Performance Appraisals and the Relational Coordination Model: An Improvement Strategy
The performance appraisal process is one of predominant study, as its results present significant insight to the health and prosperity of an organization. Although this process is one of importance, shortfalls stemming from employee, managerial, and organizational levels have compromised the opportunity for improved efficiency and effectiveness made possible through properly appraising employee performance. This paper will outline the improvement opportunities possible through the integration of Gittell’s relational coordination model (RCM) and performance appraisal process (PAP) to form PARCM, or the performance appraisal relational coordination mode. The application of this concept offers organizational benefits through the unification of concepts to foster shared goals and knowledge, mutual respect, relationships between supervisors and employees, and multi-directional communication for heightening organizational prosperity.
Keywords: performance appraisal, relational coordination, communication, relationship
Performance Appraisals and the Relational Coordination Model: An Improvement Strategy
The success of any organization is contingent on the performance of the staff that composes it. Employee performance, measured through the correlation of individual accomplishments and organizational objectives, is often the pinnacle by which an organization can set itself apart and pioneer methodologies for heightening profitability. With the continued focus of industries both public and private centering on the ability to remain relevant yet innovative to the consumer, leadership must ensure that the internal dynamics are conducive to optimal productivity. This determination is achieved through application of the performance appraisal process. While continued studies capture the inability for managers and employees to harness the value of evaluation methods, further study must unveil the root of performance appraisal issues and offer a corrective measure that accommodates those involved in the process.
The origin of performance appraisals centered around the need to improve work methods, productivity, and quality due to consumer demands during the Industrial Revolution. With this economic boom, author and philosopher Adam Smith pioneered the theory to divide tasks by specialization to allow for greater dexterity, time conservation, and quantity of goods produced (Peaucelle, 2012). Shifts in management styles continued to emerge with societal changes throughout the 1940’s, where focus transitioned from taskmasters to leaders (“Performance Appraisal,” 2015). This transition created an organization led by facilitators and counselors that served to develop employees rather than direct simple tasks. The continuing evolution of performance appraisals resulted in concepts such as “Management By Objectives (MBO)” or “performance management.” Both concepts suggested collaboration among supervisors and employees to achieve results, however the success in this feat has suffered significantly.
Performance appraisal processes, herein referred to as PAP, allow multiple opportunities for optimal employee and organizational functionality. Through the gauging of employee productivity, efficiency, and understanding of organizational mission, supervisors can establish benchmarks for improvement. The establishment of these guidelines can serve as a proverbial road map for employees to guide desired behaviors, as well as offering a starting point by which supervisors can monitor changes in performance. The clear articulation of these expectations between supervisor and employees can facilitate open communication channels that heighten clarity and understanding, with a better quality product as a result. Employees involved in the development of expectations, roles, and responsibilities reflected in performance appraisals invoke feelings of empowerment that positively impact performance. Collectively, these benefits resulting from PAP define organizational culture.
Many scholars have captured the seriousness of the PAP as it relates to organizational health and prosperity from both employee and supervisory roles. Supervisors, expected to be familiar with the established protocol and expectations for completing performance appraisals, aimlessly complete evaluations on their employees that offer no true guidance to their employees. Ambiguous or unattainable goals are often captured as objectives for employees, resulting in employee confusion and carelessness. The opportunity to express any dissatisfaction with employee behavior or productivity is also neglected, as supervisors fear the results that may transcend from these conversations. Rather, vague comments of employee performance or accountability are captured that fail the employee, supervisor, and organization. Albeit the discussions that extend from the PAP may stir feelings of discomfort or contention, the success of performance appraisals rests on a foundation core principles of honesty, communication, and respect. The absence of these core values in the construction of any performance appraisal offer nothing to the development of the employee or organization.
With a baseline understanding of the issues associated with PAP, how can its functionality be improved? What adjustments can be made to the existing process (Appendix A) to foster a more collaborative environment that facilitates results? In analyzing the process flow for a standard performance appraisal against its shortcomings as cited by scholars, it has been determined that the integration of Gittell’s relational coordination model (RCM) into the PAP can ensure optimal construction of a performance appraisal. Through a merger of concepts contained in both the PAP (Appendix A) and RCM (Appendix B), the application of the Performance Appraisal Relational Coordination Model (PARCM) controls for the core principles of honesty, communication, and respect. The progression of the Maslow-like PARCM diagram highlights three fundamental yet interdependent concepts (relational, accountable, and deliverable) must be satisfied to achieve optimal results.
