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Employee evaluation: Injustice through unfair evaluation

Procedures for assessing the performance of employees are widespread in Germany’s companies. Whether medium-sized or large, whether the cosmetics industry or software development: “About half of all companies measure and evaluate the performance of their employees,” estimates Uwe Kanning, Professor of Business Psychology at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. Basically, it is good to do that. “But it depends how it’s done,” says Kanning. That is usually not so good.

Using standard forms, managers usually award points for certain criteria such as work commitment, task completion or teamwork. Most of the time, however, neither the terms nor the point values ​​are defined. “That’s why the manager has a lot of freedom in assigning the points,” says Kanning. In the assessment, therefore, sympathies and similarities such as gender and interests play a major role. This leads to injustices in an unfair appraisal system.

With their assessment, the manager largely determines how much an employee earns, how high his bonus is and whether he or she has a career. “It can also be fair – but it is only possible with a lot of effort,” says Kanning. For this purpose, the company should determine which important criteria are, for example, in software development, such as knowledge of programming languages, analytical skills and the ability to work in a team. The distribution of points is then defined for such performance descriptions: how many points are awarded for which performance. Ultimately, the managers must be trained to adhere to the guidelines and to be able to conduct the discussions. This includes giving reasons for decisions and standing behind them even in difficult discussions.

A person’s performance is influenced by many factors. Intelligence has the largest share at around 25 percent. “It will neither change nor can it be influenced in a targeted manner,” says Kanning. On the professional competence. Leadership style has about 15 percent impact on performance, and goal setting methods have a strong impact on performance. The team is also important for performance, because acceptance motivates, rejection demotivates.

A performance appraisal is at least necessary for companies with performance-related pay, which is common these days. The principle here: high performance – high bonus. The assessment of employee performance is also an instrument of personnel management and personnel development. It reveals strengths and weaknesses and is therefore an indication for the HR department as to which topics an employee should be trained in. “The assessment of his performance also gives employees orientation as to where they stand,” says Kanning. So it serves the personnel development.

But what is the consequence if judgments are made arbitrarily and thus unfairly? “There is resentment in the workforce because they know the system is unfair,” says Kanning. Some managers give high points in order to have little work and not get into trouble with the employees. “The system then demotivates the willingness to perform and the personnel departments lack important information about personnel development,” says Kanning. As a result, there is no or wrong training. That costs money unnecessarily and does not help the company any further.

The professor notes that performance reviews are generally being digitized. Instead of ticking on sheets, scores are clicked on in programs. Some programs allow economic metrics to be incorporated, such as the turnover of an employee in sales. “At first glance, one might think that such a procedure is more objective than the personal opinion of a manager about the performance of his or her employee,” says Kanning. But this digital method is also unfair if important criteria such as sales area or special effects such as Corona are not taken into account.

Today, digital systems in personnel management are mainly used for planning and documentation. The medium-sized manufacturing company Fritsch Elektronik has been using Sage applications for training and employee appraisals for ten years. Fritsch Elektronik has around 100 employees and manufactures electronic components such as electronic units for hospital beds and locking systems. “The advanced training module provides transparent and clear information about the advanced training status of our employees,” says Simone Homburg, who is responsible for human resources and social issues.

In addition, the application is well received by customers and suppliers in external audits, because they can quickly see how the company is training. This is important with ISO certifications. In the other module, employee interviews are documented and appointments for the interviews are stored so that they are not forgotten. Access to the data is assigned via access rights.

Next, Fritsch Elektronik is planning to implement the Sage employee portal, in which employees can enter their own performance and this is compared with the assessment of the managers. If there are significant differences, the two meet to find a solution together. The HR Suite from the British software company Sage is a personnel management solution for the German market. “In Germany, data has to be handled differently than in the USA or Asia, for example,” says Christian Zöhrlaut, Director Products Medium Segment. Personal data are subject to special data protection, they may only be used for clear purposes and must be processed in a comprehensible manner.

“When digital performance management systems are introduced, the works council – if any – and the data protection officer must agree,” says Zöhrlaut. Furthermore, the manager must clarify with the employee whether the data can be used for the personnel management programs. The HR department is only allowed to access it if he or she signs and agrees. The board of directors may only view the data if it has consulted the manager beforehand.


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