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Practical Perspectives: The Relevance of a Good Performance Appraisal - Breakthrough Improvements via Feedback
By Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, Jail Administrator, Scott County Sheriff's Office
Published: 07/04/2011

County jail It would seem from the beginning of time man has organized around a need to succeed, with a dominant motivation to survive. It is not surprising to mention what had been realized early in our existence that the more effective the team, the more likely the chances were of surviving. Many leaders attempting to foster a culture that encourages teamwork tend to view teams as an approach to getting business done (Crother-Laurin, 2006). For effective teamwork to be an indication of affective leadership, the leaders must have an appreciation of theoretical and practical underpinnings of organizational development; with particular emphasis placed on examining and understanding the intrinsic role of mission, vision, purpose, and core values in the development of an organization and its personnel.

In this edition of practical perspective when considering your organizational development strategies within your jail, in the area of human resources management, many organizations are focusing in making the organization more productive, cost-effective, and customer service oriented. There has been a realization that jail administrator’s need to be aware of when considering strategy development to influence their organizations. Current traditional strategy models have failed to provide a framework that consistently delivers success, and as a result, there have been calls for a new models and approaches (Cummings & Angwin, 2004).

Much of the current literature on the subject of organizational strategy describes research that focuses on organizational development applications within jail related strategy formulation modeling knowledge in development of new methods that appear to have begun to addresses some of the criticisms of past strategy formulation paradigms (Brown, 2006). The literature goes on to describe how for much of our strategic solutions to organizational and personnel development to be optimal in meeting many of the jail administrator’s challenges must be aligned with how we develop, refine, and implement process in the context or our culture and core values (Gakovic & Yardley, 2007). Apparently, the principal benefit strategy can provide jail managers interested in organizational development principles are a practical framework to improve organizational performance.

Recognizing that a jail organization’s employees are the key to its success, many organizations are re-evaluating their methods of appraising and motivating employees. As a result, annual employee evaluations, which have been a staple of human resource managers in many industrialized nations for decades, have been widely criticized in recent years (Woodford & Maes, 2002). Research estimates that 92% of all US organizations employ some type of formal performance appraisal system (Longnecker & McGinnis, 1992). However, it is estimated that less than 20% of all employee appraisals are effective in accomplishing their intended purposes. Without question the research literature supported the notion that fair appraisal of performance is crucial to the well-being of the organization, and key to anyone who is in the business of developing a jail’s organization.

In examining the literature on performance appraisal, the reason for this low effectiveness rate is because of many reasons. However, the reasons most often sited were style of manager/subordinate dress, manager/subordinate performance attributions, prior expectations, and grievance activity (Gibbons & Kleiner, 1993). Interesting, research that can directly apply to a jail manager’s success has confirmed one of the most fundamental performance appraisal finding in that an open recognition and admission that politics were a reality in the appraisal process (Longnecker, Sims & Gioia, 1987).

In fact, when surveyed a disproportionate number of managers within the Acme County Sheriff’s jail admit that political considerations nearly always were always were part of their evaluation process. An extensive survey conducted by Longnecker, Sims & Gioia (1987) of managers and their performance appraising revealed that “the main concern is how best to use the appraisal process to motivate and reward subordinates”. Reality has it politics will likely never be eliminated from the appraisal process; instead, jail managers would be wise to effectively manage the role politics plays in performance appraisal. Hence, managerial discretion and effectiveness, not accuracy, are the real watchwords (Longenecker, Sims & Gioia, 1987).

Performance appraisal schemes can have a number of objectives, which is especially true in the Acme County jail. These include performance assessment and improvement, providing a basis for individual remuneration, identifying training needs, assessing suitability for promotion, probationary review, as well as play a significant role in supporting the organization’s strategic goals and objectives (Longnecker, Sims & Gioia, 1987; Camardella, 2003; Rees & Porter, 2003). Human resource development uses several strategies to build a strong human capital base. The best leadership development programs will focus on building skills (Allio, 2005). Allio (2005) suggests that the critical skill for a leader is rhetoric - characterized by the Greek philosopher Aristotle as the "persuasive marshaling of truth". Aristotle, fourth century BC, regarded rhetoric as the counterpart to logic. The logic within the research literature surveyed suggests performance appraisals should provide information relevant to personnel issues such as salary increases, promotions, transfers, training programs, and employee feedback (Becker & Miller, 2002).

