Historical Background Of Performance Appraisal Management Essay
This chapter reviews literature based upon the research objectives and builds the foundation of a theoretical framework by answering the research questions. It begins with the historical background of performance appraisal, how the appraisal process was introduced. It then elaborates on the definition of performance appraisal and why it is conducted. This is followed by a literature review of the participants involved in the process and how the evaluation is conducted. It further seeks to examine the appraisal process in the Nigeria’s civil service and the challenges facing the system. Finally, the information generated will lead to the building of a conceptual model.
2.1.2 Historical Background of Performance Appraisal
Institutionalization of performance appraisal started as far back as the industrial revolution when it was used as a means of measuring organizational efficiency (Fandray, 2001). Wren (1994) affirmed that Performance appraisal was incepted when Robert Owen used wooden colored block to measure the achievement of employees working in the cotton Mills in Scotland at the close of work hours. During that era, it was utilized as a disciplinary mechanism for punishing poor performance (Kennedy & Dresser 2001). This resulted in the negative notation of the appraisal system which turned out to be despised by both the appraiser and the appraisee. As confirmed by Robert and Pregitzer (2007) “performance appraisal is a yearly rite of passage in organizations that triggers dread and apprehension in the most experienced, battle hardened manager”. The above quote summarizes the extent to which the appraisal process is disliked by the evaluators. Subsequently, organizations tried to refine the methods linking it to other administrative matters including reward, promotion, training and so forth, arguing that employees achievements should not only be measured but evaluated and managed (Kennedy & Dresser 2001). Despite the historical perspective, appraisal is both inevitable and universal. There has been several analysis and wide criticisms of the effectiveness and use of PA within the organizational context but up to recent times the issue is still being debated among scholars, academicians and professionals and NO system has been successful in meeting the desired goal.
2.1.2 Definition of Performance Appraisal
Performance appraisal is a means of measuring or assessing employees’ achievements within a stated period of time using reliable measurement criteria with the ultimate goal of providing information to superiors on how to improve employees’ effectiveness. There are tons and wide range of literature on performance appraisal. The term has been synonymous with performance management, performance review and performance evaluation. In the book “Strategic performance management” the author defined Performance appraisal as “a systematic & holistic process of work, planning, monitoring and measurement aimed at continuously improving the teams and individual employee’s contribution to achievement of organizational goals” (Akata, 2003). This depicts that performance appraisal is used as a means of establishing future goals, monitoring employees’ progress based on specified job description, and measuring performance, teamwork and achievements based on specified tasks that can be linked with organizational goals and objectives. Furthermore, performance appraisal is used to formally determine employees’ effectiveness and contribution (Ikramullah et al, 2011). In addition, Fletcher (2001) opined performance appraisal as a means by which organizations develop competency, improve employee motivation and achieve equitable allocation of resources. In essence, performance appraisal achieves multiple purposes from measurement to motivation and resource allocation. As noted by Cleveland, Murphy, and Williams (1989), performance appraisal systems can be used to motivate employees through remuneration, promotions, retrenchment, and the improvement of skills, competence and expertise. In addition, performance evaluation can be said to be a process of measuring employees contribution which turns out to be beneficial, both to the staff and the organization at large if carried out properly.
Moreover, Seidan, Sally and Jessica E. Sowa (2011) believed that the ultimate objective of any evaluation procedure is aligning individual goals and objectives with organizational objectives and priorities while individual performance should be reflected in how they contribute to organizational growth and development. According to Bassey, Esu and Inyang (2009), performance appraisal system is a means of investigating employee achievement over a certain period of time for achieving organizational goals. Consequently, performance appraisal is a means of knowledge sharing among subordinates and superiors to adequately measure the progress of the employee which will aid in making strategic human resource decisions.
In addition, Atiomo (2000) agrees with Fajana (1997) that performance appraisal is a method of assessing the human resource capabilities and skills and also to identify areas of improvement (Fajana, 1997; Atiomo, 2000; Obisi 2010). Atiomo (2000) noted that in order for performance appraisal to be effective there must be clear job description hence every individual needs to know what his role is in the organization. It can be deduced that performance appraisal is the process through which an organization collects individual’s data in terms of strengths and weaknesses in order to explore ones opportunities and potentials for development and growth while also determining future threats that can be harmful to one’s career and the organizational setting at large, which is subsequently communicated to the individual.
2.1.3 Objectives of performance appraisal
The primary aim of performance appraisal is to improve the effectiveness of an organization by assessing the impact of individuals employed in it (Cumming, 1972). Performance appraisal generally plays two dominant roles: judgmental and developmental (Cummings and Schwab, 1973; Daley, 2002; Condrey 2010). Although, these two categories are often seen as potentially conflicting, they both share the ultimate goal of enhancing productivity. As part of larger performance evaluation system, organizations conduct appraisals to serve the purpose of improving employee effectiveness (Denisi and Robert D. Pritchard 2006).
