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The training gap – getting appraisal back on track


In this feature article, Dr Clive Fletcher looks at why the appraisal process can appear so difficult, and explains why training those involved is so vital to the success of a scheme.

Why is it that appraisal is so tough to get right? All the surveys come back time and time again saying that many companies are dissatisfied with their performance appraisal schemes, and if you go to the people who have to make appraisals work – the line managers and the people they appraise – the response is often even less positive. In fact, an appreciable proportion of managers in a US survey said they would rather go to the dentist than carry out an appraisal!

Yet it clearly does not have to be like that – because there are organisations where appraisals work well and the staff get something positive from them. What’s the key to their success, then? Well, there are several factors, but one of the main ones is training – for both the appraisers and the appraisees. Of course, most organisations say they offer training to appraisers, but if you look at the percentage of managers who take up the offer, it is not that great. And as far as the appraisees are concerned, well they all too often just get sent a copy of the papers outlining what the appraisal scheme is, and that is their “training”!

To get an appraisal system to work effectively, both parties (appraiser and appraisee) need to be given training and to be helped to approach the appraisal interview session with a shared idea and expectations. The appraisees need to be given proper guidance on how to assess their own performance and prepare for the session (the research shows this is strongly associated with more productive appraisals), as well as how to handle themselves in it.

For the appraisers, part of the problem is that conventional training courses are often not conveniently timed for them to attend, or take a whole day or more. Then there is the embarrassment some of them feel about “performing” in role plays in front of peers – which makes them reluctant to attend. The more training delivery can be flexible, offering e-learning and other solutions to training needs to run alongside the traditional type of course, the more take-up there is likely to be.

The research on performance appraisal is clear – more training is associated with appraisals achieving greater success and increased satisfaction with the process by all the parties involved. Until they learn this lesson, organisations will continue to experience problems with their systems, which simply trying to re-jig them every two or three years will not solve!

About the author

Clive Fletcher is Managing Director of Personnel Assessment Ltd, Visiting Professor at Henley Management College and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. He is the author of the standard CIPD text on this subject (“Appraisal – Routes to Improved Performance”) and runs the CIPD “Psychology of Managing Performance” course. Professor Fletcher has developed the content for ’Performance Appraisal – Getting it Right!’ a new Skill Boosters e-learning package.


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