Sweetwater University Appraising the Secretaries

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Performance appraisal is a formal and structured management system, mostly conducted by the immediate supervisor to evaluate the quality of an employee’s performance in an organization. There are advantages to the process among them motivation and satisfaction to the employee when conducted properly, used for training and development of the employee. To the an organization the appraisal process should be the base to learn the organizations training needs and improving and effective personnel, and base the staff’s individual goals to the overall organizations goals.

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In relation to the situation at the Sweetwater University, the Vice President will need to organize for a training session for the administrators, in order to inform them to accept and change their attitude regarding the appraisal process. They need training on how to be effective leaders and motivators. It is only by them accepting the long-term advantages of the process, both to the university, the administrators and to the secretaries that the administrators will accept to fill out the new forms and to do it properly and accurately. Previously the administrators have not been keen on making accurate appraisals, but have been using the play-safe policy, for fear of loosing the secretaries to the more paying private universities. They should be informed that the idea is to make the secretaries more motivated, and, that it easier even for the administrators to work with self-motivated personnel.

The process was formerly linked to salary and material increments which as some experts argue made it reduce the developmental value of appraising, and which made it ineffective as a management tool. On the other hand they are those experts who support tying the salary to the appraisal process with the argument that bonuses should be based on merit and the achievements as reviewed appraised during the review.

Regarding the experts recommendation to change the graphical rating form, the Vice President should accept the suggestion to change the form designs. He should however and to start with, should assure the administrators that the appraisal results will not be used as the base for salary increments and inform them that the appraisal process is to recognise individual performance and identify any need for development on the secretary’s performance. He should assure the administrators that the most important reason to appraise is to rate individual’s abilities and recognise their efforts as well as learn their weaknesses so as they can learn on what and where to improve. The appraisal process is used to recognise individual career training and development needs.

To the University the process should be used to measure the effectiveness of the University’s recruitment and induction process. By analysing the collected data from various secretaries the administration can assess the quality of the workforce, whether it is deteriorating, stagnant, or improving. The process is used as a base from which to learn the University’s training requirements. The documented results are used by the Human Resources in their decisions.

With this information, the administrators as well as the secretaries will change their attitude towards the process when they know that the University administration is actually interested in their personal growth and their contribution to the University is recognised, respected and appreciated. Recognition has been proved to be a strong incentive and as such this message should be passed on to the administrators.

The Vice President should rescind his previous memo as the experts recommended. The memo had instructed the administrators that no more than half the secretaries reporting to any particular administrator could be appraised as “excellent”. The reason and target when appraising should not be based on how many employees attain what grade but on the goals and achievements, after the process. The requirements of the memo can lead to the administrators giving biased reports so as to meet these requirements. It is unfair and a demoralizing to those administrators who have applied an effective leadership style with their subordinates. Their effort is not recognised because they have to apply the same rule like all the others.

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There are other actions that the Vice President should take to improve the situation and acceptability of the appraisal system. The secretaries and the staff in general seem to be demoralized. The Vice President should introduce incentives to motivate them and to make them change their attitude to feel that they are part of the team, and make them to be more interested in their jobs. This can be done first by introducing changes in the work environment. He can introduce incentives such as training advancements, recognise their contribution to the university, thus making them to be proud to work there and give them enough job security. He can introduce open communication to all levels by introducing staff days where the secretaries, and the administrators and other staff assemble to have fun and socialise.

Appraisal should be an ongoing process, and not a once in a year activity as has been the practise at the University. The process should be in four phases, performance planning, performance execution, assessment and finally the review. In the planning stage the administrator and the secretary should have a session where they discuss, the expected goals to be achieved within the appraisal period. Then follows the execution process, where the secretary performs the duties as per the plan. The administrator and the secretary will continuously review the progress and assess the achievements and any new recommendations. At the end of the period the two will have another session where they discuss and review the achievements, the weaknesses and the administrator to recommend on areas that need improvement.

The Vice President may use the newly designed graphic rating scale. The form is easy to use and is best used for comparison between different employees. It can therefore be used with the secretaries at the university so as to compare the performance for different secretaries. However, there maybe a few issues that may be raised while using the graphical rating scale. There are different administrators who will be using the form and they may interpret and use it in different ways. Some administrators maybe very strict while others maybe very lenient and thus the results cannot be used comparatively.

Graphic rating scale is used by the appraiser to check off to evaluate the performance of the employee. It is one of the oldest and most popular appraisal methods used and rates the quality and quantity of the employees work. The form can be adapted to suit the organizations most important traits for the employee to be effective. The traits may include punctuality, initiative, communication skills, dependability and cooperation.