Development approaches focuses on within-person decisions, individual potentials and adding value to the employee rather than on his or her current skills and capabilities. The approach tends to link performance with training, development opportunities or potential extrinsic rewards. Unfortunately, even in the most objective appraisal system linking training to evaluation proved difficult (Daley, 2002). This approach aids the employee in knowing his capabilities and advice on how to explore his hidden abilities. Categorically speaking, the evaluator plays the role of a guidance and counselor. In essence, the organization needs to determine the benefits it can accrue from enhancing the employee’s hidden potentials. Hence it is important to consider the question of development for whom?
Judgmental approach focuses between-person decisions, pursuing the management system or command-and-control model of authority (Daley, 2002; Condrey 2010). The role is to measure performance for the purpose of making administrative decisions regarding promotions, rewards, merit pay, punishment and other uses such as test validation criteria. The supervisor plays the role of a judge and uses his authority to make decisions that will improve employee performance. Merit pay is appealing to most public organization as a means of cutting cost and improving productivity however, the practice is somewhat different (Lovrich, 1987; Perry, Patrakis, and Miller, 1989; Daley 2002). The reward structure imbedded in the approach even though it is essential has proved to be an important limitation among public sectors due to resource constraint and bureaucratic procedures.
In addition, feedback is very critical in the appraisal system because employees need to know the result of the evaluation. They hope to get responses on enhancing their performance from the appraisal process. There is also the desire for objective appraisal likewise any perceived unfairness and subjectivity can ultimately demotivate employees this can lead to potential conflict between individuals and organizations (Murphy and Cleveland 1995; Daley 2002; Condrey 2010).
There is also the desire of development and reward both by the organizations and the employees. Regrettably, one cannot go with the other, hence the achievement of development may hinder reward and vice versa. If individuals showcase an excellent performance, they may receive reward and miss out on the needed training that will boost their careers. Adversely, in order to develop employee potentials, organizations’ may miss out on rewarding excellent performance which can further motivate employees (Longenecker and Nykodym, 1996; Daley 2002).
Merging developmental and judgmental purposes may prove to be the best solution to an effective appraisal system. The supervisor needs to be a coach as well as a judge (Roberts, 2003). Where there is an ample degree of employee trust and loyalty, objective measurement criteria and participatory work force attitude, such a combine system can prove to be effective (Daley, 2002). However, due to the conflicting role of the two approaches, it may not be possible to merge judgment and development in one evaluation process (Daley, 2002; Denisi and Pritchard 2006). Intellectually, previous research has indicated that, the purpose of appraisal influences the supervisors’ decision in the evaluation process (Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Bowman, 1999; Daley, 2002). Hence, even with the most objective appraisal criteria, the purpose for which an appraisal is to be conducted dictates the direction of the evaluation outcome.
2.1.4 Participants in performance appraisal
Conventionally, performance appraisal is conducted by direct supervisors because they are in the best position to monitor and assess their subordinates (Kondrasuk, Riley, & Hua, 1999; Daley, 2002; Kondrasuk, 2012). This method is widely used and estimated to occur in almost ninety percent of the cases (Daley, 2002). Performance appraisal is on one hand seen as a management system tool in establishing power and authority and on the other hand as a strategy to strengthen employee-supervisor relationship through good communication and knowledge sharing. In addition to the aforementioned method, Daley (2002) noted that an organization can employ the use of agency insiders (e.g., self-appraisal, peer review, subordinate appraisal, and multi raters) or the employment of outsiders (e.g., personnel staff, consultants, assessment centers, customers and clients).
The self-appraisal is an exceptionally useful technique whereby the employee assesses his or her own achievements since one knows the accurate information of the performance. Although questionable in a judgmental approach due to self bias and subjectivity but quiet useful in developmental appraisals (Murphy and Cleveland 1995; Daley, 2002). Self-appraisal provides the organization with direct information of employees’ apparent needs for enhancement which is very vital in a developmental setting. In essence, it is important to understand employees’ way of thinking when applying this method because they tend to think more of their potentials -what they can do rather than present performance-what they did (Daley, 2002).
Peer review approach employs several appraisers, whereby employees are appraised by their colleagues. Research indicates that evaluations from peers are just as precise as those conducted by the supervisors (Murphy and Cleveland 1995; Daley, 2002; Kondrasuk, 2012). For the reason that peers are more in contact with the employee, witness the day to day activities and observe behaviors that would be overlooked by a supervisor, the evaluation will tend to be more inclusive. Peer ratings often face subjective concerns because they are disliked by employees due to lack of adequate training and guidance in the process. Furthermore, there is often the fear of making a negative impact on individual careers and relationships.
Appraisal of supervisors and managers by subordinates creates enormous apprehension from both parties. This is as a result of its anti hierarchical status which tends to undermine authority patterns (Daley, 1992; Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2012). The nature of the subordinate appraisal makes it’s very difficult to adopt and it’s rarely used by organizations even though; it is strongly recommended and advocated by some scholars. Subordinate appraisals can aid enhance the quality of the working environment and also provide mangers with relevant feedback that will improve their workforce attitude. It can also portray the organization as a participatory leadership structure whereby decisions are made from bottom-up not only top-bottom.
