Behaviour Assessment In HRM

A better understanding of the topic can be achieved by incorporating into the analysis the idea that “behaviour assessment” is also similar to “performance appraisal” and this means that both concepts deal with the assessment of employee performance in terms of what is expected of them and also on its effect on the overall competitive advantage of the firm in relation to its position in the industry.

On the issue that behaviour assessment as a standard company policy is giving problems for both the organization in general and Human Resource Management (HRM) in particular can be explained based on the following propositions:

1. Behavior assessment and other performance appraisal tools/systems are not clearly understood both for its true meaning, goals, and purpose. 2. Behaviour assessment and other performance appraisal tools/systems do not deliver on its promises to improve overall efficiency and profitability both for the organization and the individual employee. 3. Behaviour assessment and other performance appraisal tools/systems need to be accurate all the time – there is great pressure on management – very little margin of error for a system generated by subjective human observations/judgements.

4. Behaviour assessment and other performance appraisal tools/systems are sometimes regarded as the silver bullet that will solve all problems related to human resources. 5. And finally, these assessment tools are troubling the organization simply because it emanates from a department (HRM) that has weak foundations. It is an understatement to say that behaviour assessment tools are very difficult to understand and are all too complex to be used effectively.

This stems from the fact that even HR specialists do not agree on what constitutes a correct performance appraisal system. Confusion abounds in the HRM world on how to standardize systems. Each company has their own version on how to observe and verify employee performance. Worse, each company devises their methodology based on their needs and uses appraisal systems for varying reasons. The use of HRM behaviour assessments has its advocates and its critics.

This polarization adds to the problem as members of the organization would be in a tug-of-war on how to proceed if ever they will decide to use such tools. Advocates of Behaviour Assessment Systems Amy Delpo in The Performance Appraisal Handbook harps on the benefits behaviour assessment tools and she said, “If you’ve been told to conduct performance evaluations it’s because the people who run your company realize that a performance evaluation system can deliver important benefits and improve the success of each employee, each department, and ultimately, your entire company (2005).

She then lists the expected outcomes as follows: • motivate employees to perform better and produce more • help employee identify the ways in which they can develop and grow • increase employee morale • improve respect employees have for their managers and senior management • foster good communication between your staff and you • identify poor performers and help them get on track and • lay the groundwork to fire poor performers lawfully and fairly when they don’t improve.

One of the reasons for the implementation of performance appraisal system is the need for building a strong organizational culture and many managers feel that the said appraisal system will guarantee correct data on what and where adjustments must be made to help the company move closer into that place where every employee is aware and always striving to maintain that organizational culture. On this great need, Mathis and Jackson explains the motivation to put in place such a system and he said:

Every organization has a culture, and that culture influences how executives, managers, and employees act in making organizational decisions […] the financial scandals in many firms in recent year illustrate the consequences of an “anything goes” organizational culture. (1989) What ignited the revolution for the use of behavioural assessment tools according Armstrong came from the landmark works of McClelland in 1973 and Boyatzis in 1982.

McClelland suggested that “Criterion referencing or validation is the process of anlysing the key aspects of behaviour that differentiates between effective and less effective performance” (cited in Armstrong, 2003). This was later developed by Boyatzis when he said that competency is, “A capacity that exists in person that leads to behaviour that meets the job demands within the parameters of the organizational environment and that , in turn, brings about desired results” (as cited in Armstrong, 2003 ). No self-respecting manager can resist the promise of behaviour assessment systems.

Advocates of performance appraisal tools based their justification on a theory of change – Force Field Analysis – that was put forward by Kurt Lewin. Lewin’s idea as summarized by Sinclair-Hunt and Simms, is described below: The idea is that a situation stays the same only when the forces for change are equivalent to the forces resisting it. The organization is then in equilibrium. Change happens when the forces for change outweigh the forces for restraint. Conversely, where the forces for restraint outweigh the forces for change, things remain the same.

If handled carefully, the driving forces can overcome resistance. (2005) Those who believe in this approach could not be blamed. A case study of British airways “forceful changes” made on the organization resulted in averting bankruptcy and amazing growth. Sinclair-Hunt and Simms reveal a portion of the revolution that occurred in the said UK company, “Between 1982 and 1987 British Airways went from a publicly owned company with bureaucratic command culture and huge losses and decreasing market share to a privately owned company with a market and service driven culture and profits of over $400 million.

” (2005) The authors (Sinclair-Hunt & Simms) then listed the cause of the change was attributed to the following: • Massive reduction in the workforce from 59,000 to 37,000 people • Training programmes to develop appreciation of the business as a service industry • Profit sharing, a bottom-up budgeting system, a user friendly computer system and the CEO engaging in question and answer sessions – all served to emphasise the new participative management style Many organizations are banking on the above-mentioned statements about change.

