Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Should our performance appraisals reduce subjectivity? Despite the fact that we use objectives, I am convinced the subjective view of employees by their managers affects the outcome.
—Subject to Objectivity, HR specialist, finance/insurance/real estate, Budapest, Hungary
Dear Subject to Objectivity:
You're absolutely right. Performance experts try to reduce subjectivity in performance reviews, but as long as reviews are rated by humans and are based on human behavior, they will be somewhat subjective. Taking out subjectivity—making reviews more objective—is a continuous challenge.
Why do we really care about making performance reviews objective? It's because employees want to be treated fairly. For example, two employees may process the exact same number of orders, but orders for standard products are likely much easier to handle than the orders for complex, customized solutions. Or, all things considered, it's usually a lot easier to generate revenue from a territory that is thriving than from an area that is economically depressed.
Naturally, the employee handling the more difficult orders or the more challenging territory wants to be acknowledged and rewarded for the extra challenge involved. Determining how to factor in the difficulty of the sale or the quality of the service makes performance harder to measure.
So how can you create performance appraisals that are perceived as fair to both the employee and the manager? Here are some suggestions:
Start by having the manager and the employee work together to develop performance goals. Be sure they reach agreement on what needs to be done and how to do it. If the goals are clear and reasonable to both parties, those goals will be a lot easier to evaluate at review time.Be sure the employee has the resources to do the job. Plan ahead for the obstacles involved in reaching the goal, and line up the tools and training the employee will need to be successful.Identify upfront how you will know success when you see it. In other words, "cracking into the Southwest region" is much harder to measure than "opening at least 200 new accounts with initial sales of $500 in the Southwest region." Set metrics that make sense to both the manager and the employee.Remember to give the employee recognition along the way for the effort involved, as well as guidance to help the employee succeed. The key is to give praise for successes and keep focused on what the employee is doing right. Negative feedback should be used sparingly.