Furthermore, team management approach employs the use of multi raters. This is a collaboration of supervisors and managers from different units working together on an appraisal panel in order to reduce rater errors and also improve fairness and objectivity (Edwards, 1991; Daley, 2002; Condrey 2012). Team management encourages knowledge sharing about skills and competencies and also aids in relationship building which leads to cooperation and coordination. This method has the highest chance of integrating both judgmental and developmental approach within a single appraisal process. The role of coach, counseling and advocate can be performed by the direct supervisor while the judgment role carried out by other team managers (Daley, 2002).
Outsourcing of the appraisal process or participation of outsiders whereby experts are brought in to evaluate employee performance is an infrequent approach. Employees are evaluated based on their traits and characteristics which is basically a job analysis approach that can possibly lead to litigations (Mohrman, Resnick-West, and Lawler 1989; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2012). In addition, clients or customers can also be incorporated in the appraisal process because they are the receivers of service hence they can provide adequate information about employee performance and relationship. This approach is more familiar in public organizations and can depict transparency and accountability.
The combination of supervisor, subordinate, peer and self-ratings are the basis of 360-degrees performance measures. This measure which seeks to provide a more balanced form of appraisal has lately ignited significant interest among public administrators and scholars. Similar to other techniques, 360-degree appraisal is only useful when focused on job-related components and is likely to be effective when employed for developmental purposes rather than into a judgmental system. Focusing on improving the value of employees, the impact of 360-degree feedback can be highly successful due to its participative technique (DeNisi and Kluger, 2000; Ghorpade, 2000).
In conclusion, if the participants are not adequately trained on the appraisal process, then there will be errors in the result. Evaluators often do not possess the necessary skills needed to conduct the appraisal (Vinson, 1996;Grote, 1996; Fletcher, 2001; Kondrasuk 2012). Hence most appraisals are not free from errors and it is not a surprise that the results tend to be less than ideal while the process most often than not fails to succeed.
2.1.6 Procedures for Evaluating Performance
A transparent and continuous process for evaluating employee would be much appreciated by individuals and the organization at large. The best and most widely acceptable standard of measuring performance is job-relatedness, which can be achieved in two ways-“enabling supervisors to discriminate between employees solely in terms of their job performance, and the organization must be able to prove or demonstrate the existence of that relationship” (Daley, 2002; Condrey 2012).
In addition, Marmora (1995) and Saltz (1996) noted that performance standards should be established at the initial stage of performance evaluation. The standard should then be subsequently communicated to both the evaluator and the employees in order for them to know what is expected of them to do. This is followed by the actual evaluation process, comparing of the result with the standard set, and giving feedback to the employee (Obisi, 2011). Daley (2002) & Condrey (2012) opined that reliable, practical and controllable criteria must be taken into account when selecting performance measures. Reliability in terms of generating consistent results; practical in terms of availability for users; and controllable in form of representing individual behaviors.
The effectiveness of all appraisal system is determined by the performance standards. Hence standards must be established according to individual job description which should be tied to organizational goals and objectives. Furthermore, these standards should be a written document which will make it legally binding and objective. Failure to align performance standards with organizational goals and objectives leads to misunderstandings, poor morale, lack of job satisfaction, ineffectiveness, and confusion (Daley, 2002; Condrey 2012).
Knowledge, skills and abilities, work ethics, personal traits or characteristics and results all can be used to assess performance (Milkovich and Boudreau, 1994). Even though, knowledge, skills and abilities are difficult and costly to measure due to the fact that they are inherent in an individual not specific to the job itself but they signify the minimum requirement needed for optimum job performance.
The two most objective performance appraisal instruments (management by objectives and behaviorally anchored scales) are layered with the foundation of behaviors and results (Murphy and Cleveland 1995; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2012). Behavior is the manner in which individuals conduct themselves while performing on their jobs; results are the effect brought about by those conducts. The use of behavior is generally preferred in the public sector while the private sectors are result oriented (Daley, 2002).
Behaviors are mostly used in the public sector due to the nature of the organization which encourages and incorporates teamwork. Ultimately, organizational culture, organizational climate and nature of the job influence the direction of the appraisal procedure (Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 1994 & 2012).
On the contrary, performance appraisal systems tend to measure extreme performances accurately while failing to differentiate middle-range performance, hence individual behaviors may not be accurately evaluated (Gote, 196; Kondurasuk, 2011). Many appraisal systems are ineffective and highly unreliable due to rating errors (Roberts, 1998).
2.1.7 Techniques of Performance Appraisal
Performance appraisal research has primarily focused on perfecting the appraisal instrument and measurement issues which has led to the system being built around a central technique (Daley, 2000). Basically, there are two appraisal techniques- subjective based procedure which deals with observable acts and the objective based procedure which defines performance according to tasks and targets (Orpen & Christopher, 1997; Daley 2002). The type of technique used drives the appraisal process and contributes to organizational development.
Nevertheless, due to the inherent problems associated with the subjective techniques in terms of lack of communication, inter-rater differences, errors and inability to adequately explain to others the procedure of the appraisal, objective technique is most preferred. Hence, behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARS) and management by objective (MBO) approaches are most often used in place of subjective essays, graphic rating scales, forced choice checklist and forced distribution interpersonal comparison (Daley, 1997 & 2002).
Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales: Behaviorally anchored rating scales are a modernized or extended version of the subjective graphic scale. They are an apparent attempt to transform the graphic rating scale into an objective appraisal in terms of level of performance and performance objectives. In other words, they are corrective measures for many of the subjective concerns that cloud the validity and hinder the use of graphic rating scales (Daley 2002; Condrey, 2010).
Even though BARS have received much attention in the private sector, they are also relevant to governmental settings because it is process-oriented rather than result-oriented. This is perhaps even more characteristics of public sector than private organizations. Teamwork and conditions of fragmented authority which are more likely to occur in government agencies are factors that inherent in the BARS approach to performance appraisal.
This technique specifies definite computable, quantifiable and observable job behavior on a range and the employee is rated on the basis of his/her behavior along the continuum. The scales combine elements of critical incident and graphic rating approach. In anchoring behaviors with specific examples BARS has two main options to choose from- behaviorally expected scales (BES) which represents managements judgment call as to what can be done and the behaviorally observed scales (BOS) which anchors its behaviors firmly in the reality of the situation (Latham and Wexley, 1994; Daley 2002; Condrey 2010).
Furthermore, the BARS represent a passive application of participatory leadership where employees are incorporated in decision making process. For the approach to work it must be accompanied by bureaucratic immunity and structural accommodation. Bureaucratic immunity prevents ordinary standards procedures and control process which can thwart change and success. Structural accommodation employs a high degree of autonomy in terms of decision making and resource allocation (Thompson, Hochwarter, and Mathys, 1997; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2010).
Management by Objective Appraisal system:- The management by objective approach originated as a process whereby managers can transform their strategic plans into implementable action (Daley, 1992; 2002). In this approach, participation is central; goals and objectives are worked out based on mutual understanding. This enhances teamwork and relationship building among the supervisors and the employee. In addition, there is constant communication between the participants, prior notice is given before scheduling the evaluation process and at the end of the process “performance review or rating” is discussed and analyzed.
The MBO is a result-oriented and objective approach which often decentralizes power to lower-level decision makers and tailors each individual’s performance with job responsibilities. Employee participation in work-related decision making gives him/her a sense of belonging which increases performance and productivity. Furthermore, MBO is a means of setting precedence and resource allocation for achieving them. However, the public sector often works in ambiguity due to the political environment that dominates it. This has the potential to undermine the implementation of MBO in that sector. Hence, organizations resort to using the BARS format for those positions that involve numerous incumbents.
2.1.8 Appraisal Error
A number of studies have examined different variables and processes relating to the accuracy of performance ratings. The appraisal systems are only as good as the people who use them, even the most objective systems with all their advantages are just tools that guide us in decision making. There has been extensive literature which covered the topic of rater error in performance appraisal (Landy and Farr, 1980; Daley, 1992; Latham and Wexley, 1994; Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Bowman, 1999; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2010). There are various errors which can affect the objectivity of appraisal negatively.
Organizational error arises due to vague or misunderstood goals as result of inefficient communication channels (Dessler, 2000). Lack of clarity about goals will lead to the employees performing less than expected while managers will have unrealistic expectations in terms of what can be accomplished on the job. Furthermore, managers may have hidden agenda of exercising their powers and using the appraisal as a control mechanism or intimidation and harassment tool rather than encouraging productivity. Finally teamwork may be appraised individually. As a result, the performance appraisal can become part of organization’s overall management control system (Swiss, 1991; Longenecker and Nykodym, 1996; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2010).
Structural error occurs due to inadequate supervisory training on the appraisal system which leads to unreliability and inconsistency. Recent research has examined the effect of “frame of reference” (FOR) training on rating results and methods. The main aim of FOR training is to train raters to share and use familiar conceptualizations of performance when making evaluations (Woehr 1994; Arvey & Murphy, 2012). The researchers concluded that FOR-trained raters typically proof to be more effective and provide substantially more precise ratings than do amateur raters. Similarly, the failure to establish realistic goals creates failure in the appraisal system. Objective appraisal can only be achieved if there are realistic goals to compare the result with. Furthermore, the appraisal process can be abused if employees are asked to match behaviors to limited, incomplete set of criteria or when the appraisal are adjusted to fit predetermined decisions. (Longenecker and Nykodym, 1996; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2010).
In addition, performance appraisal depends highly on the skills of the appraiser, hence the genesis of rater error. Errors are committed when individuals are failed to be assessed based on their performance but rather compared to someone else’s performance, personal traits and characteristics. These contrast error approach suffer significant validity problems (Daley, 1992&2002; Condrey 2012). Daley (2002) further asserted that whenever responsibilities inherent in the job itself are substituted for a measure of incumbent’s job performance errors are committed. Dominance of one item in the evaluation process while ignoring critical factors also leads to unidimensional errors. One-dimensional error can be related to either substantive or mechanical concerns. Similarly, when a single good performance in one aspect of the job becomes the basis of overall assessment, an error known as the halo effect occurs while horns effect occurs when a negative incident overshadows the entire appraisal process (Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2010).
