What should top management, appraisers, employees, and human resources professionals expect from a performance appraisal system?

Each of these groups is a stakeholder in the development of an effective performance appraisal system. If their needs are met, they will be more likely to be active supporters of the system.

Not all of their needs and expectations will be satisfied simply by designing attractive and effective appraisal forms. Other needs will be met through the procedures that are adopted and the training that is provided as part of the implementation of the system. Finally, some of the demands that people have of a performance management system can only be satisfied through the actions of top management, individual managers, and human resources.

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Here is what each of the four groups of stakeholders is looking for in an effective performance appraisal system:

Top Management

- The development of a shared sense of mission by all members of the organization

- The ability to identify accurately the small number of outstanding contributors whose development and retention is critical to the organization's future success

- The assurance that lower levels of management reflect senior management's expectations of tough-minded and demanding performance standards for all organization members

- Accurate information on where the company is experiencing performance deficiencies and reliable recommendations on appropriate measures to correct those deficiencies

- The assurance that lower levels of management are accurately assessing the quality of performance of associates whose work they are responsible for, appropriately reinforcing those whose work is outstanding, and eliminating those who are noncontributors

- The assurance that the performance management process the organization is using reflects accepted best practices among America's most successful and sophisticated organizations


- Forms that are clear and easy to use

- Procedures that are sensible and easy to follow

- The ability to create and gain agreement on specific, challenging, and measurable goals

- The encouragement from top management and human resources to set demanding standards of performance and muscle-build the organization to achieve excellent results

- The skills to accurately evaluateprecisely and unarguablyan individual's strengths and weaknesses, particularly in hard-to-measure professional and knowledge-worker jobs

- The ability to discuss a performance evaluation in a way that removes defensiveness and leads to genuine change

- The ability to identify an individual's development needs and help that person come up with a workable plan that will increase capability

- The encouragement to confront noncontributors with the need for change and to terminate their employment if that change is not immediate

- The assurance that if an employee ever challenges the accuracy of a performance evaluation, the initial assumption of senior management and the human resources function will be that:

The manager acted correctly.

The burden of proof rests with the employee.


- Forms that are clear and easy to use; procedures that are sensible and easy to follow

- Clear communication of both the organization's and the immediate supervisor's expectations about performance so that they can make intelligent decisions about where to concentrate efforts and resources

- Ongoing feedback that reinforces appropriate actions and behaviors and redirects misguided efforts

- An emphasis on growth and development

- Factual and accurate performance assessments that allow the individual to make wise decisions about career direction

- The ability to influence the performance expectations and the measures for those expectations set by the manager

- Prompt communication when business decisions affect the priority of preestablished objectives

- Timely information about performance deficiencies and the opportunity to correct those deficiencies before they become a permanent mark on the record

- The assurance that the delivery of a high level of performance will be recognized in both formal and informal ways

- The assurance that marginal performance on the part of colleagues will not be tolerated by senior managers

Human Resources

- The ability to respond quickly and accurately to senior management's demands for information about the quality of performance in any organization unit

- The ability to monitor whether the organization's policies and procedures regarding the performance management process are being followed

- The assurance that performance management forms, procedures, and practices used by the company incorporate accepted best practices

- The assurance that all performance management practices fall squarely within legal guidelines and that exposure to legal challenge is minimized

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