A Case Study of Performance Appraisal

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A CASE STUDY OF PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL IN A SMALL PUBLIC SECTOR ORGANISATION: THE GAPS BETWEEN EXPECTATIONS AND EXPERIENCE

JOHN MOONEY
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Chester for the degree of Masters of Business Administration

CHESTER BUSINESS SCHOOL December 2009

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Acknowledgements
To my beloved wife Lesley, and children, Liam, Shaun and Hannah, who tolerated my regular withdrawals from normal family life throughout my MBA studies. And to the talented and approachable lecturers and staff on the Chester MBA programme.

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Abstract
The research project sets out to identify the gaps between expectations and experiences of performance appraisal in a small public sector organisation. The document explains how Passenger Focus, the rail watchdog, has undergone a successful corporate transformation from the previous federal network of regional committees into a new credible consumer body. The organisation has a new vision, and robust business planning processes have been introduced. However, there is a need to improve performance management through a new performance appraisal system. The overall purpose of the research is to assess the gaps between expectations and experiences in order to inform a new system.

The literature review explains the background to the development of performance and its measurement in the public sector. It includes a detailed analysis of thinking on performance appraisal. The literature review concludes that performance appraisal can greatly benefit organisations, but appears to not be delivering in many cases. A conceptual model is developed to frame the empirical research.

The research takes the form of a case study, and the findings are collated through qualitative interviews. A focus group was conducted, which framed the issues of concern, and these were explored in much more detail through semi-structured interviews. The findings revealed that there was a high level of understanding from staff of the need for performance appraisal. The largest gap between expectations and experiences lay in the current system, with respondents particularly concerned about the lack of training and over-simplistic documentation. Non-measurement of competencies was also a concern. Respondents were generally positive about recent experiences of appraisal. The findings suggest that motivated managers have made the system work for them, despite concerns about process, and respondents believe fairness is generally achieved. More attention is required to appraise team effort. There was little appetite for a system that links appraisal to financial reward.

The conclusions of the research have informed the main recommendation, to develop a new system that is much more comprehensive, and incorporates training and guidelines. That new system should be developed through engagement with staff.

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Declaration
This work is original and has not been submitted previously for any academic purpose. All secondary sources are acknowledged.

Signed……………………………………………………………………………………

Date………………………………………………………………………………………

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Table of contents
page Acknowledgements………………………………...……………………………………2 Abstract……………………………………………...……………………………….…..3 Declaration……………………………………………………………………………….4 Table of contents……………………………………………………………………...…5 List of tables……………………………………………………………………………..7 List of figures……………………………………………………………….……………8 1. Introduction……………………………………………………………….………..…9 1.1 Background to the research……………………………………….………....9 1.2 Research question……………………………….…………………...……..12 1.3 Justification for the research…………………………………………...…...13 1.4 Methodology………………………………………………………………..14 1.5 Outline of the chapters………………………………………………...……14 1.6 Summary…………………………………………………………………....16 2. Literature review…………………………………………………………………......17 2.1 Introduction……………………………………………………………...…17 2.2 Performance defined……………………………………………………..…17 2.3 Performance management...
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