HR 4.0

HR can help in assessing employees objectively

April 11, 2022 - 5 minutes reading time
Article by Marcel De Dood

Managers evaluate their employees annually and try to do so objectively. Objective means that the manager relies only on facts, without letting his/her own opinion, thoughts or feelings play a part. But it is precisely the effective, fast-talking manager who has a strong opinion and dares to let his/her feelings play a part. How can HR help to ensure that employees receive a fairer appraisal that is not too dependent on the manager's opinion?

Time, location, attention and need

It is an utopia to think that people perceive objectively. Practical issues such as time and location play a role. If an employee works from home or a different location than the manager on a daily basis, it is extra difficult to see, hear and feel how an employee operates. Attention is also important in perception. If we do not pay attention to a subject, we do not perceive it. During a good movie on TV, it is even less noticeable if your partner has been to the hairdresser. The same principle applies to employees. If the manager is busy doing all kinds of things, the employee who does not ask for attention will not be noticed. A person's needs also play a big role in perception. Just as someone who is hungry sees food everywhere, the manager whose department needs to become more customer-oriented will pay particular attention to the employees who share good examples of this.

Self fulfilling prophecy

We interpret the observations we make in different ways, even explaining facts differently. After the first impression, we mostly perceive facts that confirm the first impression. It is rare that we drastically adjust that image. On top of that comes the halo effect, which ensures that when certain qualities are present we quickly think that other qualities are also present. Both effects are further strengthened by the self fulfilling prophecy. We approach the employee about whom we think positively, with confidence in a good outcome, so that this will also happen much more quickly.

There's no accounting for taste

With these limitations of our perceptions and interpretations, it is not surprising that a new manager will regularly come to completely different perceptions of the quality of employees. We cannot eliminate these differences; we must accept how the human brain works. Just as we accept that there is no accounting for taste. Because no matter how objectively we try to observe, one manager likes Brussels sprouts and another does not.

HR’s role

Assessing performance and potential is hugely important to employees. Their salary and chances of promotion depend on it, and poor assessments can even lead to dismissal. For the organization, promotions of the wrong talents, non-market salaries or unjustified dismissals also have a lot of impact. It is HR's role to mitigate those risks. The following tips can help:

Increase the number of assessors

  • Periodically discussing the performance and potential estimates of a group of employees with a broad team also brings other impressions about the employee into the assessment.
  • The number of assessors can also be increased by using a 360-degree feedback system as standard. The manager's judgment can be contrasted with the view of others who know the employee's performance.

Work with facts and tools

  • A lot of data is collected on employee performance, but it is often not included in the appraisal form. How do customers score the completed projects of the project manager to be evaluated? What is the average handling time of telephone calls of the service employee? What is the sales turnover of the account manager? Use this, but also realize that there is much you don't know and that it takes large populations and measurements to get reliable scores. The better project managers lead the more challenging projects, so scores are more likely to be lower. In addition, most companies are not like a football team, where players wear GPS transmitters on their backs to analyze all the meters they run. What's more, for reasons of privacy, less and less can be registered about the employee.
  • In job interviews, the potential of employees is increasingly determined with game-based assessments. Based on someone's results in the game, you get an objective and scientifically validated insight into the personality characteristics and capabilities of the candidate. These assessments and other assessment tools can of course also be used with employees who have been characterized as high potentials in the organization.

Encourage job rotation

  • The shelf life of managers is estimated to be up to seven years. If you haven't realized all the goals in that period, it's time for someone else to try. If they have been realized, it is time to add value elsewhere. The same goes for employees. A new environment helps with employee development and vitality. By encouraging job rotation in the organization, manager-employee relationships will not often last longer than three years. Employees who were always very well evaluated will receive new feedback or the same in a different way. This can be an incentive to continue growing. And employees who were always at the lower end of the scale will be given new opportunities.

Conclusion? A 100% objective assessment is not possible. However, as HR you can limit the risks of promoting the wrong talents, non-market compliant salaries and unjustified dismissals. This way you create a working environment in which your employees can face their assessment with confidence.

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