Topics in Appraisal


How to build a better performance appraisal system


Biology, economics and psychology converge here: improvement is fundamental to survival, and feedback is fundamental to improvement. Without feedback, survival is guesswork, extinction inevitable. Evolution shows that disruption is normal. Whoever fails to adapt will fail at a rate determined by the depth of their balance sheet and the goodwill of their last customers. I might have added, 'and by the largesse of their governments', but post-GFC, that option is down the drain. The carnage will be epic, but not all will perish. Some will survive by falling back on the four billion year old rule found by Darwin, the route of adaptation.

My name is Archer North. My roots are in psychology, statistics and software. After working in human resources, I ventured alone. I enjoyed clients such as Shell Australia and the Victoria Police. From them, I learned that performance appraisal was an endeavour shot through with fear and loathing.

Performance appraisal is a horror in many places. Consider this item from the New York Times: "Only one in ten CEOs believe in the effectiveness of performance appraisal." Good grief. But one in ten. The question is why so many CEOs feel this way. The theory of feedback as a performance modifier is sound. Feedback is linked to emprical improvements in performance. A meta-analysis of 3,000 studies linked performance appraisal to an average improvement of 0.4 standard deviations. In some cases the benefit was a full  deviation of performance.1 

What is my part in this castration of science? Should I shutdown and shutup? Naw. I will fix performance appraisal and put it on the cloud for everyone. Archer North, [last update] January 18, 2017

1. Kluger, A.N. & DeNisi, A. (1996) The effects of feedback interventions on performance, Psychological Bulletin, Vol 119, No 2, 254-284
2. Lawrie, J. (1990) Prepare for a performance appraisal, Personnel Journal, Vol 69, April, 132-136





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