Finding the right people for the job is one challenge all managers and organizations share. While managers may have the ability to redesign or adjust jobs to fit the available people, the usual challenge is the reverse. Thus, a first important step in the recruitment, selection, and placement process is undertaking a job analysis. This helps ensure you know what the employee must know and do (job requirements) and under what circumstances. There are several common mistakes one can make in the recruitment phase, including: •Restricting the pool of qualified candidates by using a poor search strategy and/or approach. An example is exclusive reliance on either internal or external recruitment no matter the position or available candidates. Another is failing to include a good array of sources to ensure a strong “talent pool.”
•Writing a position description that does not match the job. This happens most frequently when there has been no careful analysis of the job and/or when there is no second level review of the analysis to help ensure accuracy. •Writing position postings/advertisements that are overly broad or are inappropriately restrictive. An example is when everything in a posting is “preferred” or everything is “required.” For those who are hiring managers the issue of whether to recruit/promote from within (internal recruiting) will likely be a familiar one. There are numerous advantages, including development of “career ladders” that help with employee retention. Simply put, a career ladder is one that plans and enables advancement up the levels of an organization. Internal recruiting can also help organizations preserve and protect critical knowledge, values, and practices. Transitions can be smoother, with less negative impact on productivity.
One thing organizations can and should do when wishing to leverage internal talent is to inventory the knowledge, skills, experiences, interests, and abilities of their employees. When the organization has the needed financial and technology resources, these can captured electronically in a knowledge management or human resource information system (HRIS). Performance appraisals, when done well, can also prove rich and useful sources of information about employee interests and potential. An exclusive reliance on internal recruiting has its potential disadvantages. One is that there may be no one in the organization who has the knowledge and skills for either new initiatives or those where there is no room for downtime or training. Another is that it may be difficult for the organization to refresh its talent pool and learn by recruiting those with diverse knowledge, experiences, abilities, and perspectives.
Selecting the best candidate for a position is both a critical management function and one that can be difficult. It is useful to begin by recognizing that there is no failsafe method of ensuring the right choice is made. Mistakes happen regularly and the consequences for all parties can be enormous. As Bohlander & Snell (2009, p. 254) report the average cost of a mismatch has been estimated at anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 for intermediate and senior positions. This is just the financial cost and does not consider the frequent emotional and even physical distress bad hiring decisions can have on the candidate, other employees, an organization and manager’s reputation, and beyond. As discussed in the section above, an important first step is to conduct a careful job analysis that provides as much information about what knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, preferences, etc. will lead to success.
Ensuring a good match between important organizational and candidate values is also a critical and sometimes forgotten factor. To illustrate this point, it is useful to envisage a candidate who is seeking an improved quality and balance in his/her personal life walking into an organization with “Whatever it takes!” posted strategically on the potential supervisor’s door. Cascio (2010) offers a good summary and discussion of the importance of ensuring reliability and validity of the information obtained during the selection and staffing process (see Chapter 7). The goal is to work to ensure sound and consistent judgments/results no matter the people, time, and/or tools used in the selection process. The risk in failing to attend to these concerns is not only a poor selection decision but also a possible legal challenge. You will find the overview on staffing and selection methods (Cascio, Chapter 7) and tools interesting and useful when preparing your week 5 assignment.
Those who work for small firms might be surprised by the array of tools and tests in current use. Some, like graphology (Cascio, p. 247), are not generally accepted by U.S. academic experts and others present sufficient problems (eg., polygraphs) they are either not used widely or are not viewed as reliable sources of information (eg., reference checks). Interviews remain an important selection method, with those that use a structured process viewed as most effective and appropriate. Those wanting a smile during your research and writing process should read the “Top Five Biggest Mistakes Candidates Make During Job Interviews.” And, of course, everyone will want to be sure to avoid illegal questions when conducting employment interviews. This resource serves as a useful reminder of what to avoid: http://employment.findlaw.com/employment/employment-employee-hiring/employment-employee-hiring-overview.html
Employee Performance Appraisal
Just these words can send a shiver down many if not most people’s spines! Even in modern organizations with well trained and resourced managers, it is safe to say that a large percentage do not like this part of their job and/or feel they do it poorly (on this, see Cascio citing Grensing-Pophal (2001) and Sandberg (2007)). One sad thing about this is that assessment and feedback are so important for improved performance and, ultimately, for creating a workplace where people want to be. Another is that so much is known about what to do and to avoid but this information does not seem to have found its way in a systematic or consumable format into the hands of practicing managers. Cascio provides a summary of what is known from the study of this subject and you can find much more in professional and scholarly management journals in the UMUC electronic databases. Of the numerous things to remember when evaluating the performance of an employee, three are critically important: •Evaluate only what is required to do the job
•Ensure the employee has a written copy of expectations and standards at the beginning of the period when performance will be reviewed •Use observable and measurable standards – rely on evidence-based assessment AND maintain records (document … document … document!) (Bohlander & Snell, 2010, p. 369). Time is a frequent enemy of effective performance appraisals. There never seems to be enough of it to plan, prepare, meet, review, write, discuss, and follow up. Thus, it is common to cut corners. An example is waiting until the end of an evaluation cycle to discuss performance for the entire year. Sometimes that discussion never even happens and the entire process is handled as a paper/e-mail transaction. Imagine the message this sends to employees about their relative importance to the organization! Yet most of us who have been managers have probably both had this done to us and do it to others.
