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The History of the Performance Appraisal


Like many management practices, the Performance Appraisal has evolved over the last 70-80 years. Once a top-down evaluation tool, the Performance Appraisal is now an aid in employee self-development and learning, which leads to improved performance. This is the developmental component of a Performance Appraisal. 

This kind of Appraisal is used by Front Line leaders and managers as an aid in making decisions regarding promotions and transfers. It should never be used as a disciplinary tool. Discipline is a separate and distinct process to be used only after all discussion, appraisal and feedback avenues have failed. 

Evolution of Performance Appraisals 

  Evaluative Role  Developmental Role 
Focus  Past Performance  Improvement in Performance 
Objective  Improve Performance  Improve Performance through self learning and growth 
Method  Variety of Rating and Ranking Procedures  Series of development steps (e.g., standards of performance and behavioral indicators) 
Role of Manager  To judge and evaluate  To counsel, mentor or guide 
Role of Employee  Passive or reactive, frequently to defend oneself  Active involvement in learning and decision making 

Motivational Factors On-the-job performance is determined primarily by: 

  • the employee’s competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes), 
  • self-motivation, and 
  • self-responsibility to accomplish to required tasks. 

These, in turn, are influenced by workplace environmental factors that run the gamut from health and safety to disciplinary practices and from motivational factors that encompass individual respect to trust and transparency. Included in this scenario are the activities Front Line leaders undertake to support improved employee performance. When Front Line leaders know the needs and goals of employees, then they can influence the Hygiene and Motivational Factors and thereby inspire employees to greater levels of self-motivation and self-responsibility. 

But first, let’s clarify the distinction between needs and goals. Needs may be defined as unsatisfied desires. Goals, on the other hand, pull the individual towards a desired object. When the drivers are achieved (either the goals are achieved or the deficiencies are removed), the individual is satisfied. 

Employees are motivated to act by a lack of satisfaction with their current engagement with challenging work. Employees are not motivated into positive behaviours because of some percieved deficiencies. 

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a useful starting point when viewing motivation, especially in the context of Positive Employee Relations. According to Maslow’s Theory, human needs can be divided into five broad classes from primary to self-actualization needs. 

The Theory holds that individuals are initially concerned with the lowest-order (primary or physiological) needs until these needs are satisfied. Then, concern for second-level needs dominates. 

As each level of need is satisfied, the individual’s attention is focused upwards

But if workplace environmental prevents the fulfillment of lower needs, the move upward is halted. A union organizer has traditionally viewed unsatisfied lower-level needs as fertile ground

Another important consideration is that once a need has been satisfied, a person is no longer motivated by that particular need. For example, employees who have adequate social relationships with friends, colleagues and family will probably not be motivated to form additional ties at work. 

The relationship between satisfaction (Motivational Factors) and dissatisfaction (Hygiene Factors) were identified and described by industrial psychologist Frederick Herzberg. He identified several characteristics, which he divided into two factors: 

  • Intrinsic Factors that form the actual nature of the work itself (Motivational Factors), and 
  • Extrinsic Factors in the workplace that surround the job but are not the work (Hygiene Factors). 

Outcomes that Reinforce Employee Behaviour 

Intrinsic (Motivators)  Extrinsic (Hygiene) 
Work Itself 
Recognition and Pride
Technical Supervision
Policy and Administration
Working Conditions
Job Security

For our purpose the view is that the Intrinsic Factors (those related to job content and personal growth) are important for motivating higher performance. It is from these Motivational Factors that employees experience job satisfaction and engagement. 

The extrinsic factors (workplace environment) are all too often erroneously seen as motivators, but they are not. The best one can get from extrinsic or Hygiene Factors is the absence of dissatisfaction. 

The real rewards from a job are not monetary -- assuming that wage levels are established competitively within your industry and labour market geography. The turn-on's are what employees learn and take away from the job while fulfilling their needs and goals. 

It is critical for employees to realize that improved performance will lead to results that they and the organization value. These outcomes are primarily Herzberg’s Motivational Factors — satisfaction, challenge, advancement, knowledge and self-esteem. The logical consequence is the experience of employee engagement and all the positives that that entails. 

On the other hand, if the Hygiene Factors do not meet the employee’s perceived standard of acceptability, the gap caused will lead directly to workplace dissatisfaction. As mentioned earlier, the presence of dissatisfiers leads to union organizers making their case about employer insensitivity. 

These dissatifiers - the unresolved Hygiene Factors - also become a roadblock to the employee’s ability to experience and appreciate the benefits of the Motivational Factors. When employees are concerned about low wages or a reduced benefits program, it is difficult to obtain their commitment to the learning opportunities inherent in the scope and breadth of their job. 

Of great surprise to many Front Line leaders and managers is the apparent lack of employee appreciation for rectifying the causes of dissatisfaction. For example, if the organization determines its wages are below the community standard and then they make an upwards adjustment, employees will not flock to their door in gratitude for correcting what employees knew all along was a problem. Employees will view this as the employer finally correcting a wrong that they have lived with for a long time.

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