The current job market requires organizations to take keen interest in effective human resource management. It is always essential for the management of any organization to facilitate an organizational culture that gives room for conducting the performance appraisal interviews. Performance appraisal is defined by Levy and Williams (2004) as a systematic evaluation of an individual employee focused on the employee's job performance and his or her potential for development. The performance appraisal interviews are conducted in a well-structured and formal manner; it serves to measure and evaluate the employee's job related conduct and outcomes. As such, the performance appraisal is essential in discovering the reasons for a particular performance trend of an employee and for communicating a way to enhance appreciable future performance by employees and the organization in general for the benefit of the whole society.
On the other hand, the performance appraisal interviews are regarded as a developmental tool that helps organizations ensure an all-round development of employees and the organization as a whole. While conducting the interviews, the employees' performance is measured against their quality and quantity of output, job knowledge, ability to take initiatives, leadership skills, dependability, and cooperation. The interviews can also help an organization in investigating the employees' versatility at work and their health. In order to analyze the employees' performance, the interviewers should consider not only the past performance. It is essential to broaden the scope of the interviews to address the employees' potential performance.
It is vital for the human resource managers that are expected to carry out the performance appraisals to pass some training on the essentials of the performance appraisal interviews. The essentials should not only be regarded as skills for an effective performance appraisal interview but also involve a clear understanding of the reasons behind conducting the interviews. The interviews should be shaped in such a way that they fit into the entire strategic process of the performance management. The information gathered during the interviews should contribute to a clear understanding of an organization's capacity of the human resource capital and its impact on the business strategy value (Levy and Williams, 2004).
The complex nature of conducting an effective performance appraisal interviews justifies the need for an extensive research of the topic. It is vital for the management to establish proper systems that can make the interviews have the desired impact on the organizational performance. The performance appraisal interviews are to be considered as a tool for change rather than a mere annual activity conducted by an organization (Levy and Williams, 2004). A research in this area provides the necessary insight into the key considerations that an organization should factor in while conducting the interviews.
It is worth noting that organizations are in constant competition for a market share, as well as competent and highly motivated human resources. In order to get an edge over its competitors, an organization should demonstrate an interest in factoring the findings and recommendations of a research on the keys to carrying out an effective appraisal interview. It should be done as a step towards boosting the employee's output and reducing the rate of the staff turnover. Based on this reasoning, it is evident that this research will help the line managers and human resource professionals understand their role in the performance management. It will also help them learn how to perform effective performance management interviews that can help in attaining the overall aims of the performance management. This research helps in finding out how to ask the right questions during the interviews, how to demonstrate good listening skills for the exercise, and proves the need to provide feedback based on the findings of the interview.
Appraisal is considered by Kuvaas (2011) a single contributing micro-process in the entire macro context, which is crucial in ensuring effectiveness of the performance management process. The key guidelines used in appraisal should be designed in a manner that makes clarification of performance expectations to be the first step in the appraisal process. In this respect, a job description is formulated to clarify an organization's prescribed professional standards that are expected of an employee. The job description is availed alongside a performance agreement that stipulates the organization's development objectives. The two documents are essential in the process of carrying out an effective appraisal interview as they help to clarify the organization's expectations of its employees. Interviewing almost comes last after a series of activities in the appraisal process. For example, an organization should ensure that it recruits qualified and competent employees, monitor their performance over a given period, and check their professional standards before conducting an appraisal interview and giving a report on the employee's performance. Appraisal must be considered in the broader picture of the performance management (Levy and Williams, 2004).
Key Features of the Effective Appraisal Interview
The term effective can have different meanings. In the context of this research, the term is used to denote the appraisal interviews that are neither defensive nor controlling, but rather educative, supportive, and confidential (Gooty & Yammarino, 2013). In most cases, the appraiser is seen to negotiate for a wide social distance between him or her and the appraisee. This kind of relationship creates a tense environment that restricts the appraisee's willingness and ability to respond freely to the questions. The appraisal interview process needs to be open so that it is underpinned by the existence of a mutual relationship of respect between the appraiser and the appraisee. It is essential to understand that the outcome of the interview process is intended to benefit the organization, as well as the employee. Therefore, an appraiser should not capitalize on pinning down the appraisee with the questions that are targeted at exposing his or her incompetence. Such questions need to form part of the overall interview process but should not appear to be the center of the interview. To ensure effectiveness, the interview process should facilitate sharing information that is clear and that has a high level of objectivity.
