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International Journal of Human Resource Management and Research (IJHRMR) ISSN 2249-6874 Vol. 2 Issue 3 Sep 2012 29-42 Š TJPRC Pvt. Ltd.,


ABSTRACT One of the many contributing factors of successful performance appraisals is the competence of the supervisor/appraiser. This is more so in the case of appraising knowledge worker performance. The intangible nature of knowledge worker (KW) renders assessing knowledge worker productivity a difficult task. The unique skills of the knowledge worker, heterogeneous work requirements and the wide range of tasks which comprise knowledge work demand that those appraising such employees possess a certain range of competences. This paper attempts to identify those competences that IT professionals in India perceive to be important for supervising appraisers. Data collected from 75 IT professionals in India has been collected and analysed with factor analysis to finally reach four broad competence groups.

KEY WORDS: performance appraisal, competence, knowledge worker. INTRODUCTION Effective implementation of performance management practices is crucial for any organisation. All organisations need an effective system for monitoring and enhancing employee productivity and performance. Employees not only require adequate feedback about their performance but also need to be motivated to learn and develop further. Performance appraisals have featured as a critical area of interest to researchers and practitioners alike. As a system for managing employee performance the process of performance management is most commonly represented as a cycle consisting steps of planning, supporting, reviewing and rewarding performance. Common in most interpretations of performance appraisal and management is the idea that manager and the managed should have a shared view of what is expected of the employee; involvement and participation of a direct kind are typically advocated as means by which this shared view may be arrived at. Both the rater (the immediate supervisor) and the ratee (the employee) need to agree upon acceptable standards of performance and execution of performance plans need to be joint venture of the appraiser and the apraisee. The appraisee is responsible for execution of the responsibilities bestowed upon him and the immediate supervisor plays an enabling role providing feedback and support throughout the cycle of events. Thus it may be established that the immediate supervisor plays a pivotal role in the performance appraisal process. Supporting performance is seen as a responsibility of the line manager who also has a particular part to play in reviewing


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performance. Moreover, review is seen as an on ongoing activity rather than as something that happens just once or twice a year. (Williams, 2003).

LITERATURE REVIEW Role of the Appraiser Law (2007) states that performance evaluations are mandatory procedures in most organisations with the supervisor playing a very dominant role, with meetings mostly scheduled by the manager rather than the employee and typically following a format pre-established by management. The appraiser plays a pivotal role throughout the different phases of the performance evaluation cycle. (Fink and Longnecker 1998, Kumar 2005). The evaluations deal with issues (problems) identified by the manager, and relate to goals or standards largely set by the manager. The manager, or evaluation team, in essence sits in judgment of the employee, who usually is alone. Focus is given on is on the employees' past efforts, actions and decisions and tied to decisions by management about salary, bonuses, advancement and layoffs. St-Onge et al (2009) in their study on determinants of managers’ motivation to evaluate employees’ performance at work found that managers express opinions that can be associated with different perspectives: psychometric, affective, political, strategic, cultural, justice, and symbolic. Despite various appraisal shortcomings, participants in their study asserted that rating provides the best available basis for rewarding performance through a merit-based reward structure and both managers and employees continue to accept appraisal systems even while recognizing that the process is fraught with inaccuracies. In their study, appraisals per se, were described as much too subjective and overly influenced by supervisors’ prejudices and shifting values to be an accurate reflection of a worker’s contribution. Performance evaluation was also perceived as a hierarchical control tool that corresponds to classical concepts of good management. Specifically, those who control the performance appraisal process also control the distribution of awards. Performance appraisal thus becomes a means of strengthening the organizational hierarchy. Performance appraisals provide a broad range of work rules and expectations that guide the efforts of employees and make sense out of doing tasks assigned by others. Here, the worker will be measured on specific performance, which is thus important. Without the rules, employees may conclude that nothing counts. In addition, appraisals support the need for order in the organization. Although problematic, evaluation attempts to control, interpret and reward behaviour. Ratings show that managers care what subordinates do and provide a sense of order to the vast number of tasks performed. At the very beginning of the appraisal process, the supervisor and the employee jointly set and clarify goals and performance expectations. It has been seen (Locke, et al., 1981) that goal setting is an important element in employee motivation. Goals can stimulate employee effort, focus attention, increase persistence, and encourage employees to find new and better way to work. A cardinal principle of performance management is that employees should have the chance to improve their appraisal results – especially if their past results have not been so good. It is a very serious flaw in the process of appraisal if this principle is denied in practice. Bannister (1989) notes that it is important that the appraiser be

