After employee selection, performance appraisal is arguably the most important management tool a farm employer has at her disposal. The performance appraisal, when properly carried out, can help to fine tune and reward the performance of present employees. In this chapter we (1) discuss the purpose for the performance appraisal, (2) introduce the negotiated performance appraisal approach, and (3) talk about the steps to achieving a worthwhile traditional performance appraisal.
Strengths of the negotiated performance appraisal are its ability to promote candid two-way communication between the supervisor and the person being appraised and to help the latter take more responsibility for improving performance. In contrast, in the traditional performance appraisal, the supervisor acts more as a judge of employee performance than as a coach. By so doing, unfortunately, the focus is on blame rather than on helping the employee assume responsibility for improvement.
Does that mean that the traditional performance appraisal approach should be discarded? Not at all. Experts in the field have often suggested that the performance appraisal should not be tied to decisions about pay raises. When appraisals are tied to pay raises, they argue, employees are more defensive and less open to change. So how should pay raise decisions be made, then, if not through the performance appraisal? I would suggest that the traditional performance appraisal can still play a critical role in management and is ideal for making pay raise decisions. But it is in the negotiated approach where employees can truly come to grips with what it is that they need to do to maximize performance, potential career advancement and earnings.
For the employee to have enough time to respond and improve, the negotiated performance appraisal should take place at least 9 to 12 months before the traditional one. There are no such strict time requirements when the traditional approach (used to make decisions about pay) precedes the negotiated one (used as a coaching tool).
Why Performance Appraisal?
Performance appraisal is a vehicle to (1) validate and refine organizational actions (e.g. selection, training); and (2) provide feedback to employees with an eye on improving future performance.
Validating and refining organizational action
Employee selection, training and just about any cultural or management practicesuch as the introduction of a new pruning method or an incentive pay programmay be evaluated in part by obtaining worker performance data.
The evaluation may provide ideas for refining established practices or instituting new ones. For instance, appraisal data may show that a farm supervisor has had a number of interpersonal conflicts with other managers and employees. Some options include (1) paying more attention to interpersonal skills when selecting new supervisors, (2) encouraging present supervisors to attend communication or conflict management classes at the local community college, or (3) providing the supervisor one-on-one counseling.
Data from performance appraisals can also help farmers (1) plan for long-term staffing and worker development, (2) give pay raises or other rewards, (3) set up an employee counseling session, or (4) institute discipline or discharge procedures.
For validation purposes (Chapter 3), it is easier to evaluate performance data when large numbers of workers are involved. Useful performance data may still be collected when workers are evaluated singly, but it may take years to obtain significant data trends.
Employee need for feedback
Although employees vary in their desire for improvement, generally workers want to know how well they are performing. A successful farmer recalled with sadness how as a youth he had worked very hard, along with his immigrant family, for a farmer who never seemed to notice the effort. Years later he met the former employer and asked why he had never made any...
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