Relational Coordination Model. Gittell’s creation of the relational coordination model conceptualized the mutually reinforcing dynamics of shared goals, knowledge, and respect on frequent and timely communication and problem solving to foster an environment of optimum performance. While her framework has been applied in various organizations such as healthcare or transportation, its relevance and applicability to the performance appraisal process is justified through the likeness of overarching themes and desired results. The evidence as seen through scholarly studies conducted by Gittell in regards to application of RCM to flight departure performance (2015) as well as patient care in nursing homes (2008) further established the credibility of this model for performance improvement.
The fundamental composition of Gittell’s RCM highlighted the importance of two main themes that determine the strength and quality of team performance: relationships and communication (“Relational Coordination Measures…,” 2017). Through the proper application of these concepts with consideration of their subcomponents of respect, timeliness, frequency, accuracy, and collaborative atmosphere, processes and products and/or services have made significant improvements. The application of her method throughout 18 countries and 72 different scholarly studies depicts the impact of this method on various organizations worldwide.
While Gittell’s method captures the main concepts for RCM, the definitions that coincide with them are absent. Gittell’s work commenced recently and continues to evolve, leaving studies that challenge her methodology and the overall success of this model limited. However, as the concepts contained within RCM (i.e. relationships, communication) have received ample scholarly attention in the last decade, we will examine existing studies capturing their impact on organizational success. This linkage will allow us to draw conclusions regarding the success of Gittell’s model and highlight any shortcomings of the RCM.
The RCM is driven by successful relationships and communication. Through proper application of these objectives, supervisors and employees can collectively engage in the appraisal process with a sense of value and positivity. The strength of these relationships, however, strongly impacts the success of the evaluation session. Perceived levels of trust and commitment jeopardize the level of cooperation and performance from both a supervisory and employee standpoint (Hausman, 2001). Stringer (2006) further theorizes on this concept through correlating job satisfaction with quality of supervisory-employee relationships, citing similar feelings of trust, optimism, and motivation as catalysts. It is difficult to disprove the importance of positive relationships on individual or organizational success, as this concept has been justified through analysis and field research. However, the development of positive relationships prior to the application of the RCM may be necessary. It cannot be expected that supervisory-employee relations prior to the utilization of the RCM are optimal. The failure to ensure neutrality on either account (supervisory, employee) can impact levels of involvement, reception of proposals, and intent to comply with the established expectations.
The communication channels that transfer information between supervisor and staff members impact Gittell’s model. Communication contains several aspects such as direction, application or method of delivery, clarity, and understanding. Each of these subcomponents collectively determines the effectiveness of communication within an organization. As organizations continue to diversify with cultural shifts and outsourcing, it is prudent that communication methods be examined to ensure delivery and receipt of the intended message. Gittell’s focus on the varying factors impacting communication approach or delivery is limited. The RCM focuses less on the conveyance and more on the frequency and accuracy of communication. The absence of these underlying communication hazards such as delivery, inflection, word choice, and nonverbal cues can thwart the intended results of the appraisal discussion and tarnish the supervisor-employee relationship.
Performance Appraisal Process. The basic composition of any performance appraisal process includes the analysis of individual performance against an expressed job description to assess the success of a particular employee. Organizations inherently vary and thereby have differentiating approaches for their preferred method of appraisals, overarching themes remain consistent. Those serving in supervisory roles are expected to clearly communicate objectives for employees to strive towards throughout the rating period, encouraging their growth and value towards the organization. This expectation often falls short, justifying scholarly support to terminate their usage.
Longenecker and Nykodym, among other scholars, concluded these PAP pitfalls through the administering of surveys to support their claims. These surveys, administered to a single organization in the United States, capture similar themes to existing PAP studies citing issues with employee input, clarification of performance and organizational objectives, and the ability of the appraisal to facilitate discussions for employee development (1996). Although their research may be questionable due to the limited scope, the results are apparent in their impact to the success of the PAP. Furthermore, existing studies in relation to performance appraisals capture wider dissemination of surveys to countries such as Korea that support Longenecker and Nykodym’s claims.
Park (2014) highlighted the importance of appraisals from a worldwide perspective, surveying both United States and Korea for a cultural consideration. Performance appraisals today are predominately used as an incentive tool to improve results through awards. Although this concept is one of debate, Park provided data that supports the use of a reward system to incentivize supervisors to properly and promptly construct performance appraisals. Through the measurement of Korean incentive systems against U.S. administrative requirements, metrics captured the willingness of Korean supervisors to cite poor performers (when appropriate) to receive personal awards. This measure allows for organizations to rid their ranks of substandard performers and also attract more qualified candidates to the agency, heightening organizational performance. Park’s data proves that proper citation of performance can positively impact the organization productivity and profitability, with consideration that cultural norms may impact this study.