Aspects of Appraiser Competence in the Context of Employee Performance Management: Perspectives from Indian IT Professionals


well-informed and credible. If it is so, employees are more likely to view the appraisal process as accurate and fair. They also express more acceptances of the appraiser’s feedback and a greater willingness to change. It is also imperative that supervisors monitor and record subordinates’ behaviours and performance and provide feedback and assist through problem solving so as to help subordinates successfully achieve delegated responsibilities. The supervisors must ensure that the subordinates have the authority, knowledge, skills, and organisational resources to successfully complete work targets. In addition, supervisors need to communicate potential performance rewards/outcomes associated with different levels of performance. Decision pertaining to performance should be non-biased and should be expressed as factually as possible. During the appraisal review, managers meet with subordinates to review performance ratings, deal with subordinate reactions (sometimes resistant or negative) to appraisal ratings, solve problems with employees on how to improve performance (if needing improvement), and potentially deal with career counselling and career development issues. (Kumar, 2005) It has been observed that dissatisfaction with appraisal often occurs due to inefficiency of the appraiser’s observation and judgmental skills. Research suggests that the rater‘s competence is related to employee satisfaction with the system and process. Landy et al. (1978) tested appraisal systems in general and found that employee perceptions of the appraisal processes of fairness and accuracy were a function of the frequency of evaluation, identification of goals to eliminate weaknesses, and supervisor knowledge of the subordinate’ duties and performance. Common complaints that surface include the rater’s lack of knowledge of ratee’s job, possession of erroneous /incomplete information or differing expectations because of level of hierarchy & roles, bias and errors in human judgment as well as existing stereotypes & prejudices which taint the reviews. In the context of evaluation failure to recognise excellent performance, promotional decision errors and staffing jobs with inadequate skills mix are issues that raise concern. In respect of guidance, development and motivation some of the things that may go wrong include failure to recognise potential and failure to build skills through training. (Williams, 2003). Mount(1984) and Pooyan & Eberhardt (1990) found that open, two-way communication, mutual trust, opportunities for ratees to participate in goal setting, the supervisor’s knowledge of ratees’ performance, being evaluated on job-related factors, are significantly related to ratees’ satisfaction with performance appraisals. Bannister & Balkin (1990) have reported that appraisees seem to have greater acceptance of the appraisal process, and feel more satisfied with it, when the process is directly linked to rewards. The supervisor’s attitude towards his subordinate can impact performance. Manzoni and Barsoux (2002) argue that while it is up to the supervisor to initiate feedback and review discussions, the employee needs to be an active partner in it. The employee is more likely to be receptive to feedback if the employee sees the process as fair i.e. perceiving that their views were heard, supervisor was consistent, reasonable and fact-based in making decisions and came across as genuine. When an employee is perceived as a weak performer, it is the responsibility of the supervisor/manager to try to prevent a further plunge in performance and prevent the ‘set up to fail syndrome’ from the start.


