) Behaviors (p89-90)

        (3) Environmental factors (p90-91)

      [3] How to measure performance factors (p91-94)

        While performance objectives are usually either met or not, performance factors are not as cut and dried. Therefore, any "performance factors" arrived at MUST include some way of recording gradations of work performance! A five-point scale is perceived by many people as reasonable. However, without known "rating values," any rating scale is useless since it is invalid!

        For purposes of the appraisal discussion between the supervisor and the subordinate employee, it is better to avoid rating numbers or letters, because the employee should not be thought of as a number! The appraisal rating should not be thought of as a "grade" since the focus should be on the performance. Therefore, words are best since they draw attention from the grade to its meaning!

        A five-point scale such as the following is commonly used to appraise work performance:

          (1) Greatly exceeded the standard

          (2) Exceeded the standard

          (3) Met the standard

          (4) Did not meet the standard

          (5) Significantly below the standard

        The use of such a rating scale requires a supervisor to know what level of performance is associated with each of the five points of the scale!

        The supervisor MUST KNOW what he or she means --- and what the organization means --- by the subjective and relative terms in the five-point scale! Also it is mandatory that the supervisor MUST KNOW what the subordinate employee MUST DO to exceed the midpoint "expected standard" work behavior and what work behaviors would either fall short of that "midpoint value"or exceed it!

        In addition, the supervisor MUST THINK CAREFULLY about the distance between the midpoint value of the scale and "occasionally exceeds" or "consistently exceeds" the expected standard. There is a temptation for supervisors to see the five-point scale list of rating values as representing a scale ascending and descending in equal increments. However, this perception may not reflect the reality of the job!

        For example, if having "Met the Standard" means the subordinate employee should get at least ten of the 12 monthly reports in on the due date and two no more than one week late, that would be the standard. But, "Occasionally Exceeds the Standard" is not necessarily getting 11 on time and one late. Achieving 11 might represent such a Herculean effort that it would more justly represent "consistently exceeded the standard!" As for "Occasionally did not meet the standard," that might not mean getting nine reports in on time, but some other number depending upon the degree of difficulty of that particular task!

        However, some supervisors have a blind love of symmetry. But realizing that each of the five points on the rating scale are not precisely equivalent for all values is the beginning of a true understanding about how preset "rating values" must exist before "rating standards" can be used to validate the "performance factors."

          (1) They should be fair.

          (2) They should reflect the realities of the job.

          (3) And, they should be consistent from employee to employee!

          (4) But they do NOT need to be symmetrical!

          (5) In fact, it is more likely that a geometric relationship exists for the different levels of performance!

    7) Creating an employee development plan (p95-105)

    8) How to make your organization's system work (p107-117)

    9) Writing the appraisal (p119-141)

      [1] Common rating errors (p120-123)

      [2] Gather and analyze data throughout appraisal period (p124-125)

        (1) Collect data at regular intervals (p124-125)

        (2) Do it openly and without pressure (p126)

        (3) Document as you give feedback --- DURING THE YEAR! (p126-127)

        (4) What kind of data do you gather? (p127-129)

          1. Objective Data (p127-128)

          2. Significant Incidents (p128-129)

        (5) Behaviors you observe as you manage --- HAVE A RECORD KEEPING SYSTEM! (p129- 130)

      [3] Rating the performance (p130-133)

        (1) Know the rating standards (p131)

        (2) Stick to those rating standards (p131-132)

        (3) Describe specific facts in the narrative (p132-133)

        (4) Document, document, document (p132-133)

        (5) Use multiple/mini appraisals (p133)

      [4] Giving grades --- A supervisor MUST have some way of expressing the relative importance and difficulty of the employee's different responsibilities! (p133-138)

      [5] The narrative portion of the appraisal (p138-141)

        (1) Highlight the best evidence (p138)

        (2) Give comparison basis for qualitative data (p139)

          A supervisor SHOULD ALWAYS compare the subordinate employee's work performance to the "rating standard" --- NOT the performance of any other given individual!

          Not only would this error create bad feelings when this appraisal is shown to the employee, but it is a statistically invalid way of measuring performance!

        (3) Give more evidence for especially high and low ratings (p139-140)

        (4) Use language consistent with your form (p140)

        (5) Be careful of giving assurances or making promises! (p140-141)

      It is NEVER a good idea to create misunderstandings with subordinate employees!

PART 3 --- THE PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL DISCUSSION (p143-215)

    10) Preparing for the discussion and building a productive atmosphere (p145-154)

    11) Structuring the performance appraisal discussion (p155-172)

    12) Listening skills (p173-183)

    13) Questioning and probing techniques (p185-193)

    14) How to cope with defensiveness and facilitate problem solving (p195-210)

    15) Conducting "fair and legal" performance appraisals (p211-215)

INDEX (p217-223)


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