Grote provided research that included the PAP as seen within the public service, specifically the Air Force, where trends of consistent stellar evaluations obviously lacked accuracy (2000). This issue, presumably stemming from management’s fear of properly counseling poor performers, fails to hold those substandard performers accountable for their actions while also hindering the ability to highlight achievers. Although Grote highlights the ability of this specific public organization to assert corrective action through position description adjustments and establishing new benchmarks for their employees to strive for, it leaves scholars curious of the means by which similar organizations with similar evaluation trends intend to resolve this issue.
For many scholars, the ability to resolve performance appraisal issues is unattainable. Gray (2002) unequivocally promoted the discontinuation of performance appraisals due to their intent to manipulate human behavior through monetary awards. “Performance appraisals don’t produce more competent, loyal workers because the practice is inherently flawed” (Gray, 2002, p. 16). These flaws, extending predominately from the inability of management to remain unbiased when constructing appraisals, lies at the heart of Gray’s claim. Although Gray’s statement pertaining to managerial honesty via performance appraisals is accurate, it can be assumed through previous studies such as those conducted by Parks that this problem can be resolved without abolishing the process entirely.
Further studies mimic that of Gray, capturing the harm to employee self-esteem or morale, contradictive to organizational values, or are confrontational in nature (Juncaj, 2002; Lefton, 1985). These claims are contradictive in nature, where employees contest equivalent evaluations across organizations yet fear honesty associated with their performance. The use of performance appraisals are intended to allow supervisory and employee dialogue to resolve any questions or concerns stemming from performance in a positive, open fashion. The escalation of these conversations to a confrontational level, be it managerial or employee, unveils extenuating psychological or sociological issues that may require counselor presence to ensure both parties are communicating in a healthy manner.
Performance management and employee performance. The involvement of management in appraisal construction and supervision overall significantly impacts the performance of an employee. Whereas transactional leadership models exude a more domineering and micromanagement fashion that results in employee suffocation, transformational leadership can thrust results from a performance standpoint through feelings of employee empowerment, opportunity, and trust (Hamstra, Van Yperen, Wisse, & Sassenberg, 2014). While the Hamstra et al. research has been substantiated by many other scholars, it should be assumed that personality and preference differentiation among employees may result in employees functioning at a higher level under transactional leadership methods. These results are typically an anomaly, where transformational attributes remain the predominately preferred and most beneficial to organizational development in regards to promotion or encouragement strategies (Hamstra, Van Yperen, Wisse, & Sassenberg, 2014). Further studies capture the positivity of transformational leadership in regards to creativity, promotion of ethical climate, moral courage, positive decision making skills, and the enhancement of follower moral identity (Jung, 2001; Zhu, Riggio, Avolio, & Sosik, 2011).
As performance appraisals rest at the heart of performance management, it is crucial to examine the pivotal aspects of employee engagement as they relate to the construction of appraisals and their contributions to the organization. It has been mentioned previously that the level of involvement throughout the PAP from an employee standpoint is lacking, be it through managerial fear to counsel employees or the lacking familiarity of expected communication between management and employees upon constructing the performance appraisal. Rich, Lepine, and Crawford (2010) discovered the value of employee engagement in relation to organizational support, task performance, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Employee engagement, be it through performance appraisals or added input for process improvement, conveys a sense of importance and value to the organization. As those serving at managerial levels are often sought for ideas or suggested improvements, the consideration of employee feedback evokes a sense of responsibility and importance to the organization. These feelings result in greater commitment to the organization and desire to continue contributing to organizational improvement.
Anitha (2014) presented similar findings that determined the impact of employee engagement in organizational success, expounding on the concepts of Rich et al. The analysis stemming from organization performance was contingent on the level of engagement of each employee, which was broken down into three distinct categories: engaged employees, not engaged employees, and actively disengaged employees. Administered surveys resulted in a positive correlation between employee engagement and organizational success. Although these results may have been expected, their discussion further justifies the need for management to facilitate discussion and engage employees within their organization, specifically through the use of performance appraisals. “The company has to invest in building a harmonious environment that will produce an environment conducive for good team and co-worker relationship, effective leadership, training and career development and attractive compensation programmes” (Anitha, 2014, p. 320).
