Appraisals missing the mark

Aug 17 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Employers still believe that employee appraisals can deliver tangible benefits to company and individual performance. But the gap between aims and delivery is considerable.

More than a third of employers in the UK admit that appraisals do not always live up to expectations, according to research by specialist journal, IRS Employment Review.

But while nine out of 10 employers believe that appraisals are an essential management tool, they are far from unanimous that they are being delivered in an effective manner.

Four out of 10 say that appraisals are often badly conducted - particularly if managers are not properly trained or committed to the system - and nearly as many believe that there can be too much emphasis on paperwork.

Only a third agreed that their appraisal systems worked well or very well. Slightly more were neutral on whether or not appraisals achieved their aims and almost a quarter believed their appraisal system had failed in some way.

Tellingly, however, despite the importance of management and staff buy-in to the effectiveness of appraisals, only just over half of the organisations with appraisal systems consulted managers before their introduction.

Only quarter consulted all their employees before introducing an appraisal system.

Most organisations agreed that identifying training and development needs, aligning individual and organisational objectives, and evaluating performance were the main reasons for appraisals.

But very few organisations view appraisals as a way of encouraging staff to feel better about their work: Only13 per cent of those with appraisals said that staff motivation was a prime objective.

A similarly small proportion believe that appraisals should identify and acknowledge good performance and a mere six per cent said that improving productivity is an important outcome.

Fewer than a quarter of organisations use 360-degree appraisals - what Acas describes as "upward appraisal" - and a third of these are public sector employers.

"There is substantial evidence that, in many cases, appraisal systems are not delivering what employers expect," said IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail.

"Some hard questions may have to be asked, and appraisal systems that fail to support corporate objectives could find themselves facing an uncertain future," he added.