According to Jones and Bearly (Jones, 1996), performance assessment is the measurement of performance related variables and does not provide evaluation information; the transfer of behavior evaluation information is provided by feedback.
Now feedback is an interesting concept in that it applies to many fields of study. According to Webster’s (Anonymous, 2000), feedback is defined as “the return to the input of a part of the output of a machine, system, or process.” Webster’s goes on to use the following example: “… for producing changes…that improve performance or… that provide self-corrective action.”). While this definition applies to fields as diverse as electrical engineering and biology, it also applies to social science fields and to performance appraisals in particular.
For example, in an article by Adrian Furnham (Furnham, 2001), Mr. Furnham describes the use of dials, meters, and auditory signals as a way to provide feedback from an aircraft to an aircraft flight deck. He relates this to performance appraisal by saying that even though some human resource managers claim that what is most important in job performance cannot be measured, this is a profoundly incorrect position. He supports this argument by defining the 360-degree feedback process of evaluation and by illustrating its comprehensive nature, which is much like the aircraft example.
Other researchers bolster this viewpoint. For example, London states that feedback not only sustains effective performance, it also reduces ineffective performance (Mani, 2000). He also suggests that feedback can be used as a tool for changing self-perceptions.
Furthermore, in a study of government workers, Roberts and Reed (Roberts, 1996) found that feedback through the use of performance counseling sessions was effective but only when conducted by raters that used appraisal styles that emphasized participation and goal setting.
This need for a participatory style was echoed by a survey conducted by The Nierenberg Group (Cales, 2000) that found that less than half of the employees surveyed felt that their employers knew how to motivate them even though they knew the performance standards well.
Given the need for performance measurement, exactly how should the assessment process work? In an article by HRFocus (Anonymous, 2001), the steps in an effective feedback system were identified as:
- Clearly define the objectives
- Clearly define the roles and expectations of the participant, manager, and coach
- Verify that the competency model and instrumentation are researched, reliable, and valid
- All collateral materials are easy to use
- Results are clarified in the process
- Feedback is linked to participant’s development and tools
We can add that the evaluator must include the participant in the development process whereby they feel they have input and control over their development efforts.
The conclusion is that without feedback, the outputs of the process will not be controlled. It would be much like flying the aircraft without instruments. However, it is also noted that feedback alone is not adequate; the appraiser must facilitate a participative style so that the person evaluated feels part of the process and thereby properly motivated.
Anonymous. (2001). Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary [On-line]. Available at: http://www.m-w.com/home.htm
Anonymous. (April 2001). Look for more 360(degree) feedback in performance reviews in 2001. [On-line]. HRFocus. Abstract from: ProQuest.
Cales, Maritza. (March 2000). Performance feedback ineffective [On-line]. Management Review. Abstract from: ProQuest.
Furnham, Adrian. (April 16, 2001). Feedback by Degrees: Accurate performance appraisals are much more than a useful development tool. [Online]. Financial Times, 10. Abstract from: ProQuest.
Jones, John E. & Bearley, William L. (1996). 360(degree) feedback: Strategies, tactics, and techniques for developing leaders. Amherst: MA: HRD Press.
Mani, Bonnie. (2000). Job feedback: Giving, seeking, and using feedback for performance improvement [On-line]. [Review of the book Job feedback: Giving, seeking, and using feedback for performance improvement. Abstract from: ProQuest.
Roberts, Gary E. & Reed, Tammy. (1996). Performance appraisal participation, goal setting and feedback: The influence of supervisory style [On-line]. Review of Public Personnel Administration. Abstract from: ProQuest.