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Friday, February 13, 2015

The (In)Sanity about the Bellcurve System

It is the time of the year again when I had to undergo the appraisal for my KPI objective for last year.




I just completed mine recently and it was a fairly straightforward process. No politics, no suggestion and no comments. Sign-off and get done with.

The yearly appraisal is not a stranger to most working employees out there. Every year at around the same time, every employees are required to undergo this routine session where the manager has a one to one chat with us regarding our performance that determine our bonus.

I previously blogged about the importance of having a curvebell system in the workplace which you can view here (link here). I believe this applies to every companies operating on a strained budget given the competitive environment we have out there. My company was no different. Most people will get a successful performance score in the middle of the bellcurve which makes up the majority. Then there will be fewer people which falls under better or worse, depending on how strict they did the bellcurve.

I have not been a fan of the appraisal system. I feel like they are important yet somehow feels like they are a waste of time, especially for appraising support staff like HR or Finance. I feel like the right way for appraising a support staff should be based on the overall company performance since there are literally no individual objective to aim for. Unlike an employee who is working for sales for example, a finance staff does not has the incentive to do anything more than what they are supposed to do. If it is a tax season, he or she will do whatever they had to do and comply. If it is during a financial year closing period, they will do the same as timely and accurately as possible. That is it. If I am a little free on that day, I will just keep quiet and do my own stuff. I finish what I was tasked to do and I go home and did my part as a father and husband.

This may sound like a roundabout way by avoiding doing things that I don't like but I guess that is how most corporation would operate. Since both the employee and employer accept that such particular instances might occur, it's just labor work in return of a salary. After all, that is precisely what the bellcurve is all about. If everyone is performing above expectation which does not translate into increasing the bottomline, it's pretty much useless to begin with. This is just cycle of a corporate life.

What about you? Are you a fan of the appraisal or bell-curve system?


18 comments:

  1. B : Ya, bell curve is a dirty word to many companies (mine included), but I guess that's the only reluctantly popular and systematic way (doesn't means fair) to reward staff by grading them all together..

    In relation to your question of whether there is a fan of appraisal system, I guess only those who are constantly at the right side of the curve will be the fans ;-)

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    1. Most of the older human assets will eventually lose out one day. That is why we MUST eventually switch over to our financial assets to continue our life journey to beat this Bell-curve system.

      :-)

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    2. Hi Richard

      Yes I get what you mean I guess its like a system which is not and will never be perfect and unless there are better performance gauge out there it will never going to be replaced.

      Delete
    3. Hi Uncle CW

      Spot on.

      The people in my company who falls under the lower end of the curve are those who are 50 to 60 years old type. They know that they will need to keep on working no matter what but dont hv too much power in the say. Cant hop on job easily too.

      Delete
    4. What a timely reminder to prepare for my time, either financially or mentally and emotionally

      A retired principal turn relief teacher lament jokingly yesterday, " I used to be a rooster, now I am a feather duster"

      Delete
  2. HI B,
    Appraisal system is one thing and how the performance ratings translates to bonus is another things. No appraisal system is perfect but one good rewards framework will alleviate the imperfections of appraisal system impacting bonus by taking account overall corporate performance.

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    1. Hi Anonymous

      Agree there.

      My company uses two matrix via company and individual performance to determine the bonus and mostly I will fall right in the middle of everything.

      I dont complaint about that but I do sense a purposeless meaning of appraising some staff in the same manner.

      Delete
  3. Hi B,

    Not so sure about appraisal bell curve! Little interest too. Various types of appraisals are sometimes necessary HR gimmicks in corporate environment. Cannot escape! But effectiveness?..Hmmmm.... Scratch head!
    But it is inevitably a good opportunity to interact with you superior.

    You must always fight for your money.. Same for bonus.! Not in a very pushy or offensive way, but at least justify your efforts! Let your boss at the other end think and understand and not just undermining your effort to squeeze your bonus.

    Remember you can spend hours of "farmer" hardwork to earn few thousands from shares analysis. Just a justification of your good effort during appraisal may easily also mean few thousands or more if your boss is reminded correctly.

    And of course there are more than just words during appraisal but the cleverness in communication does helps!

    Just my two cents thought!

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    1. Hi Rolf

      Thanks for your insight.

      The weird thing about it is quantitatively the kpi objective I was being assigned most achieved an outstanding performance and can be measured. However it is pretty obvious that I dont achieve that through working extra or overtime and the impression appears that I dont work hard enough to get to that.

      Its difficult to explain but sometimes its about whether its worth the effort giving a support staff a score of above average performance when it doesnt improve the whole pnl bottomline of the company.

      Delete
  4. i love those days where i did not have to do any performance appraisal! If they feel you are not good then out you go. Otherwise, a contract renewal comes your way! The life of a contractor! :)

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    1. Hi PIB

      Wah thats some hard life out there. Straightforward and all men by himself. Its a battle royale out there and who is the last man standing wins.

      Delete
  5. Hi B,

    There is no perfect system especially if your organization has thousands of workers. In my former workplace we only have A, B and C grading and we complain that not enough is being done to differentiate the better workers since most will be graded B. In my current working place we have A, B, C, D and E. More grades but everyone still fall in the same range. That's the bell curve system as you mention. It works because 80% of the people will be satisfied including those who only make noises but take no action. Unless one can come up with a simpler system and satisfy more than 80%, else the bell curve is here to stay.

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    1. Hi Derek

      Thanks for sharing on your organization approach.

      I understand the difficulty coming from the organization performance management point of view and I guess this is part of corporate style management that I dont really like about it.

      There are too many wayangs and distractions just need to get on with it and dont indulge in the same wayang pattern asthem ;)

      Delete
  6. I am within the bell curve system. I understand what you said when you say support staff cannot have extra the mile KPI. Also, some work are not so straight forward like sales etc.

    But since I cannot get away from the system, I have learn to try to play the game. My ex-colleagues were offended when I used the phrase "play the game"

    I know what is needed to push some deserving teachers to a slightly higher performance appraisal to get the higher bonus. So I source around for that project. In the end, if still she / he didn't get it, at least I know I have look out for them.

    I also have no qalms about letting people go to the lower end of the curve if I have tried my best to advice, warn, and coach...

    Maybe quite heartless?

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    1. Hi Sillyinvestor

      You got to teach me how to play the game!!!

      Actually my own performance is not necessarily bad in the eyes of the managament. Remember that it was them who asked me to return upon my stint at lippo mall so they must see some value otherwise they could hv easily found a replacement and boom.

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    2. B,

      I believe seriously, you are at the top of your game. Not that you are champion but like u say, u are a valued asset.

      The good thing is we just be ourselves and Cow Bei COw Pu about the ironic / stupidity of the system we are in.

      Ask if we have alternatives that do not create a new set of problems, we go zzzz

      LOL, the last paragraph I speak for myself only. Happy Valentine Day

      Delete
  7. Actually, this bell curve system does have one advantage for office Pigs who don't mind lower bonuses.

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    1. Hi Uncle CW

      I think the office pigs dont even bother about the performance bonus. Got AWS can already. Non debatable.

      Delete

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