are appraisals really any good?

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  • M A N A G E M E N T

    Are Appraisals Really Any Good? Job evaluations, unless properly handled, can be damaging if not outright dangerous

    JVlORE AND MORE CHEMICAL COMPANIES are raising serious doubts about the value of conventional ways of judging job performance. In many companies, job appraisals consist of lengthy annual reviews of an employee's capabilities. The supervisor, filling out a form, answers dozen of questions about the worker's personality, working habits, job competence. Or the worker may be summoned into the supervisor's office and flatly to ld what his superiors think of him.

    Sometimes, says Philip R. Kelly of American Cyanarnid's personnel relations staff, these procedures can do more harm tlian good. They can be extremely damaging to worker morale. Employees may resent being annually "raked over the coals." The supervisor himself may thoroughly dislike the ordeal of passing all-knowing judgment on his associates. He may particularly dislike being cast in the role of amateur psychiatrist.

    "The job of delving into a worker's thinking, personality, and ambitions can be extremely complex, says Kelly. All too often, t h e appraiser in judging personality and performance may resort merely to quick, shallow answers. Actually, he may have no skill in evaluating people. Despite all his efforts to be objective, has opinions may be heavily clouded by subjective, emotional factors,

    The employee himself may resent having his personality dissected "under a microscope," He may feel, quite justifiably, that actually he does not have full command of all the factors affecting his job performance. Working conditions beyond his control may have a major bear ing on his work results. Here t h e prime responsibility may be that of management.

    Early Interest. The first wave of interest in job appraisals came in the 1920's, Kelly told the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Chemists. The prime objective initially was to help in arriving at proper salary

    schedules based o n job performance. Later, the emphasis switched to the use of job appraisals in helping to improve individual performance and job satisfaction. After World War II, a major emphasis was on using appraisals to select outstanding employees for training as managers. All of these continue to b e important objectives of appraisal programs.

    However, a new look is developing, says Kelly. New stress is being placed on the use of appraisal interviews as two-way discussions between the employee and his supervisor. The supervisor doesn't merely a t t empt to pass detached judgment. H e discusses informally. T h e employee bas a chance to express his own. views. The atmosphere is one of mutual consultation.

    They discuss the job to be done, its relation to the over-all company effort. They discuss the factors affecting job performance. They discuss t he individual's work and possibly whether the employee is actually in the right job or not.

    The supervisor gets a better idea of how the employee sees his own job. Both have a chance to comment on how work performance can b e improved. Their discussion is on a mutual exploratory basis. From this, not only can the company benefit but the employee himself can achieve greater job satisfaction.

    Heart-to-heart talks once a year are, of course, not t h e full answer, says Kelly. Obviously, there is no substitute for continuing opportunities at all times for employees a n d supervisors to discuss their mutual problems.

    Know t h e Objec t ives . The first step for any company setting up a job appraisal program is to define the company's basic objectives, emphasizes Ernest Dale of Cornell's graduate school of business administration. These aims should also b e made perfectly clear to t h e employees.

    Periodic attempts to evaluate employee initiative, enthusiasm, imagina

    tion, professional skill, and scores of other factors can be immensely difficult, says Dale. Sometimes, they can even b e dangerous. Furthermore, in today's era of team research, it is especially difficult to determine the specific contributions of the individual. His achievements may be too dependent upon the efforts of others.

    A possible yardstick in judging job performance, he says, is the individual's "span of discretion." This is the length of time that h e can work effectively without being supervised and without reporting to his superiors. In any system of job evaluation, Dale emphasizes, there must always be a direct link between performance and compensation.

    Pay Standard Needed Devise more realistic standards and

    policies in salary administration to keep pace with industrial progress, says R. E . Hollerbach, Parke-Davis research personnel director.

    He told the American Management Association's fall conference on personnel that many standard salary administration techniques have failed to do this and points to how his firm seeks to right the situation. Parke-Davis adjusts salaries of its professional employees each spr ing to compensate for the steadily mounting starting pay offered new technical people coming out of college. This does much to keep "career chemists" at Parke-Davis contented and productive, Hollerbach says.

    Starting salary range for new graduates is set by the firm's sa'lary review board each winter. Initial pay scales for 1958's college crop may climb 5 to 107c, trends today show. If they do, Parke-Davis will see tha t its "old" professional workers' pay is adjusted appropriately.

    One troublesome area for salary administrators i s in the clerical salary field. Here i t is difficult, Hollerbach declares, to set wages because clerical responsibilities are often rather vague. On the other h an d , production-line jobs have definite job descriptions, making it easier t o fix production workers' pay .

    " ^r American bus inesses need to develop new products if they are to grow, Armstrong Cork executives say. They told the general sales meeting of t h e insulation division, Oct. 3 and 4, tha t new products , as long as they remain specialties, have a wider profit margin than they have when they ultimately become staple items.

    4 4 C & E N O C T . 21, 1957

    MANAGEMENTAre Appraisals Really Any Good?Pay Standard Needed