Performance Management and Performance Appraisal Report:
As a member of the U.S. military, my organization's current performance management and performance appraisal system is driven by very unique needs. It is in many ways highly bureaucratic and standardized. This is so that the requirements of the organization vs. The personal and subjective responses of supervisors define the ratings process. It also has specific mechanisms for the mentorship of soldiers advancing through the system. Although there are certain aspects to the Army's performance management approach which are quite specialized and specific, I believe that any organization, including private for-profit enterprises, could learn from its philosophy. Its strong emphasis on mentorship and performance feedback minimize frustration with criticism and the candidate's sense of being unfairly judged. The process is on one hand uniform in terms of the benchmarks to which candidates are held but on the other hand, the coaching and individualized nature of the feedback is personalized for every soldier and makes improvement targeted, feasible, and achievable.
First of all, it is important to make a distinction between performance management and performance appraisal. In general, the literature supports the superiority of emphasizing performance management, although both methods may be necessary to provide employees with adequate feedback. Performance management is defined as a continuous process of "identifying, measuring, and developing the performance of individuals and teams and aligning performance with the strategic goals of the organization" versus performance appraisal which takes place on an annual basis, usually in the form of a review session (Aguinis, Joo, & Gottfredson 2011: 503). On my unit, depending on their grade, soldiers are given a performance appraisal on a monthly or on a 90 day basis from their supervisor. This frequent feedback is necessary so soldiers consistently know how they are doing and can correct any problems that are occurring. Although this is technically a kind of appraisal, the frequency of it makes this more of a performance management system. Performance management also takes the form of development counseling: all soldiers receive regular event-based, personal performance-based performance, and professional growth counseling, which also takes place on a regular basis. Once again, this is designed to mentor soldiers and provide holistic needs assessment on a consistent basis.
Although many employees express dissatisfaction with their performance management and appraisal systems -- an estimated one in three employees find their performance management systems to be lacking -- overall, I believe that that the Army's system has many unique strengths (Aguinis, Joo, & Gottfredson 2011: 502). Few organizations give feedback on such a frequent basis. Also, feedback is given most frequently to individuals during the first phases of their training, as part of their orientation into the organization. This ensures that performance expectations are set for them immediately and define their experience within the organization virtually from day one. One common source of friction within an organization between managers and employees is the frustration that employees experience when what the managers say is not necessarily how employees are actually judged in fact. I have often heard employees in other industries complain of being given adequate reports one year and then receiving complaints that they did not improve upon areas the following year that were not flagged as in need of improvement. The bureaucratic and formalized nature of the military also ensures that there is minimal favoritism and discrepancies between the evaluations of different candidates. The evaluation process is highly standardized and no aspect of the review process can be overlooked or rushed.
Another reason many employees at other organizations state that they dislike performance management is its backward-looking nature. Employees are told what they did wrong but there is little constructive advice given to them to tell them what they should do to improve. A better system "emphasizes conversation between managers and employees whereby feedback is exchanged and coaching is provided, if needed" (Aguinis, Joo, & Gottfredson 2011: 504). One reason the investment banking firm Merrill Lynch is said to have such a strong performance management system is the dialogue it fosters between participants. "Under a performance management system, the supervisor and the employee agree on set goals for the employee to achieve. These...
Rather than a punitive system, this is a very positive way of evaluating performance.
The Army's system of performance management is based upon three fundamental principles: that of counseling, coaching and mentoring. Counseling involves the review of the subordinate's strengths and weaknesses when performing and the potential for the candidate's promotion with the supervisor. While reviewing the performance the supervisor points out strengths and weaknesses they have noticed. The supervisor will assist the subordinate in coming up with a plan of action to sustain and improve performance. Coaching involves encouraging the subordinate to develop existing or new skills through practice on a personal level; the focus is on the candidate, not just the tasks that need to be done for the organization. Mentoring involves a supervisor or another soldier with more experience to give guidance or advice to improve the soldier's experience, career, and character on a more personal level. This three-dimensional and holistic approach to performance management is designed to touch upon every dimension a soldier will need to improve upon.
This holistic approach reflects the fact that simply telling an employee what he or she did wrong is not very useful; even telling an employee what he did well, while it may make the individual feel better, is not always effective because this does not give the worker a good idea how to replicate the behavior. Instead, there needs to be a plan for improvement created in conjunction with the supervisor and the mentee. In the military, the standards are so high there are always additional benchmarks for the candidate to achieve so no candidate's performance is ever so strong that he or she will be told to simple do 'more of the same.' The soldier will leave the performance review with a clear sense of how to build upon previous successes -- and also (which is equally important) to learn lessons from past failures to enact positive changes.
Performance management must be instructive and identify future opportunities for training. It "takes into account both past and future performance. Personal developmental plans specify courses of action to be taken to improve performance. Achieving the goals stated in the developmental plan allows employees to keep abreast of changes in their field or profession" (Aguinis, Joo, & Gottfredson 2011: 505). As well goal-setting, soldiers are also evaluated on a battery of various attributes using the NCOER [Noncomissioned Officer Evaluation Report] Counseling and Support Form and NCOER. The NCOER Counseling and Support form is comprised of four areas: Administrative Data, Authentication, Duty Description, and Army Values/Attributes/Skills/Actions. The Army Values/Attributes/Skills/Actions has six sub-categories, which are Army Values, Competence, Physical Fitness & Military Bearing, Leadership, Training, and Responsibility & Accountability. This is designed to provide a good balance between measurable benchmarks for the officer to work on and also provides feedback in terms of his or her fulfillment of more intangible qualities of being a soldier. The NCOER satisfies yet another critical component of the feedback process, to ensure that the employee 'fits in' to the organization. "Performance management requires managers to ensure that employees' activities and outputs are congruent with the organization's goals, toward the end of gaining competitive advantage" (Aguinis, Joo, & Gottfredson 2011: 505).
As the description suggests, the values assessment is perhaps the most subjective component of the performance management and appraisal process. On one hand, it can be extremely difficult to determine how to measure qualities like 'loyalty,' particularly in new candidates who have not been tested in many specific situations. On the other hand, functioning as a unit and winning the trust of fellow authors is an extremely critical part of military service. Although this component of the evaluative process will never be as scientific and as concrete as some of the other measures of performance such as meeting specific duties in a timely fashion, at least the frequency of the feedback enables the soldier to ask questions and constantly 'check in' with how to improve in this area. In other organizations where appraisals take place on a much more sporadic basis, evaluating candidates on personal qualities becomes much more frustrating and ineffective, given that it can be very difficult to objectively assess how one's attitude and character are perceived by fellow workers. The ongoing, supportive nature of the counseling, coaching, and mentoring of the Army ensures that character building is integrated into rather than separate from career development in a constructive fashion.
It should be noted that not every organization will or should evaluate employees based upon the same character-based measures as the Army. In other organizations, individualism might be more highly valued. However, it is still valuable for employees to have a…
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