They are mobilizing their HR departments to apply enough pressure for positive change to occur. Critics of Behaviour Assessment Systems Critics on the use of ill-conceived behaviour assessments asserts that theses procedures contain generally held assumptions and fallacies that if there is an input then there will be an output and if enough pressure is done then change will occur. This idea was debunked by Sinclair-Hunt and Simms using the work of Kanter and associates and they said:

Kanter et al. (1992) suggest that Lewin’s model of change is too simplistic. They argue that Lewin’s model is based on the view that organizations are essentially stable and static. They disagree with the idea that change results only from concentrated effort and that it happens in one direction at a time. Kanter et al. (1992) argue that change is multi-directional and ubiquitous – in other words, it happens in all directions at once and at a more or less continuous process.

This complexity can help to explain why Lewin’s model may not seem to have much relationship with real lie, where change seems a more confused process. (2005) Herein lays the problem with those relying so much on assessment to encourage change when they fail to include in their system the idea that every aspect of the organization must be considered and all the forces at work in the enterprise as well.

On the aversion for the idea that aggressive action will bear immediate positive results, Campbell (1989) said, “We need reminding that trainees do not just fall out of some great trainee bin in the sky; they probably have rather long and varied organizational histories, which have created certain attitudes, values and behaviors relative to specific training experiences” (as cited in Baldwin & Magjuka, 1997). Baldwin and Magjuka supports the idea of deliberate planning and implementation of organization change and not a one shot fix all scheme as is evident in most HR list of suggested solutions and they said:

An assumption common to most training guidebooks is that the learning context can be managed or designed in a way that will affect trainee cognitions and, ultimately, training effectiveness. However this assumption tends to oversimplify the complexity of managing contextual factors in organization. We contend that the complexity stems in large part from the difficulty of predicting how employees will attach meaning to management acts, and the reality that, for organization employees, training is not an isolated event or singular activity, but an episode that occurs among many other organizational episodes experienced by those employees.

(1997) Problems Encountered in the Real World Clampitt in his book Communication for Managerial Effectiveness shows that behaviour assessment is very difficult to execute properly in the real world. This is because the frailty of human being in terms of their personal agenda and other self-serving interest hinders them from giving an objective assessment. Using the words of Sissela Bok, Clampitt showed what the ideal scenario should be and how far is reality from it:

At its best, discretion is the intuitive ability to discern what is and is not intrusive and injurious, and to use this discernment in responding to the conflicts everyone experiences as insider and outsider. It is an acquired capacity to navigate in and between the worlds of personal and shard experiences, coping with the moral questions about what is fair or unfair, truthful or deceptive, helpful or harmful, Inconceivable without an awareness of the boundaries surrounding people, discretion requires a sense for when to hold back I order not to bruise, and for when to reach out.

(as cited in Clampitt, 2005) For his final analysis (Clampitt) on his reservation for performance appraisal systems and the like is partly seen in the following statements: Much ink has been spilled over the issue of performance appraisals, Business journals, periodicals, and books are filled with discussion on how to more effectively conduct the performance review. And with good reasons; there is probably no greater area of employee dissatisfaction. In fact, although most organization maintains a formal performance process, few achieve their objective […] Other complaints abound.

Unfair rating scales, lack of objectivity, and lack of specific examples to back up the evaluation…(2005) Using Baldwin and Magjuka’s insights on the slow learning process experienced by an employee. It is now clear why employees would view such behavioural assessment systems as unfair. Management can be designing an assessment procedure that will look for behavioural changes that are not present. Not because the employee is lazy or has no resolve to change but as pointed out by Baldwin and Magjuka, it is not there yet because the natural process of learning has not yet taken its course.

Clampitt adds the following reasons for the infectivity of this HR system 1) managers resist the appraisal process because it is used to accomplish multiple goals that are sometimes incompatible; 2) many mangers feel compelled to inflate ratings in favor of their department; and 3) many managers resist the appraisal process because they feel that they are “playing God” (2005). Goals of Behaviour Assessment The following is the discussion of the generally accepted goals of behaviour assessment and will be used as a basis for understanding the failure of said assessment tools in achieving the following objectives.

The first common reason for incorporating such practice of evaluating employees stems from the great need to ascertain how competent a worker/employee is in his/her given position. Background information can be gleaned from the works of Woodruffe (1990), “Competency is a person-based concept which refers to the dimensions of behavior lying behind competent performance. ” Woodruffe (1990) added that competence is “A work-related concept which refers to areas of work at which the person is competent” (as cited in Armstrong, 2003).

The Need for Accuracy This paper propose that one of the reasons that behaviour assessment is a very much troubled aspect of HRM practice is due to the fact that there is no room for error on its findings and recommendations. Consider the following documented events on UK’s experience with a failed assessment for correct pay costs as described in Armstrong and Brown’s book Paying for Contibution: Chancellor Gordon Brown (regarding the most publicized UK pay developments in a single month –May 1998- ), saw the UK private sector earnings growth of 5.