It is understood that cultural and technological evolution has impacted the relevancy of the performance process in organizations. However, any process should be considered a living concept that undergoes changes with the population it supports. Ample research captures the strengths and weaknesses of the existing process, with metrics to support the necessary changes. As unveiled through this literature review, interpretation of the current performance appraisal process suffers in the following categories:
These core issues, as expressed via survey and various methods of data analysis conducted by scholars, have contributed to the degradation of performance appraisals. However, the correlation of these themes against the dimensions of relational coordination warrants examination. Gittell’s RCM compliments the attributes of the performance appraisal process. Through the integration of the concepts contained within performance appraisals and the relational coordination model, management and employees can collaboratively establish baseline objectives that coincide with organizational missions that will facilitate greater performance and improve organizational culture.
This study relied solely on preexisting data collected by Longenecker and Nykodym (1996) that examined the efficacy of existing performance appraisal processes (PAP). Through consolidation of these capturing both managerial and employee perspective, common problems associated with PAP were herein examined through analysis to assess their relevancy to the relational coordination model (RCM). This chapter will discuss the correlation of concepts and metrics that support the consolidation of PAP and RCM into a unified process referred to as PARCM, or the performance appraisal relational coordination model.
The concepts contained within Gittell’s RCM and a standard performance appraisal process map were analyzed individually and collectively to assess the improvement against aforementioned PAP shortfalls. Through this analysis, it will be explained how the core concepts presented in both processes can be integrated to develop a single process. While no previously existing research captures the success of unifying these processes, it will be ascertained through contributions of each dimension how the inclusion of RCM to PAP can offer greater benefits to employees, supervisors, and organizations.
The completion of this essay will examine the core dimensions of RCM against the performance appraisal process to exemplify relationships in concepts. Longenecker and Nykodym’s survey results in conjunction with corollary justification will be presented to capture the true contribution of RCM to the PAP process. The core dimensions of Gittell’s RCM to be observed through this study are:
- Relationships: the quality of relationships between supervisors and employees throughout the performance appraisal process.
- Shared goals: the likeness of goals shared by employee, management, and potentially the organization.
- Shared knowledge: the familiarity of management to the job performed by the appraised employee.
- Mutual respect: the level of respect held between management and employee.
- Communication: the ability for management and employees to share information openly and honestly in a positive way.
- Frequency: the rate of communication occurrence between management and employee.
- Timely: the promptness of conversations held between management and employee.
- Accurate: the level of information correctness shared between management and employee.
- Problem-solving: the ability to resolve problems internal or external to work group.
Relationships. One of the two central themes of Gittell’s RCM focuses on the strength of relationships among involved parties. The development of these relationships is contingent on subcomponents of shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect. In this study, the two considered parties are management and employees within any organization amid the PAP. The perception of each involved party impacts the success of the RCM during the appraisal as well as the performance of the organization.
Employee-manager perceptions are often established through observation of activities. Employees who perceive managers in a positive fashion through empathetic actions, trust, and positive morale character may regard them in as a leader and mentor. Conversely, employees witnessing poor judgment, lackadaisical attitude, or carelessness of management may develop feelings of resentment towards them. These concepts can be applied from the perspective of both management and employee perspectives.
Shared goals. Each organization and individual aspires to achieve specific objectives for improvement and marketability. From an organizational standpoint, mission sets and objectives are established that drive performance, profitability, and growth. Employees may retain goals that compliment that intentions of their organization, but often hold self-serving goals that allow them to progress for greater responsibility and monetary means via promotion. As managers are expected to develop employees to continue upward mobility through the organization, the expression of shared goals among managers and employees can aid in this process. Employees who desire to aspire to managerial roles will regard the suggested goals of their manager highly and strive for success. Employees who remain content within their current position must be motivated to achieve organizational goals through other means, such as incentives or recognition. It must be acknowledged that reasonable goal setting be considered so as to motivate employees without creating feelings of discouragement.
Shared knowledge. With management and employees serving organizations at different levels, the breadth and depth of knowledge regarding specific topics varies. Management often holds greater familiarity with aspects of human resources, policies, protocol, and strategic-level initiatives sought by the organization. Employees, performing more centralized functions, retain greater knowledge to their specific process and how it contributes to the organizational mission. While it is not expected for management to hold the level of depth that employees do, their familiarity with each employee’s function and the expectations that result from it are prudent to proper construction of the performance appraisal.