Also often related to time shortages, managers and employees find themselves at the end of a review cycle with no concrete documentation to support their views. The potential for reliance on recent or certain events is great in such circumstances and this can result in unfair and/or inequitable reviews. Avoiding behavior is also quite common. Surprises are the consequence. Conflict, whether direct or indirect, is likely. A recommended standard is that there should be no surprises in a performance review discussion or document. Sometimes, this happens when those being evaluated are not good listeners but in many more cases, managers have not invested the time needed to plan for and then communicate expectations or provide timely feedback. Depending upon the method and process used, concerns about ensuring fairness and equity can occur and can serve as constraints on a good evaluation process and outcome.
Imposed rating quotas and caps can cause this to happen, especially when they are either not known or are announced at the end of an evaluation period. As you systematically and critically analyze your performance assessment systems this week, you will find it useful to review carefully the information Cascio and other sources you find provide, being sure to objectively consider both strengths and possible limitations of the available alternatives. As you will see, there are no prescribed rules about who should be involved in the evaluation process and there is no single method that works for all organizations. People often think a 360-degree appraisal is optimal. If the organization and people are well prepared such a system can be great. If not, it can be, and often has been, a disaster. Speaking of which, there are numerous sources of potential error when conducting an appraisal. Cascio discusses some of them (halo error, contrast error, recency error) (pp. 356 – 357).
If you have worked for a while in different organizations it is quite likely you will have observed some of these in practice. They are both common and often difficult to avoid. Training, increased awareness, and self-management are important in avoiding and/or limiting the possible negative consequences of these rating errors. As Cascio writes, performance appraisal systems MUST have these characteristics: relevance, sensitivity, and reliability and SHOULD also be acceptable and practical (p. 335). A review of this discussion is strongly recommended. In my experience many systems fail on all counts.
People are evaluated on factors not directly relevant to their success or that of the organization. It is difficult to differentiate between and among employees using the system and as a result everyone gets rated about the same. Different raters evaluating the same person and behavior arrive at different conclusions and the view of those more senior often prevails. Managers don’t really accept the system. And, finally, the system is so onerous everyone waits until the last possible minute to do this task hoping it will somehow make it more bearable. The three major types of performance assessment used in most organizations are those that focus on the following factors: a) Individual characteristics or traits
As Cascio explains, there are several methods that organizations and their managers use. You should discover the one that is the closest fit to the method used in your own organization. It is important to recognize that each method has advantages and disadvantages. While organizations may design and employ a hybrid, it is likely behaviors or results will be relatively more important when evaluating performance and determining consequences. It is common to hear arguments in favor of a results-based approach. There are, however, some essential preconditions for this to work. One is an understanding that this does not mean “results at any cost.” Another is to find a way to recognize those who may have a difficult time demonstrating how what they do on a daily basis contributes directly to organizational goals.
This concern applies especially to those at lower levels in an organizational hierarchy. To summarize, designing and conducting effective performance appraisals is something all managers have to do, whether using a formal or informal method. There are available alternatives and each has its pros and cons. The secrets to success are relatively simple: •Begin by establishing a common understanding of what is required to do the job. •Establish and carefully communicate expectations and standards for performance. •Set performance goals and milestones and monitor and discuss progress throughout the year.
•Maintain good records. •Avoid surprises. •Set aside sufficient time to plan and focus on each employee when meeting to discuss performance. •Treat employees with respect and remember to engage them in the process and recognize both accomplishments and areas needing improvement. •Use appraisal as an opportunity to examine and explore opportunities for future growth and development. •In other words, focus primarily on what will happen rather than what has happened. For those who are interested, this is a video that demonstrates what NOT to do during a performance review meeting: http://polaris.umuc.edu/cvu/amba602/home.html And here is one of several examples from the Web of a well organized and implemented appraisal meeting: ________________________________________
Bohlander, G., & Snell, S. ( 2010). Managing human resources. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Cascio, W. (2010). Managing human resources: Productivity, quality of work life, profits. NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Written by: Christina A. Hannah, Ph.D.