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Life is full of tests and contests.. We had to do well in exams when we were young, had to score well in the Entrance Tests to get into a good BSchool and as we get older will have to do well in our Medical Tests. Amidst all this, Appraisals are yet another test…. a report card of the year gone by. A test that will decide if you can buy that car, afford a house or go for a long holiday this year. The stakes are high as the one thing our country has gained over the past few decades is competitiveness. And most of the times it’s not about what you got, but it’s about what the others got.

So this blog post is dedicated to all HR professionals who will be busy for the next one month. Busy as we not only have to deal with several spreadsheets, documents and an elaborate appraisal process (that is hopefully online), but mostly cause we have to deal with several aroused emotions of ego, disappointment and anger. Somehow all these directed to the HR function. Someone had once told me that the HR people don’t want others to get more salary than them. Ouch that one was below the belt.

One of the other tough parts about the Appraisal process is that on one side we have fairness & consistency in mind and on the other side there is business and practical issues to take care of. And I believe that a good HR professional has to balance both. It’s very easy to have a well-structured model that is based on market data and bell curve and compa ratios, but it’s very tough to know where to draw the lines.

But the tragedy of creating a fair Reward system is the need to deal with fewer variables. Few variables mean we need to categorize people in buckets or Ranks or Ratings. This allows us to then build several models that we think are the most fair. Not just that, we also believe that in order to be fair, we need to force rank people into the BELL CURVE.

So my question to all HR professionals is that does it really work?

If we do not expect our employees to compare each other’s salary and bonuses, why do we propagate a relative Rating mechanism that compares their performances?

Is trying to be fair the most unfair practice?

Can we deal with the Rewards exercise without really putting a number on each employee?

What’s the alternative?

I don’t have an answer to that question. Would most definitely want to hear from others who have attempted to answer this question. But I do know that the ‘how part’ is as important as the ‘What part’

  • Firstly, do not take to heart the nasty blaming comments. It’s what the doctors need to endure when they have to give the bad news
  • Make sure that you try as hard as possible to create an environment where development of the employee remains core to the appraisal system
  • You will have to make exceptions to your process. Just let them be few and let them be the right ones
  • Your reward strategy cannot be kept a well-guarded secret. Talk to your stakeholders about the rationale. Either you are transparent or you are unfair.
  • Take some effort in creating a good perception about the process. A little marketing helps. Everyone likes an attractive package (No I didn’t mean salary package).
  • One emotion that either gets over played or forgotten is ‘Empathy’. Don’t get completely carried away by emotions. However, without empathy you will be like the 90s multistarrer movie. They had everything except an audience.

Lastly, keep your ego at bay. When the going gets tough, don’t swell and don’t sulk. Write a blog instead 🙂

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