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Creating a performance appraisal system (PA) is a multi-step process where accuracy is the key component.

Creating a performance appraisal system (PA) is a multi-step process where accuracy is the key component. Defining the expected work behaviors, gathering performance information, and identifying the appropriate scales and rating formats for assessing these work behaviors must all be accurate to ensure a fair and legal PA system. Given the complexity of developing a quality PA system, this tip (#5) will provide information on the first step of the process – developing quality performance criteria and measures.

Quality performance criteria are the foundation of any PA system. These criteria, which are the work behaviors or outcomes by which job performance is measured, help to establish the definition of acceptable job performance.

Identification of key performance criteria should take place after reviewing a current job analysis for each position of interest (the job analysis process will be discussed in an upcoming tip). When examining the job analysis, you will most likely see a list of tasks that are completed by the employee. These task statements are an excellent source of information for identifying work behaviors and outcomes of lower level positions within the organization. Focusing your PA system on these task behaviors may be too limiting for upper level positions however. For example, the higher the position within an organization, the less visible output there is to measure. Therefore, the criteria for such positions will need to focus on other types of contributions such as contributions made during brainstorming sessions. The key here is to make sure that you identify the behavior linked to accomplishing a specific job task as listed in the job analysis.

When developing your appraisal criteria, there are 4 factors to consider. Criteria should be (1) objective rather than subjective. They should be (2) based on actual, observable behaviors rather than traits and (3) be within the control of the employee being assessed (ratee). Finally, (4) the PA criteria should be related to specific job functions not global assessments of performance.

Once you have identified the important criteria for each job, measures of performance can be developed. The reliability and timing of the measures are important components to consider. As a reminder, reliability deals with consistency. More specifically, it is important that the measures produce similar results over time (assuming there is no reason to expect a change) and that all raters use the measure in the same manner (e.g., same scoring method, same frame of reference, etc.). Understanding the timing of the process is also a key issue. More specifically, you must decide when to gather criterion information. For example, it is probably not an ideal time to gather performance information when a hard deadline is approaching and all workers are engrossed in completing a task. In this case it would be better to wait until the deadline has passed to take an employee away from their work to complete a PA.

In conclusion, accuracy is key in the development of criteria and performance measures. In this time of economic uncertainty, accuracy is only possible if you remain flexible. Jobs are changing and consequently the definition of performance may change as well. Therefore, accuracy must be paired with flexibility.

The next tip on performance appraisal will continue describing the development of a quality PA system. Therefore, the various types of rating scales available for use in a PA system will be presented.