Written by Anthony Mok, HR Leader from Singapore
As a talent management leader, I am responsible for conducting routine performance appraisals. There are many individuals who don’t look forward to these reviews and, because this makes me curious, I took a systemic overview of promotion and reward systems in school and in business to see if I could uncover the core problems and issues.
Employees at my company are rated on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 3 equates to “a job well done” and shows that the work is completed at 100% of expectations.
So I find it odd that employees who receive 3’s on their appraisals often feel slighted or disgruntled.
A reason for the sour attitudes may be traced back to the way employees received grades while they were still in school. I believe the answers I uncovered are especially true in Asian societies where there is a very strong emphasis on academic achievement during the child’s formal education through primary and secondary grades, and even into higher education.
Let’s examine why this may be true. During the formal schooling years, students who excel and perform at 100% by the end of school year get promoted to the next grade and typically receive some nice accolades. Those who perform at 80% also get promoted to the next grade. These individuals may also receive accolades. This cycle of performance, whether at 100% or 80%, is reinforced and reaffirmed over 12 years of formal schooling. Although there is a 20% differential in performance, the ultimate reward –passing or being promoted to the next grade—is identical.
These students graduate and make their way into a workforce that rewards accomplishment and promotes individuals in a completely different way. However, an emerging labor base that has grown accustomed to getting promoted for simply doing ‘adequate’ work may expect that performing at 80%, will be rewarded the same way it was in school, i.e. continual advancement. But the rewards that accompany adequate performance in the workplace have little or no resemblance to the accolades and promotions students were given in school.
When employees discover that an 80% rating does not warrant a promotion, attitudes tend to sour and performance may even drop further. And this pattern can last throughout an entire career.
This has left me wondering, is it time to revisit the systems of rewards and promotions in our schools? Should we instead create workplace performance management practices that work more like that of the school system? Or, is it time to completely do away with performance appraisals altogether?
Eager to hear what you think.
About Anthony Mok –
Anthony has dedicated his past 14 years as an internal HR / Talent consultant in various industries and global locations. Industry coverage: Finance, Military, Oil & Gas and Insurance. Country coverage: Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Qatar, UK.
He is presently the Regional (Asia) Talent Management and Learning & Development Lead at Marsh, a Marsh & McLennan company, based in Singapore. He has a strong passion for people development and spends his free time thinking about creative solutions to help others reach a “a-ha” moment; especially against the likes of “It can’t be done” and “We’ve tried it before”.
- Delivering an Effective Performance Review (blogs.hbr.org)
- How to Align Performance Management with Key Business Objectives (tlnt.com)