On Promotion Criteria Using Forced Ranking: Effect on Promotion Success

How often a manager would say "numbers do not lie. This is objective" whenever presenting a performance evaluation?

Objectivity is relative in the sense that results derive from both controllable issues and uncontrollable ones, both from the employee's and the manager's standpoint. More importantly, when the manager creates the surrounding factors that will affect performance, who is liable for the results?
So, I cannot agree enough with the fact that performance evaluation can be so flawed and far from being reflective of an individual performance, let alone potential. It is so crucial to train supervisors on the meaning of any performance system, be it a forced ranking or forced distribution.

There is so much technicality in a performance appraisal that is misunderstood by supervisors.

My concern is that in large corporations, particularly those having a divisional structure, performance appraisals are viewed as "just another chore" or another assignment by managers. The concern and focus are not on how to evaluate the employee in a fair and systematic fashion, based on real observation throughout the period in question. Rather, it seems that many managers are anxious to please their own supervisors, satisfy their egos, pursue hidden agendas, or win the "approval" of their employees, whatever the case could be. In any event, performance appraisals are completed to the loss of the organization because they are biased.

The results can be disastrous: loss of a good potential, loss of engaged and good employees, high replacement costs, set-backs in business processes.

I cannot emphasize enough that performance appraisal is not a reliable or valid source of information by itself when it comes to the need for filling a position. However, the reality is that it DOES weigh a lot in the decision for promotion in so many organizations.

Forced ranking, forced distribution? It is important to stay away from absolute values. One needs to read the fine print and interpret as accurately as possible the meaning of the rankings and/or distributions because variables do exist. Not to mention existing and quasi unavoidable personal and professional biases.

And again, the need for transparency and objectivity is crucial. Unfortunately, and too often there is a breakdown in communication between operational interpretation and implementation and corporate performance appraisal system design.

Is there a clear-cut answer or solution to the matter? That is doubtful. Palliatively, training, training, and training at all levels of management is vital. And maybe if managers were subject to a 360o feedback, they would be more cautious about biases...and how about good hiring of managers to get started with? Promotion from within is certainly commendable as long as it does not perpetuate a working philosophy that leads to the decline of the organization...


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