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Manzoni and Barsoux (2002) describe supervisors who work on several fronts to get more from their perceived weak performers as ‘syndrome busters’. They outline the following action areas to deal with weak performers: (1) Agreeing on the symptoms. Both parties must identify the specific areas where they agree the employee has struggled. (2) Diagnosing the causes. The supervisor and employee must jointly explore the causes of weak performance including how the supervisor’s behaviour has affected performance. (3) Finding the cure. Both must agree on performance objectives and on specific actions to improve the relationship. (4) Preventing relapse. The supervisor and the employee should pledge to address future problems earlier and open the door to more open communication. (5) Monitoring the effectiveness of the treatment. Beyond the initial discussions, both parties must hold periodic progress reviews. Managing Knowledge Workers: IT Professionals In Perspective Drucker (1959) first referred to “knowledge workers” (KW) as workers that work with intangible resources. KWs have been described as high-level employees who apply theoretical and analytical knowledge, acquired through formal education, to develop new products or services (Drucker,1999). Dove (1998, cited in Ramiraz and Nembhard 2004) classify KWs into three categories: (1) Creation of knowledge work, based on innovation. These workers, such as engineers, managers and inventors, depend on innovation to do their work. They are not doing a pre-established task, but rather they define and perform their task for the very first time. They create tools that will be used by other KWs to do their jobs. (2) Portable knowledge work, based on wide, immediate utility. These workers possess knowledge that they can apply in a general manner. They can use their knowledge in various scenarios or organizations. Examples of this class are graduating MBAs and software programmers. These workers use their general knowledge to run operations or use previously designed tools to do their job. (3) Specialty knowledge work, based on narrow but high utility. These workers have a specific knowledge that is needed to perform a task. They are considered experts at what they do, and possess knowledge in applications that are specific to the task they do and their knowledge is not easily transferable to other areas. An example of this type of worker may include programmers that write code in a proprietary language. Drawing from previous research (Drucker 1999, Katarzyna1 and Jacek 2012) it may be pointed out that there are certain areas of differences between traditional employees and knowledge workers.

Aspects of Appraiser Competence in the Context of Employee Performance Management: Perspectives from Indian IT Professionals


Knowledge work involves tasks rich in information processing, with non-standard criteria used to make decisions. The use of theoretical knowledge and many years of experience as a basis for solving the client’s problems are always stressed. The nature of the relationships between employers and knowledge workers is such that the latter do not link their future with the company as do traditional workers, and are even referred to as “freelance hirelings” (Katarzyna1 and Jacek.2012). They are focused on their own career, its development and their place in the professional community, rather than on success within their employing company. KWs realise their ambitions at work through the development of excellent products, and this excellence obscures other functions of the product. As an effect of this attitude, they treat tasks as exciting challenges. Researchers have identified challenge, autonomy, due respect, recognition, opportunity for learning, opportunity for career development, personalized rewards as well as salary (money) can be taken as the basic motivational factors of KW (Drucker 1999, Amar 2002, Smith & Rupp 2004). Harman and Brelade (2003) after another study in various organizations state that only the financial reward is not enough, the reward system should include non-financial rewards, such as praise and recognition, opportunities for career development and opportunities for training development. They strive to constantly enhance their professional knowledge and skills, as this is the only way they can remain valued within their profession. Their value in the eyes of colleagues and exacting clients is dependent on these skills and talents. Research suggests that managers can influence a KWs motivation by creating a climate of mutual respect and spending time with the follower and enhancing, rather than undermining self-confidence, increasing follower knowledge, skills and abilities through exposure to various educational and training programs, as well as experiences. These activities enhance both KW capability and self-confidence. Supervisors should also concentrate on establishing realistic, meaningful and attainable goals with the follower satisfactory to both parties and. showing appreciation when the follower meets or exceeds expectations, or addressing problematic issues regarding the follower’s performance by focusing upon the work rather than the individual. (Isaac et al 2001, Smith and Rupp 2004) Given the highly skilful, specialised and often intangible nature of knowledge work the nuances of managing knowledge workers has attracted a lot of interest from practitioners and researchers alike. Ehin (2008) argues that organizations need to appreciate that knowledge and knowledge workers cannot be managed in the traditional sense. The size of an organizational unit affects the establishment and maintenance of “voluntary” interdependent relationships among its members. The formation of hierarchical social systems is not a natural phenomenon among humans and the more an institution supports the principles of self-organization openly, the more social capital and tacit knowledge it will generate which, in turn, will lead to increased levels of innovation, commitment and entrepreneurship. He advocates ’unmanaging’ KWs by giving up hierarchical control in order to gain much greater selfregulating order and participation throughout an organization. The IT profession typifies the concept of knowledge work. Glen (2003) feels that IT professionals are able to function best when they understand the mission, vision, and values of their organization; clearly understand their role in the organization; recognize technology’s part in fulfilling