Shared knowledge remains one of individual preference, compromising the ability for the receiving party to coerce the refuting party to behave in the desired fashion. However, the underlying factors that influence an individual’s desire to share knowledge can be swayed through increased job satisfaction, levels of involvement, and organizational commitment (Pei-Lee & Sun, 2012). As employees achieve greater levels of happiness within their organization, their willingness to contribute to the health and development of the organization increases.
Mutual respect. In conjunction with incentivizing performance, it is suggested that employers can pay their employees in respect (Ellingsen & Johannesson, 2007). This respect, seen through employer attention, recognition, appreciation, and trust, conveys to employees the respect their organization holds for their performance. As a result, employees will continue to strive to meet or exceed expectations. Many organizations may have restricted funding that limits the opportunity to provide monetary awards for achievements, however the opportunity for recognition among peers demands no financial obligation.
Respect can be displayed towards employees through the following avenues:
- Recognize employee actions and welcome freedom to exercise judgment
- Solicit, listen to, and enact employee suggestions for organizational improvement
- Encourage innovation and development of new ideas
- Provide feedback and coaching for improved performance
- Facilitate inclusion of employees
- Remain open to new ideas, diverse perspectives, and work styles
- Encourage discussion of ideas without fear of adverse action
- Properly and promptly address employee complaints (“Respect and Retention Related,” 2006).
Communication. Communication in any organization transfers two ways: top-down, and bottom-up. While information is often transferred with ease from senior executives down to line managers and employees, the upward transfer of information is often lacking (Keefe, 2004). These issues may stem from lacking managerial involvement or consideration of employee input to the organization’s development or employee fear of being ignored or embarrassed.
As discovered through previous RCM dimensions, employee engagement is a crucial element to the success of any organization. The dimension of communication in particular can hinder the development of its relationship counterpart and compromise the success of the RCM. Managers must understand the method of communication preferred by each employee for optimal sharing of ideas.
Frequency. The frequency in which communication is held between management and employees impacts the effectiveness of development and performance appraisal construction. The expectation of frequent counseling sessions, be it formal or informal discussion, provides regularly occurring feedback to the employee for improvement, development, or informational purposes. Managerial neglect to frequently communicate with subordinates translates to a lack of interest in the employee’s role within the organization, carelessness towards the employee as an individual, and ill-concern with the development of the employee from a mentorship perspective. Frequency, as it relates to the development of manager-employee relationships, determines the strength of the relationship through a leader-member exchange theory (Kacmar, Zivnuska & Gully, 2003). As the frequency of communication increases, the employee opportunities vis a vie emotional support, resources, and assignments increase, which drives performance and motivation as a result. Converse effects occur with the lessening of communication.
Timely. Timeliness of communication revolves around the concept of ensuring information is communicated as it is received. Prompt conveyance of issues specifically aids in the prevention of escalating problems that may be detrimental to the function of an employee, as well as promote feelings of trust within manager-employee relationships (Sharma & Patterson, 1999). While feelings of angst, fear, or uncertainty may hinder the willingness of management to share information as it is disseminated, it is important to ensure that staff members remain aware of developments that impact their performance. This proactive approach allows for preemptive brainstorming of corrective measures to reduce timeline increases, employee stressors, and compromising the relationship between management and staff. Immediate dispersal of knowledge as it is received also reduces opportunity for rumor and speculation.
Accurate. The accuracy of performance cited on evaluations bears the greatest weight for employee opportunities. Accuracy, determined by the valid and reliable measurements that effectively discriminate between levels of performance (Twomey & Twomey, 1992), drives the credibility of the rater. Studies capture the cause of inaccurate performance appraisals stemming predominately from rater bias, halo effect, and unfamiliarity of the rater to the ratee functions or processes (Becker & Miller, 2002). As such, it is prudent that management familiarize themselves with the function of the employee to be assessed through the appraisal while maintaining a sense of neutrality regarding any personal (i.e. gender, religion, age, etc.) preferences.
Where performance appraisals serve to influence certain desired behaviors from the rated individual, citation of accurate performance data is necessary. The establishment of a baseline by which performance can be measured can mitigate opportunity for inaccuracy. This baseline must support the intentions of management, the department, and organization holistically. Consideration of multiple raters can offer reduced error rate through calculating composite scores to capture employee performance (Becker & Miller, 2002). The inclusion of multiple opinions, however, may delay processing of appraisals and increase opportunity for managerial contention.
