Research Projects on Performance Appraisal

Organizations are beginning to develop ways to further improve their most valuable resource -- its human capital, or workforce. Human capital is a term that refers to the talent, experience and expertise within the workplace. Without the contributions of human resources, an employer will falter. Therefore, it's imperative for human resources leaders to develop sound performance management strategy. Developing a performance management system includes the task of determining which performance appraisal method is best suited to the performance standards and your workforce. There are several resources available online, in trade journals, magazine, books and through professional organizations that will provide you with performance management-related research data.

  1. Theory versus Practice

    • One research topic concerning performance appraisal mirrors challenges professionals in the human resources field regularly encounter. Human resources strategic management requires acceptance by executive leadership; however, the history of human resources as merely an administrative function within the organization prevents HR leaders from admission to the corporate boardroom. Human resources experts who work diligently to contribute to strategic management struggle with persistent stigma-based personnel administrative functions of the past. Likewise, research that addresses the theoretical and tactical aspects of performance management encounters similarly dismissive attitudes about the underlying bases for effective performance appraisal systems. Cornell University ILR School researchers state: "Since the rating process involves complex cognitive processes, basic research that defines the nature of the phenomenon is clearly needed. However, since performance appraisals occur in applied, social and political contexts, it also is wise to consider the degree to which research is informing practice." An undeniable parallel exists between efforts to convince executive leadership that human resources is fundamental to organizational success and an understanding that theoretical bases that underlie performance appraisal are as important to practical application as HR strategy is to HR tactical processes.

    Performance Appraisals for the Wrong Reason

    • Another topic concerning performance appraisal research actually addresses the entire performance management system. Well-constructed performance management systems address performance from the first day of work until the day when an employee retires or resigns. Managing employee performance includes assigning job duties and responsibilities, providing regular feedback to employees between annual performance appraisals, and providing training and development opportunities to employees who are motivated to achieve success within the company. In "Entrepreneur" magazine, an article entitled, "Appraising the Performance Appraisal" advocates eliminating the practice of annual employee evaluations because appraisals aren't truly designed to motivate employees -- performance appraisals serve one purpose and that is to keep track of the steps to eventual termination. "Entrepreneur" magazine contributor Aubrey C. Daniels states: "More important, the research on performance appraisals has never shown that they improve performance. Why, then, are they so prevalent in the workplace? The answer I get in my seminars is that they are a way to document poor performance-in other words, a step in the firing process."

    Alternatives to Traditional Discipline

    • Research focusing on a gentler approach to progressive discipline emerged in the late 1990s or early 2000s; however, since then considerable attention is given to even more alternatives to progressive discipline. A progressive disciplinary policy is rooted in structure from the first verbal warning to a written disciplinary form to ultimate suspension or termination in cases where the employee engages in gross misconduct or simply refuses to strive for improvement. A new form of discipline some federal government agencies utilize is catching on in private sector employment. A segment on describes the benefits of "alternative discipline" which is a form of performance management elements that address workplace discipline. The model of alternative discipline Kessler Air Force Base utilizes is: "The system allows management and the employee who has committed an infraction to agree to an alternative form of corrective action in lieu of traditional discipline. This may include attendance at remedial classes, leave donation, community service, apologies, etc. It is intended to provide rapid resolution to problems, avoid the costs and lost time resulting from use of formal complaint systems, and contribute to a more positive resolution to problems from both management's and the employee's perspective."

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