Expectation vs Reality: An HR’s Perspective on Appraisals

Expectation vs Reality: An HR’s Perspective on Appraisals

There have been serious discussions on the role of HR in the Performance Appraisal process. A predominant assumption is that the HR team does not involve itself in the performance appraisal review.

Most people think that the HR remains a mute spectator and the onus of appraisal process lies with the manager that is having a formal discussion with the employee and delivering the review.

The performance appraisal process is only viewed from the perspective of the functional heads or reviewing authorities and the employees.

Usually, the HR is behind the scenes providing direction for the whole process and hence is overlooked from the purview of the performance appraisal process.

However, HR plays a significant role as the mediator between the managers and the employee. It is the role of HR to design and ensure the smooth implementation of the performance appraisal process. Just like the referee’s role is not hailed in sports or games, the role of HR in the performance appraisal process often goes unnoticed.

But, in reality, HR has a big responsibility to steer performance appraisal in the right direction so that it is beneficial for both the employees and the organisation as a whole.

The Function of HR in Performance Appraisal

The traditional performance management system simply weighs how well a subordinate has performed and satisfied his superior during the appraisal period, without taking into account the degree of contribution from the employee’s side. For this reason, conventional performance appraisal is deemed to be highly politicised or biased and only leading to dissonance in the team. Typically, here the HR does not play a huge role.

But, the contemporary performance management system involves the strategic role of HR where they should play an important role in extracting the right review that is more relevant to the business and the employee at the same time. In reality, the role of the HR in performance appraisal should encompass setting the stage, mediating and strategising the entire process.

Let’s explore the conventional role of the HR team in performance appraisal in detail:

1. Design the Performance Appraisal Process

The HR department is expected to devise the process, make it simple and easy to keep track of reviews and ratings. The HR professional should liaison with the functional heads of different departments in the organisation to design a system where the employee’s overall achievements can be rated with respect to their key responsibility areas.

2. Train Managers on the Performance System

The human resources team also conducts training to ensure fair, transparent and reliable standards that rate the employee’s performance. Thorough training is important to make sure that the system is utilised properly, and the review is both meaningful and fair across the business.

3. Manage Relationship Between Employer and Manager

When there seems to be a tension in certain performance reviews, it is the prerogative of the HR to mediate and keep trouble at bay. After the performance reviews, HR can check in with employees and managers and allow them to voice any concerns that they have. For any troubled relationships, understand what really happened and have a one-to-one meeting with either party to sort it out. During these meetings, the HR representative can discuss the nature of the relationship and provide feedback as to how it can improve.

4. Record and Store Performance Review

Storing historical scorecards, reviews and ratings of the employee in a secured location or digital database is another function of HR. With this, previous performance reviews can then be used to monitor employee progress and assess promotions. Proper user authorisations and access should be in place to enable a restricted view of each individual’s evaluation.

It is also the responsibility of the HR to hand over review reports and increment letters to employees confidentially.eBooks-ultimate-guide-appraisals

Strategic Role of HR in Performance Appraisal

Expectation vs Reality: An HR's Perspective on Appraisals

In reality, the role of the HR should ideally combine the conventional approach as well as a strategic approach to reap the full benefits of the performance appraisal process and manage employee’s performance.

Here are some of the strategic shifts that are essential:

1. Collaborate with Line Managers

Rather than just educating or training the managers about proper usage of the performance management system, HR should also collaborate with the managers to train them to retain employees.

What matters to employees today is more relevant, candid and effective feedback that helps them grow professionally.

So, it is the responsibility of the HR to strategically enable managers to develop capability, attitude and initiate the performance of the employees.

2. Foster Communication

The actual process should be a means to improve communication between the supervisor and the employee so that either party is clear of what is expected of them. The HR team should set the stage for an effective appraisal process in such a way that it enables two-way communication.

3. Incorporate Development Plans

Due to a paradigm shift with Gen Y, millennials joining the workforce, the major concern for employees is not just about hike and ratings. Now, employees are more concerned about the feedback with regards to their career development plans. The HR should sit with the managers to discuss and include the right training, mentoring and other development opportunities that help the employees to realise their full potential.

4. Analyse and Assess Performance

The HR’s role is not just limited to design the performance management system, but it has to be more of a substantial role to analyse and look into the details of why an individual’s performance is below par. HR can no longer be just a spectator, but they need to gain a better understanding of employee performance and what can be done better to improve the overall performance. The role of HR does not end with handing out increment letters or reports. They also need to get the feedback of the employee after their appraisal to understand if they have any grievances.

5. Change the Perception of the Performance Appraisal Process

Most employees view the appraisal process as a waste of time and energy filling elaborate forms. HR needs to change this perception and help the employees understand that appraisals are not done to downgrade anyone, but help individuals set realistic goals for an effective way forward.

Performance appraisal should not just be a means to provide increment notices; it should provide real feedback and guide employees.

With this in mind, HR should inform employees on a common platform to make them understand the importance of appraisal.

Using these Strategies for Performance 

Creating a space where employees can perform and do their best is no easy task, but with the right strategies, you can make it work. Here are some:

  • Define and Communicate Organisational Goals and Performance Objectives – Clearly outline the goals to be clear and communicative to the employees
  • Utilise Performance Management Software – Use or upgrade to an effective system that helps you monitor and track the progress of an employee’s performance with a standardised and transparent approach
  • Offer Frequent Feedback – Ensure that managers periodically check in with employees to shape progress and not wait for the annual review cycle
  • Use Peer Reviews – 360-degree reviews are a great way to foster effective performance management
  • Set Regular Meetings with Managers to Discuss Outcomes and Results – Hold regular meetings to track progress, discuss any concerns and work on areas that need more focus

Building the Foundation

It is the HR who must develop, implement and monitor the vital foundation and progress of the appraisal process. HR’s perspective should be an indispensable input and should stay close to the process without interfering or altering vital assessment data.


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