The performance management and development system are an essential tool to ensure that individual employees and the department, achieve their performance objectives. Without the proper management of the system, the organisation is likely to decline in its performance. A proper assessment and evaluation of whether the system is effective should be considered as one of the priorities in any organisation. Poor coordination of this system could hamper many achievement goals of the organisation. Employees could improve or perform poorly because of how the system is managed and its status in an organisation. This essay will define performance management, the aim, advantages and pitfalls to the system and the relevance of Critical Human Resource Development in performance management, with reference to the South African context.
Performance management can be described as a process by which organisations set goals and determine standards, as well as assign and evaluate the work of employees in order to distribute rewards (Varma, Wadhwa, & Deshmukh, 2008). In effect, it is used to improve organisational, team and individual performance and development using activities that are designed to ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner (Varma et al., 2008). This is an on-going process and is essential to the attainment of employee goals for the purpose of achieving objectives (Varma et al.
, 2008). Aguinis (2013) describes performance management as a “continuous process of identifying, measuring, and developing the performance of individuals and teams, and aligning performance with the strategic goals of the organisation” (p. 2). Performance management is the process of setting goals and objectives as well as observing performance and giving and receiving ongoing coaching and feedback (DeNisi, & Kluger, 2000). Performance management requires that managers ensue that employees’ activities and outputs are congruent with the organisations goals and consequently, help the organisation gain a competitive advantage. Performance management therefore creates a direct link between employee performance and organisational goals and makes employees’ contribution to the organisation explicit (Aguinis, 2013). Performance management involves the assessment and development of people at work, in an increasingly competitive work environment where organisations need to get the best out of their human resources, if they are to survive and prosper (Aguinis, 2013). Therefore, performance management could ultimately be defined as a cyclic process of getting better results from employees by using different methods and support mechanisms available within the organisation.
Implementing a well-designed performance management system has many advantages (Aguinis, 2013). From the perspective of the employees, a good system increases motivation and self-esteem, helps improve performance, clarifies job tasks and duties, provides self-insight and development opportunities, and clarifies supervisor expectations (Aguinis, 2013). From the perspective of the managers, good systems allow them to gain insight into the employees’ activities and goals, they allow for more fair and appropriate administrative actions, allow them to communicate organisational goals more clearly, let them differentiate good and poor performers, help drive organisational change, encourage voice behaviour, and improve employee engagement (Aguinis, 2013). From the perspective of the HR function, a good system provides protection from litigation and can help minimise employee misconduct which can have many negative consequences for the organisation (Aguinis, 2013). However, poorly designed and implemented performance management systems can have negative consequences for the organisation and the employees.
Employees may resign, or may stay and be less motivated, and relationships can suffer irreparable damage. These systems, if poorly designed, may also be biased, resulting in costly lawsuits and wasted time and resources (Aguinis, 2013). A more in-depth review of the advantages (See Appendix A) and pitfalls (See Appendix B) of the performance management system is outlined in the appendices attached.
The origins of strategic performance management can be traced to the concept and practice of management by objectives. This is described by Raia (1974) as a management system in which the objectives of the organisation are explicitly stated, so that management and employees understand their overall or ultimate purposes and specific implications for their role in the organisation, and whereby an employee’s objectives are derived or cascaded down from the organisation’s overarching goals. This is said to be a process whereby managers and employees form objectives together and allows employees to participate in the process, however Skinner (1981) argues that these participative management styles do not implement progressive personnel practices and propose that these are rather ineffectual stating that these management styles “seem to be mostly good intentions and whistling in the dark” (p. 107). Armstrong (1987) supports this statement by arguing that managers merely function as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” (p. 8) that use soft rhetoric such as to ‘develop’ the employee and ‘involved’ them in the process of implementing objectives; to disguise the hard reality of workplace performance management that shifts the power from the employee to the employer, while placing the responsibility to develop and maintain objectives, onto the employee.