Against each trait are ratings scales, either, unsatisfactory, fair, satisfactory, good and excellent, where each earns a point starting with the best performance for each trait, (unsatisfactory 1, fair2, satisfactory 3, good 4), at the end the points are totalled and recorded.

The graphic rating scale is more effective when used by one administrator to rate and compare the performance of his subordinates. As such the scale may not be the best option at the university with several administrators conducting the process.

Therefore the Vice President should ask for some amendments to be made on the recommended form and use it in combination with critical incident technique, a rating technique known as Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) which is more useful and accurate. It identifies and groups measurable behaviour, performance and results. It is specific to the job activities.

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BARS, also known as the behavioural expectations scale, combine the rating scale and the critical incident techniques. Behavioural anchored scales are classified as, behavioural observation scales, expectation behavioural scale and numerically anchored rating scales, which start from 1 point to 7 points where 1 point is given for extremely poor behaviour, 2 points for poor, 3 points for below average, 4 points for average, 5 points for above average 6 points for good and 7 points for extremely good behaviour or as the situation requires in different organizations. This method is preferred because it is easy to use and the employee is involved in the process. It is accepted by the employer and employee and provides a base for setting and measuring development goals. This is the method I would recommend to the Vice President. The secretaries’ expectations will be evaluated and rated which means their development goals can be set. The secretaries will participate in the process and therefore it will be more acceptable by them. The form can be amended as shown in Figure 1.

There are other appraisal methods the Vice President can choose from.

While using the Critical incident techniques, the supervisor/manager notes down both positive and negative job performances of the employees, and maintain a periodical record of the critical incidents. Critical incidents are the employee’s outstanding or poor performances. At the end of the performance period an evaluation is done on the employee’s performance. These records are later used to form an objective base from which to discuss the employee’s performance.

Confidential report is a technique mostly applied in Government offices. It is conducted by the employee’s immediate supervisor, who records the subordinates weaknesses and strengths of the subordinate. The employee receives no feedback from the supervisor. This has recently changed as a result of pressure from the trade unions. This is not recommended in this situation as it is a hectic process for the administrators, who may have not yet accepted the need for appraisals. The technique is preferred while appraising senior managers.

Essay evaluation is a non-quantitative technique where the supervisor describes the strengths and weaknesses of the subordinate, detailing on the job knowledge the subordinates understanding of the job requirements, the employee’s ability to organise and plan, and the employee’s attitude in general ability and how he/she relates with colleagues and superiors. It is mostly applied in combination with the graphic rating scale. It is however not recommended because the administrators maybe biased and may not be willing or may not have essay writing abilities.


Checklists and weighted checklists10 where the appraiser will have prepared a list of set objectives of effective and ineffective job behaviours. In this case the appraiser must deeply understand the job requirements. The appraiser will check on the list if he believes that the employees possesses the listed trait by checking a yes or a no against each trait.

Figure 1:

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Points Allocated Performance Score Behaviour Based on performance
1 Extremely poor Requires minimal corrections but also fails to adopt materials and style for communication. Therefore, it fails to prepare communications which are straightforward.
2 Poor Needs frequent corrections and could only prepare forms only when under strict supervision and does communicate effectively when asked to do so.
3 Average Requires minimal corrections; it is supported by minimal guidance to prepare records of forms in a timely manner and they are accurate.
4 Good Requires minimal corrections if any at all. Involves preparations of communication such as paper work, forms and which are done accurately, timely and clear.
5 Extremely good Promotes capturing of records which are accurate, timely and clear. The products mostly shall not require adapt styles and corrections to communicate the information.


Kirk, Alan.2009. Importance of Performance Appraisals. Available from Internet, Web.

Lawrence, Patricia. 2004. The Importance of Having a Performance Appraisal Program, Part II. The trusted Professional. 7(15): 34-39

Lindo, David. 2007. The Importance of Performance Appraisals. Web.

Ngo, Davi. 2009. HR Management. Web.

North, Archer. 2010. Benefits of Appraisal. Web.

Open Learning World. 2010. Methods of performance appraisal. Web.

Revised 2008. Guide to the Performance Appraisal Report Forms. Web.

Sandler, Corey and Janice Keefe. 2008. Performance Appraisals Phrase Book. Cincinnati: Adams Media

Tovey, Michael. 2006. Managing Performance Improvement 2ed. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia

Vietz, Osmond. 2009. Performance Management Techniques. Web.

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