The interview process should also demonstrate high levels of integrity by having deep development as its primary goal (Gooty & Yammarino, 2013). As with any interview process, an appraisal interview should entail a proper choice of questions. Open and close-ended questions should be used to meet various interviewing objectives. Besides, the process is not complete without the provision of feedback to the organization and to the interviewee. The organization needs to be informed about the findings of the interview that would be used as the basis for formulating a change for the better. At the same time, the appraisee needs to know his or her areas of competence and weakness for the purpose of improvement.
Ensuring Confidentiality and Transparency
The aspect of confidentiality and transparency is closely related to the objective information gathering. The features of confidentiality and transparency are equally important to the appraiser and the appraisee in the short and the long-term perspective. Appraisal interviews may seek answer to some sensitive questions. Gooty and Yammarino (2013) suggest that appraisees can hardly open up and respond to the questions if they are not assured that the information will be kept confidential. The appraiser may have gathered some information from other respondents that he/she intends to use in the interview; however, it is vital to consider the appropriate use of the information and aspects of attribution where necessary. Very sensitive information should be handled with care so as to avoid any conflicts between the informant and the appraiser.
Setting Deep Objectives for the Interview
Appraisal interviews should have the clearly formulated objectives to be met at the end of the interview (Kuvaas, 2011). The objectives are to be set beforehand and they should be of a deep nature but not a surface one. The interview objectives help in determining the nature of questions asked during the interview process. The objectives are helpful in assessing the outcome of the process and, therefore, useful in measuring effectiveness of the interviews. It would be futile to ask questions that are out of the objectives set for the appraisal, as they would not help in achieving anything. Properly established objectives help in limiting the scope of the interview so that the interview process is not personalized. A clear knowledge of the objectives of the performance appraisal interview increases appraisees' willingness to participate in the interview process. For example, the objectives are essential in making the appraisees aware of that the interview is not intended at finding faults in them. This knowledge inculcates openness and cooperation that is essential in the interview process.
Clarity of the Interview Process
Clarity is an essential component of any information gathering process. A performance appraisal interview is intended for obtaining vital information that would be used by an organization to improve its productivity and service delivery. It is important for the interview questions to be clear so that the appraisee can easily understand them. Clarity should be enhanced by avoiding the use of ambiguous words and sentences. It is necessary for the appraisee to understand clearly the questions so that he or she can give relevant responses. Clarity is perceived as an essential part in the provision of guidance and in dissemination of information used for all performance management micro-processes. The interview questions should be developed with a genuine motive of improvement rather than mere listing (Kuvaas, 2011).
How It Works
The Nature of Questions
According to Kuvaas (2011), the effectiveness of a performance appraisal interview is highly dependent on the nature of the questions asked. While structuring the questions, an appraiser should factor in two types of questions namely open and probing ones. Open questions are general rather than specific, and they give people a chance to decide on how they want to respond without any restrictions. On the contrary, probing questions are intended to dig deeper so that the appraisee can give specific answers. Probing questions should be included in the interview process so as to offer support to the appraisee and motivated to provide additional information related to the open-ended responses given. Appraisees should be encouraged to be free while talking about what they feel right, as well as their attitudes to the work and working environment. Free communication in the interview process helps the management obtain all adequate information that would assist in the decision making. Besides, the information provided can be used in assessing the contributions that the appraisee has made for the organization since his or her recruitment.
Good Listening Skills
Communication is a two-way process that is only achieved through listening and speaking. It is essential for the appraiser to pay attention to the appraisee's responses, as they will determine the nature of the report at the end of the process (Piggot-Irvine, 1999). The appraiser should be able to do more of listening, and only take the shortest time possible for asking questions. Listening makes the interview process fruitful as all participants feel valued and respected. It is opposed to a situation where an appraiser dominates the interview with a lot of follow-up questions hence giving little opportunity to the appraisee to respond. It should be understood that the appraisee is the source of information in the context of a performance appraisal interview. As such, the appraiser should demonstrate the willingness to hear more than to speak as a way of encouraging the appraisee to open up and talk. Additionally, the appraiser should use an appropriate tone and voice that will shorten the social distance between him/her and the appraiser. Differences in status should not come out clearly, as they would prevent free interaction. Generally, good listening occurs when the speaker is aware of different nuances, like behavior or body language that supplement the verbal communication. A good listener knows how to respond quickly when necessary but still tries to avoid interruptions. When given unclear responses, an appraiser should ask relevant questions while seeking for clarification of the meaning. An appraiser should always give comments to demonstrate that he or she understands the appraisee's answers. However, Piggot-Irvine (1999) suggests that the comments should be kept short never to inhibit the flow of the speaker.
