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Organizational Consultation XXIX: Portfolio-Based Assessments

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I turn now to the final approach to performance appraisal. I have saved this for last, because it is by far the most appreciative of the approaches I have identified in this set of essays. The portfolio has been used for many years in the creative and performing arts. More recently it has been used in the evaluation of professional employees and high-level executives. This structured documentation process requires that both the supervisor and subordinate accept a set of categories that define the scope of an appraisal of the subordinate’s work.

These categories might relate to functions, competencies, objectives or goals. Once the categories are established, an employee is responsible for documenting his success in each area. Other people from inside and outside the organization might be included in the process to help establish the categories, review the documents or arbitrate disagreements between the employee and his supervisor. The group might be composed of subordinates, peers, colleagues who operate at the supervisor’s level, and even customers or members of the local community.

The Portfolio Process

I will describe the portfolio process in greater detail than is the case with the other methods being presented. I provide this more extensive description in large part because little has been formally written about this richly textured approach to performance appraisal. While the portfolio approach to performance appraisal may at first appear to be so detailed and even cumbersome as to be impossible of implementation; employees, it would seem, will be doing little else but collecting information for their portfolios. In practice, this has not been the case. As the process becomes a routine and as employees gain the experience and skills needed for effective documentation, portfolios have become a normal and accepted part of institutional life. For the most part, employees appear more than willing to invest their time in an evaluation process over which they have some control.

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