Consequently, raters can also award everyone an average rating thereby exhibiting central-tendency error or awarding extremely good or bad ratings which exhibit restricted-range. This occurs partly due to perceive resentment by the supervisors or fear of de motivating employees from lower rating and when supervisors are required to justify high or low ratings (Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Daley, 2002; Condrey, 2010).
Interpersonal biases can also occur due to the need to maintain harmonious relationship, worksite politics, external preferences vis-à-vis politics, religion, sex, ethnic preference, and race may introduce intentional distortions and manipulations into the appraisal process (Robinson, Fink and Allen, 1996).
2.2 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR IMPROVING PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL
Conceptual framework was developed based on relevant literatures of performance appraisal discussed. The model is based on the author’s understanding of what an effective appraisal system should comprise of. It provide basis for determining factors that will enhance employees performance and also supervisors objective appraisal. The framework is also consistent with relevant theories which emphasize individual characteristics, and both the internal and external characteristics of the organization, as drivers for performance improvement.
The proposed conceptual framework utilizes input and output approach. The input component comprises of five jobs dependent interrelated activities that will lead to improving the appraisal system. Civil servants performance is difficult to assess due to vague and complex goals which are hard to evaluate. Hence it is necessary for each government agency to set well articulated organizational goals which are realistic and attainable. These goals should be well internalize within the organization through campaigns, town hall meetings, pamphlets and constant reminder about the mission and vision of the agency. Subsequently, departmental and team goals should be tied to the pre-defined organizational goals. Furthermore, employees’ responsibilities should also be drawn and tied to the overall departmental and or team deliverables. They should be made to understand their roles and what is expected of them. These defined roles should be discussed between superior and subordinate in order to establish whether employee possess the required personal effectiveness and job skills to deliver the responsibilities. On the other hand, it will aid in establishing clearly defined tasks of each individual and quantifiable targets which can lead to time dependent delivery of assignments. This has the capacity to minimize the subjectivity associated with the current appraisal system in Nigeria.
Once responsibilities are agreed upon and resources are allocated for delivery of tasks and bridging skill gaps where necessary, results will be observed by the superior for a period of six months. At the end of this period, appraisal exercise that will lead to observe outcomes will be conducted. This will define and set the output component of this model into effect. As enumerated in previous sections, lack of training and skills of superiors on how to appraise subordinates is a key challenge impacting negatively on the credibility of the current appraisal system. Hence, supervisors should be trained on the appraisal process, how it should be conducted and for whom the system was designed. They should be made to understand the logic behind the process and the need for objective measurement to motivate employees, reward hard work, and excellence in service to increase organizational contribution to the sect oral performance. To enhance objectivity in the appraisal rating, measurement criteria should be established based on job description. This criterion should be communicated to the entire public servants and also incorporated in the organizational culture. By communicating the established criterion, employees will know what it is actually measured and how their performance will affect the evaluation outcomes.
At the appraisal stage, employees should be given chance to appraise themselves before their superior does. This is to give the superiors an insight into the employees’ perception about his personal development, skills and job delivery. Appraiser evaluation should then be conducted between the supervisor and employee in form of a discussion session. During this session, employee performance and future career plans should be discussed. Where inconsistencies are observed, the two parties should deliberate on the possible causes and remedies of such deficiencies thereby setting an action plan to bridge gaps for future development and training needs. This will also provide room for feedback on areas of improvement and also encourage performance. Conversely, if performance is adjudged to be excellent, reward should be administered to motivate performing staffs and encourage low performers. Depending on organizational capabilities, rewards could take monetary incentives, awards or both.
In conclusion, evaluation should be a continuous process which should be done twice yearly for effective performance monitoring, evaluation and feedback.
ANALYSIS OF PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA
3.1 Unstructured Interview
Unstructured interview was conducted to serve as a source of reliable information that may supplement, validate or invalidate some of the theoretical perspectives discussed in the literature on issues pertaining to performance appraisal in Nigerian public service in particular. To ensure coherence, reliability and uniformity in the sampling process, appraisers and appraisees with minimum of five years experience in this regards were interviewed. Ten appraisers whom are management staffs of the Federal Civil Service Commission and ten appraisees were respectively interviewed due to time constraint. Even though it can serve as representative sample, since the commission is responsible for overseeing the performance appraisal function of all Federal entities in Nigeria, interviews across organizations would have provided more robust and detail insights on issues facing performance appraisal. The questionnaire administered to the categories is as outlined below:
Do you have a clear knowledge on the objectives of performance appraisal and the need for career development and training?
Where you given any form of training on how to conduct an objective appraisal?
What is your overall perception of the current appraisal process in terms of effectiveness?
What are some of the challenges you are currently facing in terms of being appraised and appraising your subordinates?
What are your suggestions in rectifying this challenges mentioned?
Where you provided with a clear and written job description upon your recruitment?
What is your perception about the current performance appraisal system?