Problem-solving. Problem-solving methodology is a basic concept that is applied subconsciously on a regular basis. Application of these fundamental steps to the PAP demands involvement of all RCM dimensions for optimal functionality:
- Establish goals
- Identify problems
- Identify constraints
- Identify alternatives
- Evaluate alternatives
- Select the best solution
- Create an implementation (Knippen & Green, 1997)
The similarity of these steps to the construction of a performance appraisal defends its relevance to any organization. As previously mentioned, performance appraisals exist to influence desired behaviors, or goals of the organization. Progression through the problem-solving steps facilitates communication among managers and employees to establish common goals and identify the means to achieve them through an implementation plan.
The consideration of preferred communication methods will influence the success of problem-solving techniques. Employees preferring a more oratory or participatory approach will voluntary share ideas and opportunities for personal development, requiring management to take a listening role in the process. Conversely, managers may appraise employees who take on an observer role that demands greater managerial involvement to stimulate conversation to make the process beneficial. Each role demands different skills of management, yet both are expected to stimulate brainstorming activity to improve results for effective problem-solving.
Longenecker and Nykodym (1996) consolidated PAP improvement needs from managerial and employee perspectives that impact the spectrum of RCM. Each of the aforementioned problem areas discussed by scholars (i.e. honesty, clarity, neutrality, involvement, expectations, and development) can be drawn from the survey results and linked to RCM dimensions for remediary action. No single PAP problem area correlated with a specific RCM dimension; rather, the collection of PAP problem areas impacted the RCM model as a whole.
Honesty. Managerial honesty regarding employee performance ranked among the top three employee-suggested improvements needed for quality performance appraisals (Longenecker & Nykodym, 1996). This issue centers on employee belief of satisfactory performance against expressed achievements or impairments conveyed by management. Managers remain liable for honest and truthful feedback regarding employee performance based on established baseline objectives and end goals. The shortfall of honesty within PAP, be it conscious or unconscious from a managerial perspective, impacts the value of the appraisal process.
It is often suspected that management regards particular employees on a personal level above others, with these personal relationships impacting appraisal results. Such bias in PAP construction resonated throughout the administered survey, as apparent through metrics provided in Appendix D. Alternative views from managerial roles claimed employee sensitivity and defensiveness (17%) resulting in management’s omission of truthful performance claims within performance appraisals. While both roles bear weight, their issues stem from underlying conditions that can be resolved through RCM inclusion.
Accuracy of communication impacts all aspects of RCM, from shared goals and knowledge to respect. Based on managerial feedback contained in the Longenecker and Nykodym (1996) survey, employees received performance feedback in a negative fashion, which potentially stemmed from delivery or the preexisting manager-employee relationship. Credibility and respect greatly impact employee perception of management. Managers who practice positive moral behaviors and exercise transparency are perceived as more honest individuals, lessening defensive behaviors upon discussion of performance expectations. The development of positive manager-employee relationships through collaboration, communication, and mutual respect can reduce personal opinion and foster a more honest and conducive appraisal environment.
Clarity. Proper clarification of expectations varied in respective roles within the survey administered by Longenecker and Nykodym (1996). Managers are expected to clarify the expectations of employees in relation to organizational mission and objectives. When such clarification is lacking, employees often flounder in their understanding of how to achieve these objectives and resort to achieving minimal standards. This psychological platform convinces employees that negative action will be limited as they continue to perform their day-to-day actions expected to maintain business practices. It can also contribute to the level of engagement observed by management, where employees unsure of managerial expectations may disengage from their role.
The goal sharing dimension of RCM offers the most significant opportunity for correcting clarification issues in the PAP. Through this collaborative atmosphere, two-way communication channels are facilitated that welcome questions of clarification for heightened understanding. Where open discussions are held to dialogue on expectations for the appraisal period, the strength of the manager-employee relationship may impact the likelihood of employees expressing any misinterpretation. It will further enhance employee satisfaction, as clearly articulated goals enhance the likelihood for them to be achieved and increase morale as a result (Irving & Montes, 2009). Should managers question the quality of relationship, it may be necessary to observe any nonverbal indicators eluding to employee comprehension. Such behaviors may include variance in delivered versus expected products, execution of objectives, or level of involvement to achieve mission.
Neutrality. Although the survey results captured neutrality among the lower quartile (12%) of needed improvements for performance appraisals, its reference in conjunction with existing scholarly studies warrants its discussion. The issue of neutrality centered predominately on the managerial role, where inclusion of personal bias is witnessed that skews PAP results. Rather than considering the duration of the rating period and the necessary improvements or accomplishments of the employee, managers often complete appraisals based on suspense and recall only recent activity of the rated individual. As human instinct resorts in recalling on negative actions first, performance appraisals are often a poor consolidation of the employee’s true performance throughout the rating period.
