Could do better? What works in performance management
There has been a great deal written about performance management over recent years. From the headlines at least, it can sound like appraisals are history. Certainly there seem to be significant new trends in how employers manage performance, but there is also a good deal of hype. What’s more, in most discussions of ‘leading practice’ case studies, there is little if any decent evidence on what actually improves performance.
The findings of this research by the CIPD are wide-ranging, provide insights into how best to set goals, run appraisals that generate positive responses from employees and avoid bias in assessing performance. For example, it found that specific and challenging goals work well for relatively straightforward tasks, but not in ‘complex’ tasks that involve navigating interrelated steps, adapting to unfamiliar cues or acquiring new skills or knowledge. More generally, feedback was found to be crucial for goal setting to be effective.
It was also found that, while appraisal generally contributes towards performance, this is not always the case. Employees’ reactions to appraisals are especially influential, in particular whether they feel that appraisal judgements are fair and useful. As such, the CIPD recommend that employers check in with employees following any performance conversation.
Another critical factor in developing effective performance appraisal is to be clear on what its purpose is. The CIPD found that in developmental appraisals, ratings tend to be stricter and based on a wider range of examples of performance than in administrative appraisals used to inform pay and promotions. Because they clearly involve different cognitive processes, it recommends separating developmental performance conversations from administrative ones.
The reports presented on this CIPD page provide an authoritative account of the best available evidence on the cause-and-effect relationships that goal setting and appraisals have with performance.