Need for Provision of the Feedback
The interview process is not complete without provision of the feedback to the appraisee. The feedback given after an interview should be based on the facts rather than the individual's opinion and should always be supported by evidence and examples. Feedback makes the interview process complete as it promotes the appraisee's understanding of the impacts of his previous actions and performance on the organization. In case the interview process showed that something had gone wrong, the feedback might be given in a form of corrective actions aimed at avoiding re-occurrence of such undesirable acts in the future. In all situations, feedback should be positively used to reinforce the employee's good deeds and qualities and show the opportunities for more positive actions. Feedback should be given by the right people who have the skills required. Those who lack good communication skills may give feedback in a way that will elicit a conflict particularly if the feedback involves suggestions for improvement.
Appraisal Interviews as a Performance Management Tool
Performance management is regarded by Horvath and Andrews (2007) a vital macro-descriptor that involves all micro processes related to personnel management. The process of performance appraisal starts when employees join an organization and should continue through out their time of employment. The performance appraisal interviews are very significant to every organization as they are used to ensure effective performance management. The effective performance management interviews require specific skills to be exhibited by the appraiser in order to make the whole process effective. Organizations need to establish a culture of performing annual appraisal interviews as a way of developing the skills of their employees. The performance appraisal interviews are meant to show high levels of respectful, trust-based, and open relationships between the appraiser and the appraisee as a way of ensuring that the appraisal process is effective. The interview process should not be considered merely a process that requires good listening and questioning skills. The process is complex and it should be treated with a lot of caution in order to achieve the intended purpose. Interpersonal interaction has been marked as a key requirement in ensuring an effective performance appraisal interview.
Horvath and Andrews (2007) also note that the performance appraisal interviews are vital as a performance management tool that increases the employees' level of productivity. Whenever an organization takes a keen interest in conducting annual appraisal interviews, the organization increases its chances of retaining highly qualified and competent employees that can help it to match favorably its competitors into the market. Employees also get motivated when their efforts are recognized by their organizations. Recognition may be demonstrated through promotions or salary increment as a way of appreciating the employee's good performance. Similarly, the performance appraisal interviews can enable an organization to identify the areas of weakness in its employees so that the required corrective measures are taken in good time.
It is vital for all managers who are expected to carry out the performance appraisal to pass some form of training that can help them acquire necessary skills and competence for the exercise. The training should not only be focused on the skills development but also should target to inform the managers about the essence of conducting the performance appraisal. Therefore, the trainings are to be organized in a way that they do not only focus on the "how" part of the appraisal interview but also look at the "why" aspect. The performance appraisal is a strategic process of enhancing the organization's performance. Those involved in the process need to view the interview as a developmental strategy. It will enable them to understand how the interview fit into the wider strategic process of the performance management. The information gathered during the interviews is to be used in understanding how the organization's human resources add value to the business strategy and success (Nurse, 2005).
The appraiser needs to consider a number of factors. First, it is vital to consider how well the appraisee has performed over time since he or she joined the organization. Showing an appreciation for the role that the appraisee has performed in the organization will make him or her feel encouraged to work harder on the future assignments. Appreciation and acknowledgement of the past performances is also vital in urging the appraiser to volunteer information that is vital for the organization. Appreciation of an employee involves a research of the employee's job descriptions and analyzing how the employee has performed the duties assigned. The assessment forms a basis for understanding the pieces of advice that needs to be given to the employee to boost his or her future performance (Nurse, 2005).
The interviews may also be structured in a way that allows appraisees an opportunity to do a self-assessment. Self-assessment gives employees an opportunity to analyze their own performance before the actual interview. When given a chance, appraisees are best suited to be more responsive during the interview as they have adequate time to think about their experience in the organization and the measures that can be taken to boost the organization's performance. Through self-assessment, appraisees can also understand the corrections suggested to them so that they do not appear to be imposed on them. They have ample time to give their own opinion concerning the suggested changes. It is only possible for self-assessment to realize its purpose if there are well set out standards and targets, according to which the appraisees are able to assess themselves (Verma, Budhwar, & DeNisi, 2008). Additionally, appraisers need to establish a climate of trust during the interview process so that the appraisees can be convinced that appraisers will not take advantage of the free self-assessment. Adequate measures must be put in place to enhance an effective self-assessment process.