As a resolve, RCM encourages frequent, timely, and accurate exchange of information. The regular occurrence of counseling sessions throughout the year to capture achievements and development opportunities of the employee aid in the future construction of the PAP while strengthening the bond between managers and employees. The topics discussed within these sessions can be referred to for capturing expressed objectives at the beginning of the rating period, serving as baseline objectives by which to gauge performance. Managers can resort to these legacy files should employees challenge the quality of information included in their performance appraisal as well.
Managerial perspectives requested clarification of the intention of the PAP overall. It cannot be assumed that management lacked an understanding of what a performance appraisal was, rather what organizations expected the PAP to accomplish. Studies often capture performance appraisals as mechanisms that simply justify the incentivizing of particular employees. Although incentives are a result of positive performance appraisals, their organizational impact can be witnessed through retention rates, employee satisfaction, and performance.
Involvement. Multiple suggestions exemplified the limited involvement from both managerial and employee perspectives during the PAP. The level of involvement within performance appraisals or any other process occurring within an organization influences employee satisfaction rates, with a suspected delay in managerial satisfaction. The efforts put forth to further involve employees in activities should be executed when deemed applicable to the employee for insight or development. Excessive involvement may resort in overstimulation or stress that can have counterproductive results.
An increase in involvement can allow employees to gain human value, ownership, and a sense of responsibility (Amah & Ahiauzu, 2013). Feelings of ownership and responsibility can translate to enhanced productivity and attention to detail, as their product is a reflection of the organization. The inclusion of employees to the PAP can result in greater desire to achieve set goals, as the goals are constructed to capture both personal and professional desires that compliment organizational intentions. Engaging employees also serves management in the creation of goals that resonate with the individual. Management may be unaware of the desire for employees to achieve specific goals or develop particular skills. Open communication of these ideas through involvement can serve to resolve this issue, as depicted in RCM.
Expectations. Expectation results varied based on the role of the involved party within the PAP. Performance appraisals are commonly utilized to communicate the objectives of an organization for employees to strive toward fulfilling. These expectations are expected to correlate with organizational mission and processes completed by the appraised employee. As such, managerial understanding of the organizational mission is required to construct effective expectations that guide the employee’s development.
Longenecker and Nykodym’s metrics could stem from various paradigms within an organization. As previously stated, unclear mission statements compromise management’s ability to construct clear, concise expectations. For effective development, management must not only be able to articulate the expected performance of the employee but also establish how these performance measures aid in the success of the organization. Employee percentages pertaining to the clear conveyance of expectations, ongoing feedback, and two-way communication depict the lacking involvement of employees within the PAP. Comments regarding the need for further managerial training compliment this argument. The familiarity of management with the performed processes of employees can jeopardize the relevance of expectations. The expressed expectations may coincide with the mission of the organization, but lack applicability to the functions of the employee.
Dimensions of the RCM could alleviate issues of development, as the model hinders on concepts of relationships and communication. Expectations are communicated within the relationship portion as employees and managers share goals and knowledge. The relationship is then reinforced through frequent, honest, and timely communication. The utilization of RCM can facilitate regular conversation and relationship development that encourages the exchange of ideas and inclusion of employees to the PAP, allowing opportunities for expectation clarification and expression of concerns regarding relevance or feasibility.
Development. The focus of any performance appraisal centers on the ability to develop employee skills and behaviors. Such development is facilitated through communication of goals and knowledge between management and employees. As seen in the RCM, relationships depend on these two concepts to reinforce communication and improve performance and efficiency.
Employee development through additional responsibilities, training opportunities, and job shadowing can improve employee morale and drive performance. Management can also recommend personal development of skills that may improve behavioral aspects that are suffering, through community involvement or volunteer work. Although every employee may not aspire to move up within an organization, it is prudent that management discuss the goals of each particular employee to determine the best development strategy to aid in their success. The citation of these goals is recommended for inclusion in performance appraisals to show growth of the employee and enhanced value to the organization.
Limitations of Study
The analysis contained within this study was limited to the existence of data consolidated by scholars in regards to the aforementioned topics. The explicit requirement to utilize only external data in this study limited the opportunity for direct exposure or connection to results. The selection of Longenecker and Nykodym metrics provided a full spectrum of performance appraisal pitfalls from multiple perspectives of parties involved, though only considered the feedback of a single public organization in the Midwest United States. While these results do correlate with additional scholarly suggestions for PAP improvement, it can only be assumed that the metrics themselves are consistent through all public organizations.
