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The Role of HR in a Performance Appraisal

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The strategy, implementation and functional steps in any performance management system rest squarely on a human resources leader and her department. HR managers and directors generally determine everything from the level of performance standards the company can expect its employees to achieve to what percent salary increase is reasonable for various performance levels. HR plays an essential role in performance appraisal, but its role is more centrally factored on the entire performance management system, instead of just the appraisal, which is only one small part of the entire system.

Performance Management

An organization's performance management system often is the project that HR undertakes. Performance management is the overall system that supervisors and managers use to measure job performance, sustain productive work groups and recognize workers for meeting the company's performance standards. An HR manager or director works collaboratively with the organization's leadership to determine the type of coaching philosophy the company should adopt. Many employers have step-intensive performance management systems that include regular performance appraisals and progressive discipline policies. Other companies use less formal methods and unconventional methods for measuring performance and providing constructive feedback to employees.

Leadership Training

The HR department's training and development area generally provides leadership training for supervisors and managers on how to properly evaluate employees using appraisal methods, conduct appraisal meetings and give periodic feedback. In addition, they learn how to avoid supervisor bias in the appraisal and disciplinary process, such as just looking at an employee's recent accomplishments or letting one slip-up or misstep overshadow an employee's numerous achievements. Many HR departments also teach supervisors how to provide guidance to their employees throughout the performance appraisal. Guidance includes goal setting, professional development and preparing workers for taking on additional responsibilities or increasing bench strength in their departments.

Compensation and Performance

HR establishes a method for tying compensation to its performance appraisals through assessing the organization's capability for rewarding employees through pay-for-performance or merit pay systems. Conducting job analyses, reviewing compensation practices and developing rewards programs for employees whose performance meets or exceeds the company's expectations falls under the purview of the HR department, meaning the HR leader and compensation specialists. Whether supervisors and managers have approval to determine the extent to which they reward employee performance also is a function of the HR department. Some organizations leave wage increases and decisions on bonuses and incentives up to the managers, while other companies' HR departments are responsible for that task after they complete their employee appraisals.

Performance Issues

Employees assume that HR wears the black hat when it addresses disciplinary issues. That's partly true but only when unresolved performance issues such as poor performance appraisals require suspension, demotion or termination. Otherwise, HR typically wants to restore employees to their productive selves and re-engage them in their jobs. HR reviews supervisors' and managers' performance-related employee relations issues and works together to recommend ways to solve matters related to performance appraisals that employees might believe contain unfair ratings. The HR department equally advocates for the company and the employee to encourage strong performance records and job satisfaction, which are integral parts of the overall performance management system.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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