From your own point of view, how fair and objective is the current appraisal process?
Do you receive feedback from your supervisors after the evaluation process?
In your own opinion, what are some of the challenges you are currently facing in terms of being appraised?
Do you have any suggestions in making the present system more effective?
3.2 Performance Appraisal in Nigeria’s Civil Service
The Nigerian civil service comprises of all Nigerian government employees excluding the military. Employees are mainly career civil servants, progressing through the ranks on the basis of qualifications and seniority. Section 277 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria defines the Civil Service as the “Service of the Federation in a civil capacity, as staff of the office of the President, the Vice President, a ministry or department of the Government of the Federation assigned with the responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation” (FRN, 1999). In essence, the civil service was set up to carry out Government business and to render loyal service to any administration without prejudice and insulated from partisan politics. On the other hand, Gberevbie (2010) opined that the Civil Service is an institution established for the execution of Government Policies associated with social service delivery and infrastructure development. This depicts that Nigerians look up to the Civil service in terms of formulating development strategies, policies and programs in such a way that will stimulate social and economic changes.
The Nigerian civil service is patterned based on the British model. It consists of political class and bureaucrats of varying profession and technical expertise. The civil servants are divided into classes, administrative class, executive class, professional class, clerical and sub-clerical class. Each class is further divided into many groups known as cadres; each cadre has from four to eight grades or promotional levels. The Nigerian civil service has five basic functions, namely policy implementation; provision of inputs for policy formulation; investigative and regulatory functions; ensuring continuity of public administration; and informative function (Office of Head of Service of the Federation, 2009). It is an important institution of the state which occupies an essential and unique position in the formulation and implementation of National development plans. In essence, the policy formulation function embedded in the civil service requires skilled and well-motivated workforce.
In order to assess the performance and progress of the country it becomes necessary to evaluate the performance of civil servants. The Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management defined performance appraisal as a method of stock taking that presents a chance to review individual performance periodically, or in most cases annually. Gilbert (2010) asserts that before 1979, Confidential Reporting System was used in the Civil Service where appraisal was done in secret and appraisees were not informed about the result or outcome of the evaluation. However, following the Udoji  report of 1974, the Open Reporting System and Management by Objectives (MBO) techniques were introduced as part of the recommendation for the reform of the Civil Service system. This brought about major change in evaluation system whereby employees reads and agrees to whatever has been written on him and also has the right to challenge the ratings by his superior officer. The Panel also recommended continuous job evaluation and grading, unfortunately all the recommendations regarding performance evaluation criteria were partially or haphazardly implemented.
The Civil Service adopted the Annual Performance Evaluation Report system (APER) based on the Udoji report of 1979. The APER system is an annual evaluation procedure whereby employee’s work ethics, skills and capabilities are assessed for the suitability of promotion and training (Mustapha, 2008). However, it is merely in theory rather than practice because most promotions especially to managerial cadre, trainings and job placements are based on political affiliation, nepotism, tribalism, or favoritism. This practice leads to poor performance and ineffectiveness within the civil service. As confirmed by Echu (2010) that job appointment and promotion may not necessarily be based on competency and qualification. Furthermore, the Public Service Review commission main report (2004) asserts that “The present Annual Performance Evaluation Report (APER) system is unreliable as a means of assessment of an officer’s performance”. The report further stated that the system is cumbersome and complicated; lacks objectivity and the measures are not always quantifiable.
In November each year, the annual appraisal process (as shown below) starts with the distribution of the appraisal forms to employees by the Human resource departments. The necessary portions of the forms are then subsequently filled and submitted to the reviewing officer. The well defined time period for the distribution and subsequent submission of forms makes it possible for the evaluation process to be conducted on time. It further gives ample time to the employees and reviewing officers to prepare for proper evaluation and interview. The evaluation interview is structured in form of a coaching-style system. It normally takes a form of answers and questions session where both sides have to defend its position and reach an agreement on final grade for the ratee; however the final decision falls on the rater. Finally, the appraisal system is tied to a reward structure in form of performance based bonuses, which is to be paid at the end of each year for good performance. The bonus paid is calculated as a percentage of ratee’s annual pay based on one’s position in the organization. In contrast, civil servants who have not performed to expectation are either issued with a query or given a verbal warning.
In addition, Mustapha (2008) affirms that some of the challenges facing the effective implementation of the APER system includes but not limited to inefficient feedback mechanisms, poor objectivity, lack of training and knowledge on the role of the appraisal structure, and fear of reprisals in case of adverse reports. This was further confirmed by Gilbert (2006) when he identified the factors responsible for the ineffective appraisal system including lack of proper understanding; lack of objectivity and courage by the supervisors; desire to give close friends and relations more advantage over others; and ignorance of vision and mission of the organization.
Furthermore, subjective appraisals may arise due to the annual evaluation of employees because the superiors may have forgotten certain aspects of the performance which failed to be recorded. This is confirmed by Dogarawa (2011) when he states that one of the main problems of performance rating is periodic appraisal which is often influenced by recent significant behavior rather than collective past effective and ineffective behaviors. Moreover, Mustapha (2010) suggests that appraisal should be conducted continuously by direct superiors for maximum measurement of outputs rather than just inputs. The issue of favoritism and nepotism was noted by Gilbert (2006) that the APER system is constantly being abused by favoring some employees over others either due to personal relationships, or tribalism thereby making the system lose its credibility.