The construction of PARCM allows for organizations to employ a method that considers each of the identified problems associated with performance appraisals. The examination of Longenecker and Nykodym’s metrics quantify the shortcomings of implemented appraisal processes in a specific organization that can be linked to a greater pool of both public and private firms. As the standard PAP depicts a single flow of information that offers no emphasis on development, honesty, or frequency, it is understood that the frustrations from both management and employees are just. The concept of performance appraisals should be considered a cyclical process that regularly involves communication and feedback to construct a living document that embodies the aspirations of the individual and the organization.
The development of PARCM considers the crucial aspects of performance appraisal against relational coordination dimensions that complement and remedy pronounced issues. From a conceptual standpoint, the construction of PARCM within a pyramid diagram expresses the progressional build of concepts upon one another for the appraisal process to be successful. Amid the base of PARCM lies the relational aspect of appraisals, capturing the importance of quality manager-employee relations to the impact of performance appraisals. The strength and positivity of the relationship upon commencement of an appraisal impact the communication of goals and performance objectives, receptiveness of both parties to suggested modifications, and intent to fulfill the expectations. Once a health relationship between management and employees is established that facilitates exchange of ideas, the appraisal can move forward to the next level of PARCM.
Accountability of employee performance pertains to the comparison of expectations to achievements throughout the rating period based on basic qualitative factors. Metrics that reflect the performance of an employee must satisfy essential qualitative elements of completeness, comparability, relevance, reliability, and timeliness. These characteristics ensure that the data used to measure employee performance can be substantiated against through various means, such as data reports, customer feedback, or audit logs. The ability to trace qualitative data cited on performance evaluations eliminates opportunity for dispute due to bias or prejudice. Quality metrics allow for management to truly evaluate the improvement, stagnation, or decline of performance as a neutral, definitive source. While data is subject to the accuracy of the system from which it is pulled, it is essential for management to ensure data accuracy prior to inclusion on a performance appraisal. This, however, should be considered through execution of the aforementioned qualitative metric requirements.
Tabulation of data allows for management to determine the level of achievement for each appraised employee, which is then used to construct feedback and quantify incentives. These incentives, including time-off awards or cash bonus, reward achievements of employees and coerce further career and organizational-enhancing activity. The pinnacle of PARCM rewards accomplishment of employees to celebrate their success and promote further ambition to excel. Deliverables are not exclusive to monetary awards; management may exercise the liberty to celebrate achievements of employees as appropriate (i.e. opportunity to study in other departments, promotion, additional benefit options, etc.).
Movement through PARCM is not restrictive; this is a fluid model that encourages a cyclical process where relational and accountable concepts allow inward and outward movement. As information regarding employee performance is determined, it may be necessary for management to discuss needed improvements proactively to prevent further decline or organizational detriment. Receipt of this information will require movement back into the relational level, where employees and management will reevaluate establish goals, clarify objectives, and provide suggestive remedies. As employees excel, management may assess the opportunity for deliverables to encourage further activity. Receipt of deliverables results in a return to the relational phase for the process to reinitiate.
As studies defined the issues with standard appraisal processes, PARCM serves as a resolve to the inherent issues of communication and relationships among managers and employees. The variability in PAP maps across organizations may consider the importance of RCM concepts currently, however based on scholarly research, their full utilization has been neglected. The consideration of organizational improvement and profitability, retention rates, and culture as cited throughout offer suggestion to the needed overhaul for those preexisting processes. The success of this model is contingent on the enforcement and execution from both management and employee roles.
Employees at any level of the organization are vital to its success. Proper expression of expectations through constructive, collaborative forums allow for managers and employees to develop innovative ideas that service employee development and foster organizational growth. As organizations divulge the issues associated with existing performance evaluation methods, reinvention of the concept through the inclusion of RCM expounds on the dependency of relational and accountable information to heighten appraisal satisfaction. External developments through communication, trust, and transparency possible through implementation of PARCM further compliment the opportunity for organizational prosperity. Managerial consideration to utilize PARCM over existing appraisal processes will offer greater return to the organization.
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Figure 4.7: The Performance Appraisal Process (Shawal, n.d.)
Alternative Dynamics of Relational Coordination (Gittell, 2015)
Table 2: Suggestions on Improving Public Sector Performance Appraisal Effectiveness (Longenecker & Nykodym, 1996)
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