Evolution of Performance Management

The term performance management gained its importance from the times when the competitive pressures in the market place started rising and the organizations felt the need of introducing a comprehensive performance management process into their system for improving the overall productivity and performance effectiveness.

The performance management process evolved in several phases.

  1. First Phase: The origin of performance management can be traced in the early 1960’s when the performance appraisal systems were in practice. During this period, Annual Confidential Reports (ACR’s) which was also known as Employee service Records were maintained for controlling the behaviors of the employees and these reports provided substantial information on the performance of the employees.

    Any negative comment or a remark in the ESR or ACR used to adversely affect the prospects of career growth of an employee. The assessments were usually done for ten traits on a five or a ten point rating scale basis. These traits were job knowledge, sincerity, dynamism, punctuality, leadership, loyalty, etc. The remarks of these reports were never communicated to the employees and strict confidentiality was maintained in the entire process. The employees used to remain in absolute darkness due to the absence of a transparent mechanism of feedback and communication. This system had suffered from many drawbacks.

  2. Second Phase: This phase continued from late 1960’s till early 1970’s, and the key hallmark of this phase was that whatever adverse remarks were incorporated in the performance reports were communicated to the employees so that they could take corrective actions for overcoming such deficiencies. In this process of appraising the performance, the reviewing officer used to enjoy a discretionary power of overruling the ratings given by the reporting officer. The employees usually used to get a formal written communication on their identified areas of improvements if the rating for any specific trait used to be below 33%.

  3. Third Phase: In this phase the term ACR was replaced by performance appraisal. One of the key changes that were introduced in this stage was that the employees were permitted to describe their accomplishments in the confidential performance reports. The employees were allowed to describe their accomplishments in the self appraisal forms in the end of a year. Besides inclusion of the traits in the rating scale, several new components were considered by many organizations which could measure the productivity and performance of an employee in quantifiable terms such as targets achieved, etc. Certain organizations also introduced a new section on training needs in the appraisal form. However, the confidentiality element was still being maintained and the entire process continued to be control oriented instead of being development oriented.

  4. Fourth Phase: This phase started in mid 1970’s and its origin was in India as great business tycoons like Larsen & Toubro, followed by State Bank of India and many others introduced appreciable reforms in this field.

    In this phase, the appraisal process was more development driven, target based (performance based), participative and open instead of being treated as a confidential process. The system focused on performance planning, review and development of an employee by following a methodical approach.

    In the entire process, the appraisee (employee) and the reporting officer mutually decided upon the key result areas in the beginning of a year and reviewed it after every six months. In the review period various issues such as factors affecting the performance, training needs of an employee, newer targets and also the ratings were discussed with the appraisee in a collaborative environment.

    This phase was a welcoming change in the area of performance management and many organizations introduced a new HR department for taking care of the developmental issues of the organization.

  5. Fifth Phase: This phase was characterized by maturity in approach of handling people’s issues. It was more performance driven and emphasis was on development, planning and improvement. Utmost importance was given to culture building, team appraisals and quality circles were established for assessing the improvement in the overall employee productivity.

The performance management system is still evolving and in the near future one may expect a far more objective and a transparent system.


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