3.2.1 The APER Form
The APER form applies to all categories of service and civil servants; hence there is no difference between technical and administrative staff. Nevertheless, there are some variations between the senior cadre and the junior cadre. The yearly APER is divided into five sections. The first part contains employee’s personal record and leave records; part two contains tasks and targets set, job description, key achievements, training/course attended in the year under review and job performance; in this part the employee fills his tasks and targets based on his job description for the year to measure whether he has performed to expectation. The third part evaluates character traits, assessment of performance by superior, work ethics, leadership qualities, training needs and teamwork; the fourth parts specifies next year’s tasks and targets, comments by the employee on the assessment, declaration/signature by the employee and the reporting officer; the last part is the counter signing officer’s report, who is normally the immediate superior of the reporting officer. The countersigning officer makes the process more transparent and creates room for feedback mechanism and monitoring which can control supervisors and reviewers from being subjective to some extent.
In addition, The APER form is well structured and comprehensive. It captures all the relevant aspects of what is to be measured in appraisal process in terms of job descriptions and character traits; hence it is more of a developmental approach format. Furthermore, the form makes it possible for employees to specify their future training needs which will further boost their careers and make them more efficient thereby also reducing the tasked placed on the human resource department of determining the kind of training an employee needs. Declaration section is also a sign of objectivity because an employee can express his/her opinion about the appraisal process and one is not liable to sign the form if he/she feels the process is subjective. In response to questions on the comprehensiveness of the APER form, interviewees commended the existing format and stated that the problem does not lay with the design of the form but rather on the evaluation process and how the appraisal is conducted. However, Gilbert (2006) observes that by the use of APER forms, marks are so generously awarded to the extent that in a given group of employees to be assessed no one scores less than ninety five percent with some exception scoring up to hundred percent which is impractical and impossible in objective appraisal, yet no evidence of high performance or excellence exist in the Nigeria’s public sector.
In conclusion, the Public Service Review commission main report (2004) believes that the present appraisal system should be abandoned due to its inefficiency and the old confidential reporting system re-introduced, subsequently the APER form should be redesigned to conform with the confidential reporting system. On the other hand, Gilbert (2010) affirms that Government should commission consultants walking with in-house committee to redesign a standardized assessment format and develop new performance management system.
3.3 ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
Based on the analysis of available literature on performance appraisal and the appraisal system in Nigeria’s civil service, and result of interview conducted with officials of the Civil Service Commission, one cannot say that the system is unsatisfactory however the inefficiency of the process overrides its effectiveness. Some of the challenges currently facing the appraisal system include embedded organizational culture, Lack of participatory leadership, unclear job description, inadequate training, discontinuous appraisal process, lack of commitment to employee development, and subjectivity in assessment.
Organizational culture has a deep impact on employee’s performance which can be either positive or negative depending on the norms and values of the organization (Shahzad, 2012). According to interviewees the appraisal process has not been effective because employees tend to follow the organizational culture hence there has been no room for improvement and the system also fails to recognize the importance of the appraisal process. Furthermore, it has been mention in the literature review that one major problem that lead to ineffectiveness of the appraisal process is its lack of inclusion in the organizational culture and practice (Grote, 1996; Kondrasuk, 2012).
Moreover, if there is no participatory workforce attitude in the appraisal whereby the process is implemented from the top to the bottom then it tends to be unsuccessful (Grote, 1996; Kondrasuk, 2012). In the civil service, the process was designed and implemented without taking into consideration employees contributions. Hence the process is mainly geared not participatory which brings about lack of commitment on the part of the employees and blocks chances of innovation and creativity on how to reform the process. It further widens the gap between the supervisors and employees, thereby making it impossible for employees to speak up during the interview process due to fear of negative repercussions. Furthermore when performance evaluation is used as an instrument of threat, harassment, power or authority, the employee’s growth and value of the performance evaluation method both decline (Grote, 1998; Roberts, 1998; Kondrasuk 2012).
In addition, lack of clear and defined job description makes the process ineffective because performance measurements standards must be established according to individual job description which should be tied to organizational goals and objectives. Hence if there is no clear job description then the question becomes what is actually measured? Responses from the interview pointed out that no written job description was specified upon their recruitment; rather they are just expected to do what they are being told by the supervisors. The literature review reveals that appraisal errors occur due to misunderstood goals or lack of clarity of goals and objective appraisal can only be achieved if there are realistic goals to compare the result with. (Dressler 2000). Hence, failure to align performance standards with job description leads to misunderstandings, lack of satisfaction, ineffectiveness, and confusion in the appraisal process (Daley, 2002; Condrey 2012).