Hook (2001) suggests that the main impact of management by objectives in South Africa may have been to provide a smokescreen behind which management could introduce non-unionism or obtain significant concessions from trade unions. In fact, Wright and McMahan (1992) proposed that the main role of performance management might be to address these institutional aspects of the organisation. Though, the terms performance management and performance appraisal are frequently used interchangeably, it can be argued that performance management is more expansive than performance appraisal. That is, the former tends to be associated with developments in areas such as coaching, 360-degree feedback, competency-based appraisal, performance pay and, more recently, employee engagement (Mone ; London, 2009). The objectives of performance management systems are outlined in the appendices (See Appendix C) (McMahon, 2013). Performance management also emphasises the ongoing nature of the employee management process.
Related to this, Torrington (2008) points out that performance management is increasingly seen as the way to manage employee performance and has incorporated the appraisal/review process. Armstrong (2009) suggests that performance management is a systematic process for improving organisational performance, via the development of the performance of individuals and teams. That is, within an agreed framework of planned goals, standards and competency requirements, it is a means of improving results, as one manages performance in a manner which focuses on future performance planning and improvement (Armstrong, 2009). This process entails the provision of feedback and the assessment of an employee’s progress and achievements so that action plans can be prepared (Armstrong, 2009). Willmott (1993) asserts that performance management rhetoric of an ‘agreed framework’ and ‘future planning and improvement,’ turns employees into ‘willing slaves’ who negate their own interest because they believe the organisation will take care of them.
He asserts that performance management uitary rhetoric disguises the pluralist needs of employees and facilitates the introduction of practices that advantage organisations at the expense of the employees (Willmott, 1993). This is because organisations prey on the vulnerability of individuals who lack the intellectual resources to respond in a way that is not self-defeating during feedback sessions and that the employees’ willingness to subjugate themselves, results from the sense of identity, security and self-determination that corporate values promise (Willmott, 1993). Performance management systems serve multiple purposes. The multiple purposes are stipulated in the appendices (See Appendix D), however the two main functions of performance management systems are to evaluate and develop employees (Aguinis, 2013).
Evaluative functions include the use of performance management for salary administration, promotion decisions, retention decisions, recognition of individual performance and identification of poor performance. This is focussed primarily on differentiating between employees (Aguinis, 2013). To conduct this evaluative function, the appraiser takes the role of the ‘judge’ (Aguinis, 2013). Bulhan (1985) recognises the pivotal significance of political and economic power differentials in the evaluative process. Parker and Gould (1999) argue that these power dynamics within this ‘knowledge-sharing’ through which the notions of ordinary explanations of people and their behaviours are ‘digested’ and then ‘regurgitated’ back, in the form of ‘expert’ psychological knowledge and is the exploration of the way everyday structures of professional work, function beyond the boundaries of professional practice. Therefore, this bidirectional interchange of ‘knowledge’ is “suffused with ideological representation of the self and others that structure the everyday organisation” (Parker ; Gould, 1999, p.14).
Gender differences, racial individualities, anxieties about the self and about others sexuality, each inform the way in which people reproduce patterns of exclusion, pathology and power, and is carried out through everyday practices and has deeply penetrated the overt and subliminal social practice and discourse within performance management (Parker ; Gould, 1999). It appears that this rhetoric allows management to manage employee ‘insides’ (i.e. performance) which is less obtrusive and a more effective means of control (Alvesson ; Willmott, 2002). Developmental functions include the identification of individual training needs, providing performance feedback, determining transfers and attachments, and identification of individual strengths and weakness. The appraiser for this developmental function, takes the role of coach or mentor (Aguinis, 2013). However, the discourse of development, according to Bierema (2009) argues that the dominant ‘network discourse’ is one related to ‘company performance’ and not strategies associated with the development of the employees.
Thus, the language used to describe the employee’s network of ‘mentor’s’ and the central meaning of the network is understood in terms of assisting corporate strategy, not as a policy or practice that can assist their development (Bierema, 2009). This rhetoric of empowerment through development, disguises the transfer responsibility from the organisation, to the worker (Wilkinson, 1998). Vaughan (1994) asserts that performance management rhetoric communicates an “attractive image of people trusting each other, sharing risks and rewards, and united by a strong feeling of identity, but gives little sense of the impersonal economic rationalism that characterises management thinking” (p. 26). Vaughan (1994) further suggests that the rhetoric of performance management does not make sense when judged against a background of casualisation and re-organisation of work that re-asserts management authority in a way that resembles Fordism of an earlier industrial era.
