Thursday, 6 January 2011

Think of a Number .....

Today is the point in Dante's Staff Appraisal Process where I get to meet with my Manager and he tells me how I have done in the past year, what my performance rating is and the things I should look to do in the next 12 months.

Any of you who don't work for Dante's will be possibly thinking "seems fair enough" but those who do will either be sniggering cynically or frothing at the mouth.

You see, Dante's appraisal system is a little odd in that it has a stated aim*** of driving up the performance level of its personnel. One can understand that any organisation would want to do this to be competitive and it does, of course, use mentoring and training* to do this. It also, and here's the rub, has quotas for each Performance Grade.

This makes it very rough on those who are at the point between one grading and another. There appears to be no lee way; x% are top performers and get the benefits. You may have worked your whatsits off during the year but if your face doesn't fit and the bullshit you and your Feedback providers have given is not up to the mark, then forget it. I probably also need to point out that it is a qualitative system rather than a quantitative system so the judgements are made on the basis of narrative and perception rather than fact finding.

I suppose, at this point, that I should state that I did OK. not "great", not even "not quite great", but "OK". This is what I had expected. I have just moved to a new role and could hardly be expected to be winning hearts and minds with little or no experience, but I did OK.

Where this approach is especially rough is at the lower end of the performance spectrum where a low grading can result in all sorts of management focus and activities to "up one's game". That is all well and good if you truly need to pull up your socks but what about the poor sods that have been pushed in to that category by the immovable clip levels that are in place. They were doing fine. They weren't top flight bods but they were there keeping things running and fixing broke things. They were perhaps, never going to set the world on fire but they are a necessary part of the organisation and understandably tend to get very demotivated when they get a crappy rating just because a management policy set a quota rather than developing a review system that actually attempts to accurately rate personnel.

There are countless gripes and issues with the system and one of the major ones is that it is securely linked to the pecuniary rewards. Consequently one can have worked one's balls off but be just outside the clip level and get sweet  F A when the pay rises are announced. I have encountered this situation personally and know how insulting it is to be told that you are situated high in your performance category. So what, when push comes to shove there are no formal gradations in that category so I am just the same as the slacker that has managed to pull their socks up and crawl from an "unsatisfactory" to a "satisfactory".

I know this is a difficult task. A lifetime ago I used to appraise staff and I know how hard it is to stray away from the middle ground and define someone as a star or as crap but that is what is needed. Managers who know their people and can identify wheat and chaff.

I could go on about this "ad nauseam" but the bottom line is that an Appraisal System should be just that. A system that evaluates an organisations personnel. Dante's seem to have bastardised that in to some form of black joke that doesn't stand up well to scrutiny.

* Provided that you can book and complete your course before the budget is frozen**
** usually around 2nd February
*** as for it's unstated aims -"don't go there".

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