Great care must be taken in selecting or designing a performance appraisal procedure—otherwise, Coens and Jenkins will be proven right. Performance appraisal systems will have to be abolished! As Coen and Jenkins suggest, there is no performance appraisal system that is right for all organizations, let alone for all employees. Performance appraisal systems that have been created in one organization may be helpful as guides, but they must be modified to fit the unique norms and modes of operation of a particular organization.
That’s the bad news. There is no one right way to conduct performance appraisals. However, there is also some good news. Despite the need for individualized procedures, we don’t have to start from scratch. Several different performance appraisal strategies already have a proven track record: unstructured narration, unstructured documentation, structured narration, rating scales, intention-focused assessment, multi-source (360-Degree) assessment, and structured documentation (portfolio).
An appreciative performance appraisal system should incorporate most, if not all, of these methods. Employees should be encouraged to select an appraisal process that is most compatible with their own learning style, career stage, position in the organization, and reason for engaging in the performance appraisal process. I offer a brief description of several different approaches to performance appraisal.
This approach is the most informal, and probably the most commonly used, in the appraisal of an employee’s performance. It is often found in organizations that have never embraced a formal performance appraisal system or that have become disenchanted with more formal modes of appraisal. Typically, the unstructured narration is provided either by an employee’s boss or by someone who knows the employee and has been asked to write “a letter or recommendation.” The person who is preparing this narration is asked to summarize the activities or the achievements of the employee during a specific period of time.