Over a cup of coffee’ with Anupama Vaidya

We are getting to that time of the year when HR teams will start planning for performance reviews and plan on career paths. We have had several questions coming our way related to performance management. We caught up with Anupama Vaidya over a cup of coffee and here are some insights through the conversation

Q. Do you think performance reviews need to be more frequent than annually Millennials certainly seem to think so What can HR do to address this challenge?

Anupama: Absolutely. It is surely not a one-time tick mark process that the reviewer-reviewee need to do for the organization. I firmly believe that performance reviews are a daily affair. The only thing that needs to be then done is that once or twice a year, we need to take a consolidated stock of all the discussions with a holistic view which is forward-looking.

Q. In performance reviews, what should be the weight for qualitative vs. quantitative parameters. What is more important and why

Anupama: Performance means how well a person or a machine does a piece of work or an activity. So by definition itself, it covers both ‘what’ and ‘how’. It also implies that just by giving an output, you are not performing. How well do you integrate other factors including qualitative factors like behavior, attitudes displayed, competencies applied also make a difference towards the quality of the result/outcome. Therefore if you change the qualitative factors, the belief is your performance will either upgrade/downgrade. Therefore giving a due weight towards the qualitative parameters is crucial. A weight of say around 65:35 or 70:30 weight is a good balance between the quantitative and qualitative factors of performance to arrive at a composite view of the performance. In fact, for more comprehensive leadership roles where the KRAs cannot cover the entire role expectation; it’s also important to get a qualitative factor like Role Purpose giving a weight to the existential of the role and its overall integrated approach by the individual.

Q. While doing performance reviews, how do you address the bias of the reporting managers

Anupama: A very natural phenomenon of “rater biases”. Firstly acknowledging that being humans, there is a tendency of biases to creep into the evaluation mechanism. Secondly, understanding that competence/capability of the appraisers makes biases creep into the evaluation. And thirdly, no matter what scale is applied, the interpretation from person to person varies. So it’s important that this is acknowledged and the process is made sturdy by implementing a fair and transparent process. Few recommendations –

  1. Build high ownership in the first level appraiser through a transparency of evaluation ratings being visible to the appraisee on an immediate basis without interventions. While being fair and transparent, the first level appraiser, has to prepare himself/herself to stand up for the evaluation.
  2. Skip level reviews – Never stop at one level; there has to be 2nd level review at the least. Basis maturity of the group, the hierarchy can be included. Two level reviews are a must
  3. Senior level views – e. the business head/function head takes a stock of all evaluation under his/her span of control to view any rater biases, either way, haven’t crept into the process
  4. Training the Appraisers – a must! While they may be doing appraisals for years together, yet people need training and reinforcements with examples.
  5. HR review – the HR Business partners should know their respective areas or constituencies so well to identify and highlight such biases/disconnects that creep in at the time of final consolidated evaluations. HR needs to view the data, study the patterns, spend time analyzing and reading to be able to perform this role.

I am sure even if these minimum 5 things are done consistently, you can reduce the rater biases, if not eliminate them.

Q. Are peer reviews a good way to gauge performance. How can they be integrated into a performance review system?

Anupama: They say that peers are the most critical appraisers of one’s existence into a role! (not only performance but ready to challenge your existence). So any peer feedback always can be looked at strengthening the development angle of the person. They will give a realistic view of expectations versus the mismatches. So it may seem like a good input to gauge performance but one has to be cautious that these can also come with several biases. But before integrating into performance management system, my personal view is one needs to decide whether it’s a developmental input or an evaluation input. Personally, I will say that these are developmental inputs and to reduce the negative impact, should not be directly linked with the consolidated evaluation. You can always have alternative ways to seek this feedback. In case, you plan to integrate it, it should only be used for the developmental section.

Q. In terms of tools and manual interventions, in your experience, how mature do you think are the current tools used in performance evaluation – Any thoughts?

Anupama: My personal view is that we are mid-way either in terms of manual interventions or the digital journey to provide tools. One of the reasons being the real understanding of the power of performance management system is not being ingrained in either way. Performance Management is still not being taken as a business process – its rather considered as people process. While there are digital systems available, I haven’t seen a maturity in them being real time to help capture discussions and provide analytics/predictive analytics. So it’s more of data storage and reference point. Also, while the tools are available in whatever form, the real essence is the ability to be realistic to use this as a learning and development tool. Its still being used as an evaluation tool and the essence of discussions to inspire and grow are a long way to go. So while efforts are happening, the scope for real benefits from performance management is still a long way to go!


Anupama Vaidya is Founder – Los Aurigas, Executive Director – Absotherm Group, Co-Founder – The Innovative Learners Brigade and Ex Vice President – Human Resources at Grindwell Norton (Saint-Gobain Group). She has more than 23 years of rich and diverse experience with key focus areas in People Management strategies, Organization Development & Leadership Development; Performance Management, Career & Succession Planning; Capability & Capacity Building & HR Operations . She is also a MyBrain Practitioner based on neurosciences.Key strengths include leadership in action; strategic management in alignment with business objectives; stakeholder management; coaching, counselling & facilitation skills; conceptualization & deployment of initiatives.
Views expressed are of the author.

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