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As reported by SHRM, experts in the field of employment recognize the drawbacks associated with annual numeric ratings in assessing employee performance. They stress that such ratings might fall short of adequately reflecting an employee’s contributions and the intricacies of their work. The research suggests that relying solely on a numerical rating can marginalize and demotivate even high-performing employees. High performers often seek specific and practical feedback to understand how they can progress. Using adjectives that provide more descriiptive and motivational feedback is beneficial in subjective situations (Wilkie, 2019).
The same article states that using adjectives can provide more nuanced and descriiptive feedback, allowing for a richer understanding of an employee’s performance in specific areas such as emotional intelligence. For example, adjectives can help distinguish between “exceptionally kind and supportive” and “minimally kind and supportive.” Adjectives can clarify expectations by describing desired behaviors and traits. This can help employees understand what is expected in terms of kindness, authenticity, integrity, and character in their interactions with coworkers and clients. In addition, adjectives can help improve Self-Reflection. When provided with descriiptive adjectives, employees can better identify their strengths and areas for improvement. This can encourage self-reflection and personal growth (Wilkie, 2019).
According to Azzara (2023). Replacing numerical ratings with adjectives in performance reviews can have its drawbacks. While it may seem like a way to add more subjectivity and personalization, this shift comes with several challenges. Adjectives are highly subjective; what one person interprets positively, another might perceive negatively. The lack of a standardized frame of reference can lead to confusion and misinterpretation, making it challenging to ensure consistency in evaluations. Moreover, adjectives may not provide the clear guidance that employees need to understand how to improve their performance. For example, if an employee is labeled as “aggressive,” it might not be clear whether this is a positive trait or an area for improvement, leading to potential missteps in behavior correction (Azzara, 2023).
Using adjectives instead of observable behaviors can elicit employees’ strong personal and emotional reactions. These labels can carry perceived values and may not be received more positively than numerical ratings. Furthermore, adjectives without specific behavioral context can perpetuate stereotypes and biases, potentially disadvantaging certain groups of employees, particularly in terms of diversity efforts. Adjective-based evaluations lack the objectivity and clarity provided by behavior-focused feedback, making it challenging to set clear standards and mitigate unconscious biases in performance evaluations (Azzara, 2023).
Is the employee kind and supportive to coworkers?
Using adjectives to assess whether an employee is “kind and supportive to coworkers” can provide more detailed and contextual feedback. Instead of assigning a numerical rating, the evaluator can describe specific instances of kindness and support, clarifying what behaviors are valued. This method encourages a deeper understanding of the employee’s interpersonal skills.
Does the employee communicate authentically on their team?
Evaluating an employee’s authenticity in team communication through adjectives allows for a qualitative assessment of their communication style. Adjectives can help in pinpointing instances where authenticity is demonstrated or lacking. This approach encourages evaluators to provide specific examples and fosters a more in-depth discussion during performance reviews.
Does the employee exhibit integrity and character in their relationships with clients/customers?
Using adjectives to assess integrity and character in relationships with clients or customers can provide a richer picture of the employee’s ethical conduct. Instead of a numerical rating, evaluators can describe instances where the employee demonstrated or failed to exhibit integrity and character. This approach encourages a focus on ethical behavior and can lead to more insightful feedback.
How would this method improve the performance evaluation process?
As mentioned earlier, an article by SHRM highlighted that using adjectives in performance evaluations can improve the process by providing specific and detailed feedback, helping both the employee and the evaluator understand what is expected in terms of behaviors and traits. It can encourage a focus on observable behaviors, making it easier to identify areas for improvement and development (Wilkie, 2019).
Would there be downsides to including adjectives as opposed to numerical ratings? Should both be utilized?
While using adjectives offers benefits such as increased specificity and contextual feedback, there are potential downsides. According to Azzara (2023). Adjectives can be subjective and open to interpretation, potentially leading to inconsistent evaluations. In addition, adjective-based assessment can be more time-consuming and require additional training for evaluators.
The article by SHRM highlights that companies are increasingly adopting pay decisions based on a combination of factors rather than relying solely on a single rating. This approach allows for more effective decision-making and a more holistic assessment of an employee’s overall performance and skills (Wilkie, 2019). This hybrid approach can provide the benefits of adjectives while addressing the challenges associated with subjectivity and comparability.
Azzara, E. (2023, August 10). Performance reviews: Are adjectives really better than numerical ratings?. Fast Mirror – 360-Degree Feedback. https://www.fast-mirror.com/performance-management/performance-reviews-adjectives-vs-numbers/#:~:text=Replacing%20numbers%20with%20adjectives%20could,adverse%20implications%20for%20diversity%20efforts.
Wilkie, D. (2019, August 16). Instead of rating performance with numbers, how about adjectives? SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/instead-of-rating-performance-with-numbers,-how-about-adjectives.aspx#:~:text=Rosenberg%20said%20using%20adjectives%20to,someone%20who%20is%20%27restrained.