Sujoya Ray Moulik

the organization’s goals; and feel that the values of the organization are consistently upheld by leaders. Major et al (2007) in their study on best supervisory practices for IT employees points out certain challenges pertaining to managing IT professionals such as the nature of IT work, which requires a high degree of flexibility and adaptability on the part of IT personnel. Other complexities of this profession involve elements such as the 24-hour nature of client demands, the need to respond to emergent issues and unplanned requests, and sporadic periods of intense work activity. Citing previous research


and Teo 1999; Rajeshwari and Anantharaman 2003), they state that IT workers experience numerous sources of stress that are universal across occupations and work environments. As in other professions, stress in IT results from intensive work demands, complex relationships with others, career concerns, systems maintenance, role ambiguity, and tedious administrative tasks as well as fear of obsolescence , team and client interactions, role overload, work culture issues, technical constraints, and competing work and family demands. Sharp et al. (2009) suggests that even when building participation, trust, autonomy and empowerment, managers cannot forget that almost every IT specialist seeks to develop excellent solutions and overestimates the speed with which the problem can be solved. Setting objectives must take into account both conditions external to the team (e.g., required time limits), as those within the team, including the need to limit the software specialist’s need to pursue excellence. For IT organisations management by objectives requires analysts and project managers to develop schedules in a participatory manner, adapting them to external conditions and constraints in such a way that the schedules and products agreed upon are also acceptable from the professional perspective of those implementing them (Katarzyna1 and Jacek,2012). In the context of performance management, it is thus imperative that supervisors are able to clarify expectations and roles and engage in collaborative goal setting. Granting a sense of involvement and a sense of self direction to employees would instil a feeling of autonomy and involvement in the employee. Providing career development support, facilitating peer mentoring, providing recognition, reward, and acknowledgement, providing resources and motivation for formal training and networking with other professionals and engaging in continuous needs assessment are some of the supervisory practices which are relevant for the IT profession ( Major et al 2007). It cannot be denied that appraising and managing the performance of knowledge workers in the IT profession is a skilful task and not only should they possess the required skills but also should instil a sense of confidence in those who they are appraising.

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The following study is an attempt to identify the skills that IT professionals feel appraisers should possess so as execute performance management practices effectively.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Sample Using simple random sampling, data was collected from 75 (total sent-110, received-75) IT sector employees (both male and female) working in supervisory positions in the Indian IT sector. The

Aspects of Appraiser Competence in the Context of Employee Performance Management: Perspectives from Indian IT Professionals


age of the respondents varied from 34-47. Of the 75 respondents 67 were male and 8 were female. Employees working in Nasscom listed organisations were chosen for this survey. The questionnaire was distributed to most respondents in an on-line format so as to reach out to employees based in different cities in India. (Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune). Research Instrument The study depends mainly on the primary data collected through a structured questionnaire consisting 15 Likert Scale items (5 point scale) covering the different roles of the rater /supervisor in the appraisal process. These variables covered areas such as goal setting, appraising, coaching and so on (based on Longnecker and Fink 1998, Major et al. 2007) The scale consisted 15 statements focusing on the role of the supervisor at different steps of the performance appraisal process- goal setting, reviewing and post appraisal counselling, feedback and development, measured on Likert’s 5 point scale ranging from strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree. The Cronbach’s Alpha Co-efficient Reliability Score was found to be 0.799, the score being sufficient to allow further analysis. Technique The data obtained in the research has been evaluated by exploratory factor analysis in SPSS in order to transform the many variables constituting the different roles/competencies of the appraiser into distinct functions to be executed by the appraiser that impact an individual’s satisfaction with the appraiser and thus the appraisal function.