Undoubtedly, the germane motive is for leaders to use performance appraisals to identify and evaluate the strengths and improvement areas of employees (Smith, 2003). It is reasonable to conclude when delivered properly, appraisals can increase staff morale, productivity, and job satisfaction. In the field today when evaluating effective performance appraisals, success depends upon much more than a historically vertical downward orientation. The successful leadership team of today must operate out of a 360° paradigm of interest and involvement, vertically up and down, as well as horizontally across, the organizational compass (Keefe, Darling & Natesan, 2008). The zero-sum paradigm of the past no long supports the coherent dynamic of contemporary organization striving in a global environment. A good performance appraisal to the organization with organizational development motivates use the performance appraisal process as an instrument for leadership development (Gentry & Leslie, 2007).

From the researchers' perspective, several elements emerge as significant about the relevance of a good performance appraisal as a means of effecting organizational development through human resource development. The emerging message affecting operational improvement contributes to our understanding of how human resource management can develop a focus for operational improvement efforts that is developed through a learning system that consolidates experience and active reflections (Coughlan, Coghlan, Dromgoole, Duff, et al., 2002). The literature reports for years, organizations have tried to foster the development of personnel through performance appraisal instruments. The present data suggest that organizations believe there are unique differences between what competencies are important (and not important) for leadership development (Gentry & Leslie, 2007). Though this provides useful information about what many organization’s human resources are doing for leadership development purposes, as outlined above, organizations and organizational development practitioners should base leadership development on what is shown to bring about the most effective results.

In the past several years, 360° feedback and other related forms of multi-source or multi-rater assessment methods in organizations have evolved from an innovative nice-to-have technique administered only to the most senior levels to a must-have tool for integration into the overall performance and human resource development strategy (Church & Bracken, 1997). The 360° performance appraisal-feedback method has become one of the most popular and yet least understood management and organizational development from an empirically studied phenomenon standpoint in recent years. The research literature indicates both practitioners and researchers have recently become very interested in 360° multi-rater feedback. One reason for this interest is the increasing use of performance ratings in 360° feedback in managerial training and development (London & Beatty, 1993), which is aimed at either doing performance appraisals or helping in management development programs by getting supervisors, peers, subordinates, and others (clients, customers, etc.) to rate individual managers (Furnham & Stringfield, 1998).

Multi-rater feedback allows leaders to see how they are viewed by their boss, their peers, and their direct reports and to compare these views with their own view (McCauley & Moxley, 1996). McCauley and Moxley (1996) report after thoroughly studying performance appraisal methods that employee 360° feedback the following:
  • The feedback is generated by having the leader's co-workers rate him or her on a series of items (e.g. "makes good decisions under pressure", and "is willing to pitch in and lead employees by example") that represent various important managerial skills and perspectives.
  • These ratings are typically combined across raters and items to yield scores on a number of dimensions (e.g. decisiveness, leading employees, and acting with flexibility) as seen by the various rater groups (i.e. boss, peers, and direct reports).
  • This can be very powerful feedback to the leader.

As discussed above, one of Becker and Miller’s (2002) mentioned performance requirements is to provide employee feedback, and as illustrated, you can be seen as a powerful catalyst for change that promotes comprehensive leadership development (McCauley & Moxley, 1996). Not surprising, it has been known since the 1930s that assessment from multiple sources is more reliable and more predicatively valid than single source (supervisor-only) information (Edwards, 1996).

Studies have shown dramatic leadership effectiveness improvements when the 360° performance appraisal method is engaged. One study, of a growing number of studies with similar results, tracked the progress of 281 executives participating in a six-month 360° feedback human resource development process. The results suggest that multi-rater feedback does increase leadership effectiveness up to 60 per cent according to direct report and peer post-survey (Thach, 2002). A survey one year after completion of a multi-rater feedback personnel evaluation within Acme County offered respondent comments that listed and classified using two new organizational development typologies never realized before within the jail personnel performance improvement strategies employed in the past.

