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Employment Law Blog

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Using Automation to Make Your Performance Evaluations Fairer and More Consistent

Employees and even managers often complain that their company’s performance evaluation process is inconsistent and unfair. Performance ratings are subjective, employee goals are unclear, competencies have little connection to the actual job, training opportunities are not available to all, etc.  As a result, many employees and managers either disengage or opt out of the process altogether, further compounding the problem.

Since performance evaluations are administered by people, it’s impossible to completely remove the subjectivity or even prejudice from your performance management processes. However, automating them can go a long way to making them fairer, more consistent, and ultimately more effective. Here are some of the ways automation can help:

Consistent Definitions of Competencies and Performance

Competencies are also sometimes called behaviors, values, skills, or performance standards, etc. They should really form the cornerstone of your performance evaluation process, and should be used to:

• help you evaluate “how” as well as “what” the employee accomplished
• identify the skills your organization needs to cultivate
• underpin your employee development programs to ensure they align with corporate goals

Most organizations have a list of the competencies that are important to their business. But they often lack consistent definitions of each competency, detailed descriptions of the various levels of performance, and a list of learning activities designed to help develop these competencies. And more importantly, they usually have no way of ensuring that their competencies are used and applied in a consistent way. With a manual or paper based process, it’s easy for managers create their own competencies or definitions, and modify their performance evaluation forms at will.

By automating your performance evaluation process and forms, you ensure that your competencies, and their definitions and behavioral descriptions are housed in one centralized library. Only authorized system administrators can add, change or remove competencies from the library. In so doing, you improve everyone’s access to competencies, but more importantly, you ensure a shared, consistent definition and understanding of performance. Because your performance evaluation forms are also automated, you can ensure that they only use competency content from the library, and can only be changed by an authorized system administrator. Now, you can be sure that your managers and employees are working from a common, consistent definition of performance.

Consistent Processes

Another common complaint raised by employees is the lack of consistency in the way performance evaluation processes are administered and applied. For example, with a manual or paper-based process, it’s virtually impossible to ensure that 100% of your employees receive an annual performance evaluation, on time or at all. Managers may use their “creativity” in completing forms, and add/remove/modify sections or rating scales at will. You may also find different approval processes in use in different parts of the organization. All of these inconsistencies allow subjectivity and possible human prejudice to color the way employees are evaluated and developed, which can also have an impact on how they are rewarded and promoted.

Automating your process allows you to :

• Define your process workflow (the steps and order in which they’re completed, who’s responsible for completing each step, and the due dates)
• Define required approvals, forms, rating scales,
• Apply (and enforce) these across the organization in a fair and consistent way.

While it’s important to have the flexibility to accommodate the special requirements of particular groups of employees, the decision to accommodate specific needs should be made at the organizational level, not at the individual level. Automating your processes and forms allows you to ensure they’re used in a fairer, more consistent manner.

Clear and Consistent Performance Requirements

Every job in your company should have clear performance requirements. Every employee’s performance evaluation form should clearly outline their job responsibilities, and the competencies and goals they will be assessed on.

Automating your performance management process allows you to ensure that clear and consistent performance requirements are set for every employee. By including the competencies and goals they will be assessed on in their performance evaluation form, or by running separate competency assessment and goal setting processes, you ensure that performance requirements are communicated.

In addition, automating your processes also allows you to track the exact status of all these activities, so HR and leaders can immediately see if an employee has not been given clear performance requirements, and take appropriate action.

Improving Access to Information

Automated performance management systems typically give employees one centralized place to access:

• Their goals
• The competencies on which they will be assessed.
• The development activities assigned to them or available to them
• Their past performance appraisals
• The organization’s higher level goals
• Etc.

By automating your performance management process, you improve employees’ access to information and drive a measure of accountability and transparency throughout the organization. 

You also give managers easy access to this information for all their employees. Having all this data at their fingertips helps them to be fairer and more consistent in their performance management practices.

Ability to Easily Aggregate Data and Spot Exceptions

Automating your performance management process gives you another powerful tool for identifying and addressing inconsistent or unfair management practices. By allowing you to easily and efficiently aggregate and compare the data from your processes, you can quickly spot trends or irregular practices and investigate their cause. For example, you can easily identify a manager who typically assigns all or some of their employees higher or lower performance ratings than most others. When the data from your performance management process reveals exceptions, leaders or HR can take appropriate action to restore fairness and consistency.


Because they allow you to drive consistency in performance expectations, job requirements, processes, forms, and rating scales, and make inconsistencies easier to spot, automated performance management systems allow you to overcome some of the subjectivity and human prejudice that plague people management practices and ensure all employees are supported in their performance and development.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of performance evaluation software. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen blog.

Posted by Patrick Della Valle on 02/08 at 10:19 AM
Human Resources
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