A-Z of HRBP #A: Appraisals


It wasn’t hard to decide, it really wasn’t. When initially I thought of this series, I feared that I’d have lots of topics competing for a letter. Should A be for Appreciation? Do appraisals better fit under P as performance management? But with March just behind us, I cannot think of a better post to begin with.

I’d like to start with ‘It’s that time of the year’ and maybe I should because I am not sure how much longer this line will hold true. With continuous feedback and bi-annual appraisals taking the spotlight in most organizations, it is soon going to be ‘that time of the year’ all year round or never at all – depending on which way you look at it. With Cisco joining the league of organizations who have abandoned the bell curve, most other organizations have begun to wonder if they should follow suit.

Organizations have worked different ways through the decades. Starting from the times of Frederick Taylor to the clamour for meritocracy to the most recent shift to collaborative environments, requirements for assessment have largely changed. I am still a big fan of the Bell Curve which doesn’t necessary translate into me advocating companies to use it. The bell curve served its purpose well when the world was clamouring for rewards based on merit. Did it foster collaboration, maybe not? But weren’t we all looking at motivation based on creating differentiation back then? Human beings as individuals tend to compare. It’s in our nature and there will always be stars, the average performers and people at the bottom of the curve no matter which team you look at. Are people mature enough to be motivated by work alone? I don’t have it answer to that yet. Daniel Pink may advocate autonomy, mastery and purpose but it also largely depends on an organizations maturity level.

Which brings me back to the question – Should all organizations ditch the bell curve? Simple Answer – I think not. I think there’s a maturity cycle. Instead of blinding following the trend, they have got to see if the benefits of the bell curve are outweighing the negatives. If it hasn’t yet, don’t ditch it. Assess if people are looking for meritocracy over collaboration. Begin to encourage collaboration and then ditch the bell curve but retain ratings. For a lot of people, ratings still play an integral role in motivation and drive. When can we entirely move away from ratings? If you are not medium.com, I think a wise answer would be never.

Disagree? Let me know in comments below.


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