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Setting and achieving professional goals.

Performance appraisals consist of setting objectives and assessing individual and collective achievements during a set period. They are about feedback on ways to improve performance by individuals and entire staffs and the quality of work relationships.

Performance improvement results from people's being clear on priorities and objectives, what skills need to be enhanced, and what behavior is helpful. This clarity comes from open, positive, and constructive discussions between supervisors and their staffs.

In the appraisal process, a security manager evaluates, coaches, counsels, and develops subordinates on a continuing basis throughout the reporting period.

At the beginning of the reporting period, the manager and his or her direct subordinates, individually or as a staff, should meet to set objectives. Doing so ensures that the manager and the people to be rated agree on what is expected.

These objectives should be specific, measurable, relevant, and time related. Although firm when formulated, they should be flexible. Objectives should vary according to the type of work involved, but normally they should relate to business results and performance standards.

Objectives can also relate to personal development. For example, the security manager may encourage a subordinate to attain the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) designation. While attaining an objective along these lines is not directly related to specific work output, few can dispute its relevance.

To some managers and employees, objective setting may appear to be more trouble than it's worth. Objectives can be difficult to formulate and sometimes impossible to agree on.

Objectives cause problems when the manager and subordinates can't agree on them. The manager might reject a subordinate's suggested objectives on the grounds that they lack sufficient work value, are not in line with business goals, or are simply too easy. The subordinate may resist the manager's objectives because they appear in inflexible or carry the risk of failure.

Posing the following questions may be helpful when formulating objectives:

* Does the objective make sense? Is it important to the subordinate, the manager, the department, and the company?

* Does it mesh with departmental or organizational goals?

* Does the objective fall within the manager's field of authority?

* Does it carry operational, financial, or political risks?

* Will top management support it?

* Does the staff have the knowledge, skill, and resources to complete the objective?

* Can achievement of the objective be verified in some measurable way?

In determining objectives, focus on the steps required to achieve them. A single objective can incorporate several steps.

For example, if the objective is to develop and administer a training program for entry-level security officers, the steps could include writing a lesson plan, constructing a test, setting a training schedule, arranging for the place of training, preparing certificates of completion, and keeping records of attendance and scores. Deadlines should be set for each step, and the steps should be assigned to different people, making it a team effort.

Objectives come in two types--base and stretch. Base objectives involves tasks that are integral to the job and sometimes routine.

For example, writing a report is an integral part of a security investigator's job. A manager may call on the investigator to revise the report format to make it more readable, thus setting a base objective.

Stretch objectives go beyond normal job expectations. They typically address major problems, challenges, or opportunities. They may seek to raise quality, increase productivity, reduce costs, or create new markets. Achieving these objectives will bring substantial rewards to the organization.

Once objectives are set, they need to be put into writing. Any later changes should also be written down and acknowledged by the manager and staff.

At preestablished intervals, the manager and his or her staff should meet to review progress. The staff should be invited to comment on performance, highlighting areas of success, improvement, and difficulty. The manager should coach and counsel as needed. The review meeting is also the time for revising objectives.

It is usual practice not to rate the staff formally until the final review meeting. The evaluation is a continuing process. While significant events may occur, they should not be the sole criteria used when making an overall judgment. The process described here operates cyclically.

& The starting point. Manager and staff agree on objectives for the upcoming cycle, the measures that will be used to evaluate performance, and dates for review meetings. Between progress reviews, the manager observes his or her staff's performance, obtains feedback from the staff, and provides appropriate guidance or assistance.

* Progress reviews. On specified dates, managers and staff meet to discuss performance. The objectives are revised as needed, and the staff is coached and counseled. During the final progress review, the staff's overall performance is considered, forming a foundation for a written performance rating.

* The ending point. The end of one cycle and the start of the next tend to blur. Between the final progress review and the end of the cycle, the manager writes the performance report; obtains the appropriate staff member's comments and signature; determines the staff member's merit increase, if any; and begins to develop a new set of objectives.

One purpose of a performance appraisal is to administer merit bonuses. Through a systematic rating procedure, a manager can make equitable decisions regarding salary awards based on appraisal records.

Despite constant complaints about the imperfections of procedures that link performance to pay, such procedures are usually objective and provide information that often cannot be obtained in any other way.

Merit ratings are designed to replace subjective impressions with educated judgments. Generally, the evidence is quantitative, analyzable, and collected over time. When soundly developed and systematically administered, merit ratings provide incentive, particularly when the rating method gives staff members the opportunity to discuss their ideas.

A merit rating system requires the manager to make objective judgments and present supporting evidence. Unfortunately, the appraisal process is sometimes used only as a tool for making salary and promotion determinations, as opposed to improving productivity.

If conducted casually, performance appraisals can be destructive. Without a clear focus and a commitment, the process can poison supervisor-subordinate relationships and seriously detract from productivity.

Evaluating performance is both essential and difficult. It is essential because it provides the data for making important decisions, and it is difficult because it is continuous, complex, and fraught with hazards.

The negative outcome of an imperfectly administered program can be substantial, but the positive outcome of an expertly handled performance appraisal is priceless.

John J. Fay is the security manager at British Petroleum Exploration Inc. in Houston.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Managing
Author:Fay, John J.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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