Recommendations for Business Practice
This discussion has shown the essential considerations that need to be made to enhance efficiency when carrying out an appraisal interview. The essentials form the basis upon which a number of recommendations are made for organizations to uphold good business practices. The recommendations are also based on the findings from some scholarly works done by other researchers in the field of performance management. Organizations should be keen in managing their human resource so that they remain viable and competent in the job market. The only sure way to achieve this mandate is to recruit and retain a productive work force through the effective recruitment and appraisal processes.
First, appraisal interviews should be well structured and premeditated rather than being looked at as an organizational procedure. As realized in the course of this study, an affective appraisal interview needs adequate planning. Proper planning helps the management formulate good questions to be used during the appraisal interview. When appraisal is taken as a mere procedure, organizations may not take enough time to structure the targets that it needs to attain. As such, organizations are likely to spend many resources on planning the interview and conducting it without much benefit.
Secondly, organizations should use the appraisal interview questions that are clear and objective. The questions should be easy to understand so that appraisees can understand them without any clarifications. The questions should be focused on finding the answers to issues that are relevant to the employee's job responsibility so that the responses received can be used to improve the organization's performance. Personal questions should be minimized and only used only when they can help in generating essential information.
Appraisers should have emotional control so that they can develop good relationship with the appraisees. Emotional interference in the interview process impedes a successful exchange of information between the participants of the interview. The interaction should be based on a mutual understanding, where the social distance between the appraiser and the appraisee is limited. Under normal circumstances, the managers and employees have positive and negative feelings. The measure of an effective communicator is judged based on their ability to control their emotions no matter how much they may be aggrieved with each other.
It is also necessary to set the interview on a date that is favorable to both the employee and the management or the appraiser to give room for adequate and uninterrupted time for the interaction. Employees may have some busy working days that should not be interrupted. Similarly, the appraiser must check his or her schedule to ensure that the interview is set on a date that the participants will fully participate. Organizations should also inform the employee to be interviewed in advance so that he or she is adequately prepared for the interview. Preparation involves brainstorming on the topics that the employee may wish to discuss. The topics normally focus on the employees' career objectives.
Lastly, organizations should ensure that they encourage free and open discussions during the appraisal interview. Open discussions serve as a motivator. It encourages employees to share their challenges and achievements in the organization.
According to the findings of this research, there are three main principles for an effective appraisal interview that clearly come out. First, it is essential to ensure that everything that is written down in the process of the interview is shown to the appraisee and shared in details. The principle is based on the understanding that people receive secrecy with much suspicion. Suspicion should never exist in the course of an interview process as it hinders open discussion between the appraiser and the appraisee. Sharing the recorded information establishes mutual trust among appraisees in the interview process. Appraisees' contribution in discussing the way forward is in itself the essence of the interview. Secondly, it is important for the appraisal report to be finalized in the presence of the appraisee. It enables the appraisees to be a part of the decision-making process as the management charts a way forward. The third requirement is met through provision of room for the self-appraisal. This is the need to have employees given ample time to contribute to the appraisal process not only as a respondent but also as an evaluator and a decision maker.
An organization that considers the key aspects of the interview process that are discussed in this research work is obviously set for good results. The successful appraisal interview is evident from the outcome of the process. The success does not require much effort to assess as it evidently presents itself through an improved performance of the appraisee. The appraisal interview also helps in boosting the relationship between an organization's management and the appraisee. It offers an opportunity for the future consultations in case an employee is exposed to a challenging task. As discussed in this research work, an appraisal interview should benefit the appraisee just as it benefits the organization. This objective is only achieved by use of appropriate skills in the interview process.
General Recommendation for the Future Business Research
Competition remains stiff among organizations as each of them strives for popularity in the market. An organization's relevance will mainly be dependent on its ability to produce goods and services that satisfy its customers' needs. It is necessary for more research to be done on the introduction of technological changes and its impacts on the employees' performance. This is necessary due to the fact that some employees' level of production could be influenced by the emergence of a new technology, with which they are unfamiliar. If that happens to be the case, organizations should consider job rotation and job enrichment as a way of boosting the employee performance.
Organizations should also research on the impacts of job environment on the employees' performance during the appraisal process. Generally, the environment affects the employees' motivation and efficiency at work significantly.
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