He suggests that there is a trade-off, or a transaction between the employee and organisation, of performance for pay where employees are reduced to a product for organisational profit (Vaughan, 1994). Measuring employee performance is done through the process of collecting, analysing and or reporting on information regarding the performance of an individual, group or organisation. It involves studying the processes and strategies within an organisation to see whether the output is in line with what was intended to be produced, or should have been achieved (Bommer, Johnson, Rich, Podsakoff, ; MacKenzie, 1995). Performance management is therefore concerned with three major objectives. The first is performance improvement in order to achieve organisational, team and individual effectiveness. The second is concerned with development, for performance improvement is not achievable unless there are effective processes of continuous development (Armstrong, 2009).
This development however, is only in the barriers of the organisational arena and an employee is encouraged individual goals of mastery but only if its benefits the organisational objectives and goals. Bierema (2009) critiques the process of performance-driven HRD which has changed from enhancing human life to creating optimal performance, which has resulted in viewing work as machinery, and has also resulted in sacrificing life to money. Performance management, according to Bierema (2009) is more aligned to the organisation, than it is to the human workers, which has created the problem that humans are forgotten in the mist of productivity, performance, and organisational profitability. The fact that performance management contributes more to the organisational goals rather than the human interests of the employees, has nullified the suggestion that performance would become a by-product if learning is promoted as the ultimate goal through development within performance management (Bierema, 2009). The third objective is concerned with the satisfying needs and expectations of all the organisation’s stakeholders, management, employees, customers and the general public. In all these three undertakings, performance management relies on communication and involvement, and creating a climate in which continuing dialogue between managers and members of their teams takes place to define expectations and share information on the organisation’s mission values and objectives (Armstrong.
2009). However, Storey (1995) suggests that performance management is an elegant technique with no basis in reality and that it is a symbolic label for managerial opportunism. He suggests that it is a legitimate device to enhance the status of the organisation and reformulate managerial control through a unitary ideology or soft rhetoric (Storey, 1995). The unitary rhetoric of performance management proposes that the mutual interest of employees and the organisation will be met and encourage employees to trust the organisation to take care of their needs (Storey, 1995). Consequently, employees prefer an individual ‘mentor’ or ‘judge,’ rather than a collective workspace relationship, facilitated by unions (Storey, 1995). Armstrong and Baron (2000) claim that the focus of performance management is on areas such as recognition, constructive feedback, personal development and career opportunities. However, Armstrong and Baron (2000) argue that there will always be inevitable tension within performance management which has to satisfy both the interests of the organisation and those of the employee.
Individuals may demand a career projection where there is scope for development and progression, while organisation will need to ensure that they have the right people in the right jobs and are building the right talent pool for the future of the organisation (Armstrong ; Baron, 2000). However, Gratton, Hope-Hailey, Stiles and Truss (1999) argue that the performance management use of soft rhetorical language, such as ‘recognition,’ ‘constructive,’ and ‘personal development;’ asserts and legitimises managerial control through language that espouses individualism, reciprocity and shared commitment. They argue that this rhetoric manages the inherent discontent between employees and organisations, and gains employee consent to control (Gratton et al., 1999).
For instance, the use of performance management for retrenchment purposes, distinguishes redundancies that reduce employees to machines and through reasserting management control and using rhetoric such as ‘down-sizing,’ performance management exploits employees through work intensification and casualisation though the use of soft rhetoric to disguise hard reality leading to a gap between rhetoric and reality. Therefore, Sambrook and Stewart (2000) argues the importance of discourse and how performance management systems frame and talk about the activities of employees. Performance management through the lens of Foucault’s panopticon views the employee under contact surveillance and evaluation (Foucault, 1997).
Foucault (1997) view of an organisation from this perspective is that of a tower situated at the centre, surrounded by the building that is divided into levels and cells. The cells according to Foucault (1997) “become small theatres in which each actor (employee) alone, is perfectly individualised and perfectly visible” (p. 230).