FINDINGS & ANALYSIS Factor Analysis For the analysis, confirmation that the data are correlated is revealed by the Kaiser-Mayer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy (0.610) and Bartlett’s test of sphericity (p=0.000). The items with highest loadings were used in assigning the labelling of the factor. The data were analyzed using factor analysis (Principal Components Analysis with Varimax Rotation in SPSS v.16). Factor Analysis reduced the 15 independent variables into four competence groups/categories derived using the Eigen value criterion. The rotated component matrix is reported in Table 1.


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Table 1.Rotated Component Matrixa Component 1












































































Q4 Q5


Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalization. a. Rotation converged in 6 iterations.

According to the results of Factor Analysis, the first four factors were chosen because they explained a high proportion of original variance and had Eigen value higher than one. These factors explained 67.5 % of variance, respectively. (Table2)


Aspects of Appraiser Competence in the Context of Employee Performance Management: Perspectives from Indian IT Professionals

Table 2. Total Variance Explained

Compon ent

1 2 3 4 Extracti on Method: Principa l Compon ent Analysis.

Initi al Eige n valu es Tota l 4.22 2 2.41 8 2.17 1.31 7

Rotati on Sums of Square d Loadin gs

Extracti on Sums of Square d Loading s % of Varian ce

Cumulat ive %

% of Varian ce

Cumulat ive %

















% of Varian ce

Cumulat ive %




















Sujoya Ray Moulik

Grouping and Interpretation of Factors The factor groups derived through factor analysis have been defined on the basis of the component(s) with higher factor loadings in each group. The resulting groups with their respective components are described below: C1 Technical/Project Management Competence This competence comprises the appraisers ability to cascade the project requirements to individual work targets as well as understanding of the job being appraised, technical knowhow and depth of understanding of the prerequisites of the job as well as awareness of how job performance can be improved. Project Management skills such as scheduling and resource allocation are also relevant for those managing project teams. C2 Evaluative Competence This group includes setting of specific and measurable goals, being able to distinguish average and superior performance understanding of the performance indicators for the job and the capability for fair, objective appraisal so as to give the employee a clear idea of expectations and full information of his strengths and weaknesses C3 Leadership Competence The appraiser, in most cases being the immediate supervisor, plays multiple roles of a coach, trainer, mentor and performance counsellor. He/she is also responsible for handling grievance arising out of appraisals and subsequent conflict over the ratings. The appraiser therefore should be adept at counselling and conflict management as well as project management activities such as time management and prioritisation . C4 Communication Competence Communication would comprise both written and verbal communication which would further enable goal setting, setting KRAs that are easily comprehended and counselling and feedback skills and so on.

CONCLUSIONS The findings of this study lend support to previous research in terms of competence required for performance appraisal. (Fink and Longnecker 1998, Glen 2003, Kumar 2005). As in Major et al’s (2007) study C1 and C2 can be termed as task focused competencies and C3 and C4 as people focussed. It might be noted here that the task focussed competencies account for more of the total variance compared to the people focussed. With reference to the IT industry this is an interesting observation. Interpretations of the concept of knowledge work lend support to the fact that knowledge work combines unique skills, work methods and intelligence. The largely undefined boundaries of knowledge work make assessing knowledge work a daunting task in itself. Setting of tangible goals in an industry dealing with intangibles is also a complicated task. Thus, it is important that the appraiser possess the technical understanding of

