Performance Appraisals 101:
A Universal Guide for Higher Education and Student Affairs

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Pitfalls to Avoid

Legal Implications


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Literature Review

I. Rationale

Performance appraisals are one of the most important requirements for successful business and human resource policy (Kressler, 2003). Rewarding and promoting effective performance in organizations, as well as identifying ineffective performers for developmental programs or other personnel actions, are essential to effective to human resource management (Pulakos, 2003). The ability to conduct performance appraisals relies on the ability to assess an employee’s performance in a fair and accurate manner. Evaluating employee performance is a difficult task.
Once the supervisor understands the nature of the job and the sources of information, the information needs to be collected in a systematic way, provided as feedback, and integrated into the organization’s performance management process for use in making compensation, job placement, and training decisions and assignments (London, 2003).
After a review of literature, a performance appraisal model will be described in detail. The model discussed is an example of a performance appraisal system that can be implemented in a large institution of higher education, within the Student Affairs division. The model can be applied to tope level, middle-level and lower level employees. Evaluation instruments (forms) are provided to assist you with implementation the appraisal system.

II. Introduction

Performance evaluations have been conducted since the times of Aristotle (Landy,Zedeck, Cleveland, 1983). The earliest formal employee performance evaluation program is thought to have originated in the United States military establishment shortly after the birth of the republic (Lopez, 1968). The measurement of an employee’s performance allows for rational administrative decisions at the individual employee level. It also provides for the raw data for the evaluation of the effectiveness of such personnel- system components and processes as recruiting policies, training programs, selection rules, promotional strategies, and reward allocations (Landy,Zedeck, Cleveland, 1983). In addition, it provides the foundation for behaviorally based employee counseling. In the counseling setting, performance information provides the vehicle for increasing satisfaction, commitment, and motivation of the employee. Performance measurement allows the organization to tell the employee something about their rates of growth, their competencies, and their potentials. There is little disagreement that if well done, performance measurements and feedback can play a valuable role in effecting the grand compromise between the needs of the individual and the needs of the organization (Landy, Zedeck, Cleveland, 1983).

III. Purpose

Performance appraisals should focus on three objectives: performance, not personalities; valid, concrete, relevant issues, rather than subjective emotions and feelings; reaching agreement on what the employee is going to improve in his performance and what you are going to do (McKirchy, 1998). Both the supervisor and employee should recognize that a strong relationship exists between training and performance evaluation (Barr, 1993). Each employee should be allowed to participate in periodic sessions to review performance and clarify expectations. Both the supervisor and the employee should recognize these sessions as constructive occasions for two-way communication. Sessions should be scheduled ahead of time in a comfortable setting and should include opportunities for self-assessment as well as supervisor feedback. These sessions will be particularly important for new employees who will benefit from early identification of performance problems. Once these observations have been shared, the supervisor and employee should develop a mutual understanding about areas for improvement, problems that need to be corrected, and additional responsibilities that might be undertaken. When the goals are identified, a plan for their achievement should be developed. The plan may call for resources or support from other staff members in order to meet desired outcomes. In some cases, the plan might involve additional training. The supervisor should keep in contact with the employee to assure the training experiences are producing desired impact (Barr, 1993). A portion of the process should be devoted to an examination of potential opportunities to pursue advancement of acceptance of more complex responsibilities. The employee development goals should be recognized as legitimate, and plans should be made to reach the goals through developmental experiences or education (Barr, 1993). Encouraging development is not only a supervisor's professional responsibility, but it also motivates an employee to pursue additional commitments. In addition, the pursuit of these objectives will also improve the prospect that current employees will be qualified as candidates when positions become available. This approach not only motivates current performance but also assists the recruitment of current employees as qualified candidates for future positions (Barr, 1993). How to arrive? Reasons why need to be done Benefits of productive performance appraisals. - Employee learns of his or her own strengths in addition to weaknesses. - New goals and objectives are agreed upon. - Employee is an active participant in the evaluation process. - The relationship between supervisor and employees is taken to an adult-to-adult level. - Work teams may be restructured for maximum efficiency. - Employee renews his or her interest in being a part of the organization now and in the future. - Training needs are identified. - Time is devoted to discussing quality of work without regard to money issues. - Supervisor becomes more comfortable in reviewing the performance of employees. - Employees feel that they are taken seriously as individuals and that the supervisor is truly concerned about their needs and goals. (Randi, Toler, Sachs, 1992).

IV. Pitfalls to Avoid

When conducting performance appraisals on any level, it is important to keep in mind the common pitfalls to avoid.

These pitfalls may include but are not limited to:

1. Bias/Prejudice. Race, religion, education, family background, age, and/or sex.

2. Trait assessment. Too much attention to characteristics that have nothing to do with the job and are difficult to measure.

3. Over-emphasis on favorable or unfavorable performance of one or two tasks which could lead to an unbalanced evaluation of the overall contribution.

4. Relying on impressions rather than facts.

5. Holding the employee responsible for the impact of factors beyond his/her control.

6. Failure to provide each employee with an opportunity for advance preparation (Maddux, 1993).

V. Legal Implications

Any performance appraisal system used to make employment decisions about a member of a protected class (i.e. Based on age, race, religion, gender, or national origin) must be a valid system (an accurate measure of performance associated with job requirements). Otherwise, it can be challenged in the courts based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1975 (London, 2003).

Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection 1978 is the controlling federal law in the area of performance appraisals. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires that any measurement used to differentiate between employees must be valid and fairly administered. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) suggests that performance appraisals for people with disabilities for people with disabilities will not be conducted any differently than those for other employees.

Another important aspect to consider is the employee’s right to privacy. Employees must have complete access to their personnel files, but others should have controlled access. The records should be accurate, relevant, and current.

VI. Rewards

Effective reward systems are often hard to establish when creating performance appraisals. The question of how specific the reward, when the reward should be given, and how to reward group efforts can be a tricky subject to master.

Our advice on this is to keep it simple. It is important to have an established reward system. However, rewards can be as simple as more autonomy on the job, praise for progress, additional professional development funding, and vacation time.

The important aspect to remember when establishing reward systems is to be consistent. If two employees are being evaluated in the same way, their reward opportunities should reflect their evaluation outcomes.




Updated 2008