The employees are reduced to machine-like robots, that are predictable and reliable and efficient in their routine. The prisoners within the cells are referred to as the employees, with the watchmen in the tower the organisation. Therefore, employees are made to feel like they are being constantly watched by the organisation and evaluated through this on-going process of performance management and that they must obey the rules within the prison, or organisation. The employees fear that they are always under the radar in performance management and that other employees (or inmates) within the organisation, control their behaviour to conform in order to avoid punishment (Foucault, 1997). This is evident within teams where the performance of the team overall, is reliant on every individual to meet their individual targets. However, when there is an individual that is not performing to the standard of the team, this individual is at risk of punishment by managers through the loss of promotion or rewards and is ostracised by the other team members to differentiate themselves away from the poor performer. Through this process, group think is pervasive as the organisation constructs what the ideal employee is, and employees are persuaded to conform to this ideal in order to reap the benefits (Bierema, 2009). This is an individualistic approach whereby each employee is in charge of their own performance and their own rewards through the process of performance management, involving the employee in the decision process of meeting objectives.
Employees are imprisoned by organisations through this process as they are made to believe they are in charge of their own advancement, but essentially, top management decides the objectives overall and provides the rewards to those that meet their criteria (Bierema, 2009). Employees use organisations to search for meaning and permanency, belonging and identity, and in order to manage, organise and motivate themselves (Reed, 2008). Organisations play on these fears and insecurities of employees and use it to their advance by creating an achievement of immortality through recoded deeds and roles (Reed, 2008). Organisations create a platform of ‘success’ and of ‘performance’ related to an external ideal and because people want to achieve and be relevant within society, organisations use performance management to put them ‘in-charge’ of their future (Reed, 2008). However, ultimately, this was and will never be up the individual entirely (Reed, 2008). Horkheimer and Adorno (1946) argue that popular culture in organisations is like a factory producing cultural goods to manipulate people.
The capitalist economy created false needs that people try to satisfy no matter what their financial situation is (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1946). Marcuse (1989) argues that people are not free, as they function in systems such as an organisation and only when they are free from those systems, will they be able to distinguish the false and true needs. Habermas (1991) believes that every society has its own forms of power relations among its members and that race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, and age are the categories that power structures and privileges are based on. These categories are so embedded in everyday life that they become common-sense through the lenses that are imposed on people, mostly subconsciously (Kilgore, 2001). The lenses through which people accept the power structures and privileges reinforce the hegemony and status quo.
Dominant classes in society distort the definition of reality and truth and so their way is accepted without question by the oppressed groups. Hegemony therefore plays an important role in serving the interests of the dominant classes (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). This is referred to as interest convergence and is when the interest of the oppressed group is only served when it intersects with the interest of the dominant class (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). This is evident in performance management as the interest of the employees is only viable when they prevent organisations from making a profit or being a competitor in the global economy.
The platinum belt strike of 2014 continued for five months and the industry lost R24-billion in revenue. 70 000 platinum-0mine workers went on strike and only when the organisation lost enough revenue, did they agree to the workers terms and conditions for the wage increase. This suggest that our system, by reason of its structure, is ill-equipped to address certain types of wrongs and is referred to as structural determinism (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017).
Hayes (1989) stipulates that psychology does produce ideologically-loaded views of the world and does produce powerful effects on its ‘subjects.’ Therefore, that “the category and notion of the individual itself… may be constituted by particular, historically situated, ideological discourses” (Hayes, 1989, p. 85). This is especially evident within the post-apartheid context of current-day South African, whereby the workforce is made-up of a multitude of employees from diverse backgrounds and agendas of transformation and development are still far from being met.
There is a constant dialogue being made in performance management systems about an employee’s expectations, priorities and performance. Organisations develop employees and ensure their success, only to maximise their contribution to the organisation. The demands from the external marketplace are being put onto the individual to perform to the demand by the organisation and through development of employees through increasing their human capital as organisations do not want employees that are burnout or disengaged as this means less organisational capital, so organisations want employees to keep developing in order for them to stay a competitor in the external market. As soon as an employee does not meet their targets or is comfortable with the position they are in, they are seen as a liability to the organisation as organisations strive for negative entropy. Organisations then turn it onto the employee to want to succeed and perform better as they fill their organisation with people who support them and disregard those who do not fit their status quo.