Aspects of Appraiser Competence in the Context of Employee Performance Management: Perspectives from Indian IT Professionals


not only the job being appraised but also the nuances of complex knowledge work which might not lend itself to tradition of by the book evaluation mechanisms. It is important that the supervisor is able to foster an environment of professional competence. Knowledge workers prefer autonomy and are largely self driven. Recognition and reward is important to them in terms of motivation as is a comfortable work environment (Smith and Rupp 2003, Glen2003, Isaac 2001). Any initiative taken by the organisation to enhance the competitive excellence of employees, be it challenging work or competitive co-workers, have a positive impact upon job satisfaction and productivity. (Narang and Dwivedi, 2010) The limited shelf life of the professionals (Allee 1997) and threat of obsolescence calls for supervisors being able to define career development opportunities through learning opportunities and widespread exposure to a variety of tasks and roles. Hence, the need for technical and evaluative competence. Also, the occupational commitment exercised by IT professionals reflects the need for the supervisors to reflect occupational competence so as to evoke feelings of trust and confidence in the work environment. The importance of people focussed competencies (C3 and C4) cannot be ignored. Agrawal and Thite (2006) in their research on importance of soft skills for IT project managers state that software professionals in leadership position are seen to be reluctant or unable to look beyond their technical horizon and understand the dynamics of organisational and social issues. Though the tenets of micromanagement may not apply to knowledge workers who prefer covert instead of overt styles of managing, in the context of appraisals, it is important that the supervisor is capable of communication of the purpose of the performance appraisal system and how it is being leveraged in light of promoting the professional intellect. (Narang and Dwivedi, 2010; Smith and Rupp 2004) In many organisations, appraisals have been upgraded to online, paperless modes. In the case of modern modes of mass communications such as e-mail, misunderstandings may lead to toxic worry as a commonplace symptom of the modern knowledge-worker environment. It is warned that organizations in general are in danger of losing what is referred to as the human moment – an authentic psychological encounter that can only occur when two people share the same physical space. (Smith and Rupp, 2004) Members must be able to say what they think, share new ideas and risk making mistakes. Also, members must be able to provide feedback and accept criticism. Creating an environment where individual members can speak freely is crucial for creating a cohesive and successful team (Armstrong & Associates, 2002; Hawkins, 2000). Another feature of the IT industry is the simultaneous allocation of the employee on multiple projects. In such complex matrix environments, it is the responsibility of the supervisor (s) to ensure that appraisals are factual and developmental guidance is relevant to the work being done. Role conflicts and time management issues may require intervention of the supervisor for which he must be equipped. An implication for IT organisations in the context of appraiser competencies is recognising the need for appraiser training on the process of managing, motivating and evaluating employee performance. The usual components of such programs would comprise feedback and communication skills, developing goals and standards, documentation skills, conducting the appraisal interview, practice in using the rating form, and discussing rating errors to avoid. Training should also incorporate complete explanations of the philosophy and nature of the appraisal system. In the case of KW appraisals, covert


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management skills would be of utmost importance as traditional micromanagement would not go well with the autonomy and flexibility requirements of knowledge work. Empowerment, mentoring and “unmanaging” would need to be stressed upon for any such program (Ehin, 2008). Dealing with weak performance would entail a good understanding of the employee’s job and require a continuous feedback mechanism which though corrective should not be intrusive. Agarwal and Thite (2006) suggest that it is important that organisations initiate measures to develop soft skills in IT Project Managers as a strategic priority. Some of the measures they suggest include incorporating soft skills as an important measure of selection and performance assessment of project managers; providing necessary training and learning environment to help project managers acquire the soft skills; recognising and rewarding project managers with exceptional soft skills and projecting them as appropriate role models and mentors; and designing and implementing appropriate career management strategies that ensure smooth transition of technical professionals in to leadership roles. Project management skills such as scheduling, time management and resource allocation are some practical areas of training offered to those managing project teams. Scope for Further Research This study is limited to the perceptions and perspectives of 75 Indian IT professionals. Since the majority of the respondents (67 out of 75) were male, this research lacked the input to determine whether there would be any difference of opinion between male and female KW’s. Difference in perspectives between those in other knowledge based industries have not been taken into consideration. Future studies might focus on whether IT professionals’ perspectives are similar or dissimilar to other knowledge based professions.


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