Similarly, it has been observed that supervisors are not well equipped on the appraisal process. As confirmed by Gilbert (2006) & Mustapha (2008) in the literature review, that the appraisal process is ineffective in Nigeria’s civil service due to lack of understanding and inadequate training. It is important for supervisors to acquire skills on how to evaluate present and past performance and also how to coach employees on future improvements. Without clear understanding of the process, the system tends to be misused and hence it is used as a means of authority and power rather than for development purposes.
Moreover, if the appraisal process is conducted for employee improvement then there is need for a continuous evaluation process. Quite the opposite, the appraisal in the civil service is done on a yearly basis hence supervisors tend to forget past performance thereby evaluating appraisee based on recent events, performance and character traits. Furthermore, the appraisers fail to consider the process as part of the job responsibility rather they see it as a yearly burden. This arises because the appraisal process is conducted once a year.
Despite this fact, the system also fails to develop employee’s career. Even though the APER form has a provision for training needs, it is merely theoretical rather than practical. According to available literature, one of the objectives of appraisal is for development, adding value to employees. Hence is the system fails to recognize and assess employees needs then one wonders why the system was set up in the first place. In several cases, it has been observed that, employees are nominated for training based on personal relationship with supervisors rather than on good performance or need for training. This fails to motivate employees because they believe training is independent of the process, in other words even with the appraisal process their needs are not considered.
In conclusion, all the challenges elaborated leads to subjectivity in appraisal assessment. As summarized by Banjoko, “In Nigeria, performance appraisal is being used in many organizations today as a political tool for helping to advance the course of favorites or for obstructing and thwarting the career path and progress of ‘villains’ whose faces the appraiser would not like to see. Thus subjectivity and favoritism by those supervisors who strongly believe in the ‘Coker is my cousin syndrome” (Banjoko, 1996). If one is not trained well in the process then there are high chances of favoritism. Similarly if organizational culture depends on personal relationships and rapport then it leads to nepotism. Likewise if there is no clear job description and measurement standard, then supervisors can use their discretion to accord ratings based on personal judgments. Furthermore, when the process is not conducted continuously then there are high chances of errors and bias. According to literature reviewed, when there is inadequate training, then performance evaluation can be used as an instrument of threat, harassment, power or authority, thereby stagnating employee’s growth and declining the value of the performance evaluation method (Grote, 1998; Roberts, 1998; Kondrasuk 2012). All the challenges facing the Nigeria’s civil service performance appraisal are therefore relevant and considered sufficient to negatively affect process.
CONCLUSIONS/NEED FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
The performance appraisal system for civil servants in Nigeria has proved not being effective in ensuring transparent and objective assessment of civil servants. Much work and planning waits to be done to ensure its success.
In this research, we have reviewed scholarly literature on the definition of performance appraisal system in general; its objectives and the criteria for conducting the process. It is evident from the review that performance appraisal is an important management tool which is used for measuring employee’s achievements in the job over a period of time and his/her potential for development. Furthermore, most scholars agreed on the need to align individual’s goals and objectives to organizational goals in order to achieve maximum productivity. However, the purpose for which the appraisal is conducted dictates the direction of the evaluation. In addition, the best standard for appraisal involves objective measurement criteria and participatory workforce attitude. Ultimately, for any appraisal system to be effective, it must be determined by performance standards which have to be established according to individual job description.
In answering the question of how the current appraisal system is working in Nigeria, it can be concluded from the research that there is not effective hence need for improvement. Even though the system is functioning but its failure overrides its success as mentioned in the issues and challenges. The challenges arose due to focus on short term achievements rather than long-term goals of the public sector. Hence quantity in terms of what we have done became more emphasized rather than the quality of what has been achieved. Thus the civil service sector encounters gap in performance because they fails to really understand what it stands for. It further portrays why the system elicit adverse reaction from its participants. Basically the negative reaction occurs due to appraisal errors related to lack of training, lack of clear job description and subjectivity on the part of the supervisors. Furthermore, the assignment and justification of rewards and uncertainties led to employees’ strong rejection of the process because of the power assigned to the supervisors in judging or determining employee performance and reward on the job, as the case may be. Overall, the literature revealed that there is a wide gap between theory and practice, however if the process is conducted objectively, its benefits will outweigh the cost. The conceptual framework developed seeks to set out the issues that need to be examined and processes to be adopted in order to improve the appraisal system. It is an illustration of the gap between how the system is currently working and how it is suppose to work.
In conclusion, the paper has addressed its purpose of examining the Nigeria’s civil servants performance appraisal system in terms of objective criteria, and proposed suggestions for its improvements. However, limitations to the research is evident because it is based on literature review rather than empirical study, hence for the concepts to be substantiated there is need for further research.
4.2 Opportunities for further research
The research has highlighted the need for further research as follows;
A detailed examination of the link between performance appraisal, employee motivation and organizational success.
An investigation into the expectations and experience of employees and managers needs to be conducted, in terms of what they need from the appraisal system and how they think it can improve their performance.
A research should be conducted on benchmarking the Nigeria’s Civil service appraisal system with that of more productive developing countries or transitional economies public sector. This is to understand the mechanisms and processes that led to the more effective human resources performance despite similar characteristics with Nigeria.