6 percent as giving serious cause of concern, threatening the competitiveness of the UK economy and the maintenance of price stability; in June the Bank of England cited wage increases outstripping productivity growth as the prime justification for an increase in interest rates […] that rising wages could, destroy the enormous prize of economic growth and stability. (1999) Amy Delpo on the need for accurate and fair appraisal issued the following warning, “As you may have been told, conducting a shoddy performance appraisal can get your company – and you – into legal trouble.

There is no point in sugarcoating it for you: Writing the wrong things on a performance appraisal or doing the appraisal unfairly or improperly can have devastating consequences if you are sued by an employee” (2005) Promises Are Made to be Broken There is an expectation amongst employees that if they did a fairly good job then management will notice. This is reinforced by the fact that a regular performance evaluation is being conducted by the people from HRM.

This leads to the expectation that salary will be adjusted based on competency and the worker’s striving not only to achieve a higher level of performance but also on a higher degree of conforming to what is believed to be as admirable behaviour befitting a model employee. It will be such a disappointment for said employee to discover, or when he realizes after a few years of no wage increase, that the job performance evaluation was worth nothing. Armstrong and Brown explain why promises of performance related pay is most often a figment of imagination, and the authors said:

The motor industry presents a good example of the competitive pressure which have forced similar changes in pay and working practices across many sectors. The threat in a ruthlessly competitive European market from Far East manufacturers, and the opportunities for an increasingly concentrated set of globally organized companies to shift production to lower cost locations (VW in Eastern Europe), or closer to new markets (Mercedes and BMW in the United States), means that the European firms simply cannot afford to have uncompetitive wage costs which are out of line with the productivity and performance of alternative location. (1999)

If this is the case then HR specialist must stop deluding employees that the job performance will affect their pay grade. The truth is HRM needs the evaluation to enforce change and to make personnel related decisions but could not deliver on its promise to the employees for economic reasons; this has disheartened not a few employees. The Problem with HRM After all these things are said and done, the most unbelievable reason perhaps as to why behaviour assessment is such a troubling aspect of management in general and HRM in particular lies in the fact that the department tasked to design such evaluation systems is in trouble itself.

Consider the following insights from David E. Guest, UK’s own expert on the study of human resource management, and he said: There has been a rash of studies demonstrating a positive association between human resource management (HRM) and performance, providing encouragement to those who have always advocated the case for a distinctive approach to the management of human resources. While these studies represent encouraging signs of progress, statistical sophistication appears to have been emphasized at the expense of theoretical rigour. (1999) In Australia the problem of HRM is a concern.

Graham Andrewartha likes to believe that: […] human resource management is a management specialty that has not yet achieved professional status. Further, because of its monopoly over the people management area, it has diverted other managers from taking responsibility for people issues and unintentionally contributed to the continuing decline in people skills in Australian organization […] HRM has always been reshaping itself, continuously changing and innovating, et not really changing at all. It requires foundation – not innovation – to be effective. (1998) Conclusion

The reason why behaviour assessment has met a lot of controversy in organizations around the world and most especially in Australia is due to confusion on what a correct and beneficial employee-performance-evaluation-system should look like. This is exacerbated by the lack of positive results on the basis of the use of such system for corporate and personnel gain. The answer to the query can be found in all these and more importantly on HRM need to change first before it can expect change from the corporation it wishes to serve. References Andrewartha, Graham. (1998). The Future Role of Human Resource Management. In G. L. O’Neil & R.

Kramar (Eds. ) Australian Human Resource Management: Current Trends in Management Practice. Australia: Woodslane Pty Limited. Armstrong, Michael. (2003). Human Resource Management Practice. London: Kogan Page Ltd. Armstrong, M. & Brown, D. (1999). Paying for Contribution. London: Kogan Page Ltd. Baldwin, T. T. & Magjuka, R. (1997). Organizational Context and Training Effectiveness. In J. K. Ford et al. (Eds. ). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Berger, L. A. & Berger, D. R. (2000). The Compensation Handbook: A State-of-the-Art guide to Compensation Strategy and Design. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Clampitt, Phillip.

(2005). Communication for Managerial Effectiveness 3rd ed. London: Sage Publications Ltd. DelPo, Amy. (2005). The Performance Appraisal Handbook: Legal and Practical Rules for Managers. 1st ed. CA: Consolidated Printers, Inc. Guest, D. E. () Human Resource Management and Performance: A Review and Research Agenda. In R. S. Schuler & S. E. Jackson (Eds. ) Strategic Human Resource Management. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Mathis, R. L. & Jackson, J. H. (1989). Human Resource Management. 11th ed. NE: South-Western. Sinclair-Hunt, M. & Simms, H. (2005). Organizational Behaviour and Change Management. UK: Select Knowledge Limited.

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