In general, just as experienced within the Acme County, a study of the potential benefits demonstrated similar outcomes, i.e., fifty-four out of fifty-nine multi-rater feedback responses revealed significant, enduring individual, team, and organizational improvements (Green, 2002). The literature reports unmistakably that 360° multi-rater feedback performance appraisal method improves leadership effectiveness and represents a concept growing in popularity that genuinely offers an excellent organizational development-human resource development leader development strategy. This administrator suggests your agency could experience similar immediate benefits… it just take leaders action and the implementation of evidence based organizational development grounded in proven human resources development!

References

Allio, Robert J (2005). Leadership development: teaching versus learning. Management Decision, 43(7/8), 1071-1077. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 914809911).

Becker, Geraldine A and Charles E Miller (2002). Examining contrast effects in performance appraisals: Using appropriate controls and assessing accuracy. The Journal of Psychology,136(6), 667-683. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 275099961).

Brown, Jimmy (2006). Application of an OD Perspective to Develop a New Model of the Strategy Formulation Process. The Business Review, Cambridge, 6(2), 26-31. Retrieved August 18, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1189522001).

Camardella, Matthew J (2003). Effective management of the performance-appraisal process. Employment Relations Today, 30(1), 103-107. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 402341961).

Church, Allan H and David W Bracken (1997). Advancing the state of the art of 360-degree feedback. Group & Organization Management, 22(2), 149-161. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 11825907).

Coughlan, Paul; David Coghlan, Tony Dromgoole, Dermot Duff, et al. (2002). Effecting operational improvement through inter-organizational action learning. Integrated Manufacturing Systems, 13(3), 131-140. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 174971011).

Crother-Laurin, Cyndi (2006). Effective Teams: A Symptom of Healthy Leadership. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 29(3), 4-8. Retrieved August 30, 2008, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1154206661).

Cummings, S and Angwin, D (2004). The future shape of strategy: lemmings or chimeras? The Academy of Management Executive, 18 (2), 21-37. Retrieved August 31, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 793988561).

Furnham, Adrian and Paul Stringfield (1998). Congruence in job-performance ratings: A study of 360 degree feedback examining self, manager, peers, and consultant ratings. Human Relations, 51(4), 517-530. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 28580709).

Gakovic, Anika and Keith Yardley (2007). Global Talent Management at HSBC. Organization Development Journal, 25(2), P201-P205, P231. Retrieved August 31, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1266207001).

Gentry, William A and Jean Brittain Leslie (2007). Competencies for Leadership Development: What's Hot and What's Not When Assessing Leadership-Implications for Organization Development. Organization Development Journal, 25(1), 37-46. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1304833731).

Gibbons, Francis X and Brian H Kleiner (1993). Factors that bias employee performance appraisals. Management Research News, 16(7), 10. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1225095).

Green, Brent (2002). Listening to leaders: Feedback on 360-degree feedback one year later. Organization Development Journal, 20(1), 8-16. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 110499029).

London, Manuel and Richard W Beatty (1993). 360-Degree Feedback as a Competitive Advantage. Human Resource Management (1986-1998), 32(2-3), 353. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 389589241).

Longnecker, Clinton O and Denise R McGinnis (1992). Appraising Technical People: Pitfalls and Solutions. Journal of Systems Management, 43(12), 12. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 592343).

Longnecker, Clinton O; Henry P Sims Jr. and Dennis A Gioia (1987). Behind The Mask: The Politics Of Employee Appraisal. The Academy of Management Executive, 1(3), 183. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 129436).

McCauley, Cynthia D and Russell S Moxley (1996). Developmental 360: how feedback can make managers more effective. Career Development International, 1(3), 15. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 86920565).

Rees, David W and Christine Porter (2003). Appraisal pitfalls and the training implications – part 1. Industrial and Commercial Training, 35(6/7), 280-284. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 523915691).

Thach, Elizabeth C (2002). The impact of executive coaching and 360 feedback on leadership effectiveness. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 23(3/4), 205. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 265997731).

Woodford, Kelly and Jeanne D Maes (2002). Employee performance evaluations: Administering and writing them correctly in the multi-national setting. Equal Opportunities International, 21(7), 1. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 343718531).

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