Article (April-2017)


A hell of a Bell to manage

Hamsaz Vasunia

Designation : -   Head HR & Training

Organization : -  DCB Bank, Mumbai


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Life is full of tests and contests. We had to do well in exams when we were young, had to score well in the entrance tests to get into a good B School and as we get older will have to do well in our medical Tests. Amidst all this, appraisals are yet another test…. a report card of the year gone by. A test that will decide if you can buy that car, afford a house or go for a long holiday this year. The stakes are high as the one thing our country has gained over the past few decades is competitiveness. And most of the times it's not about what you got, but it's about what the others got.

So this article is for all HR professionals who will be busy during this time of the year. Busy as we not only have to deal with several spreadsheets, documents and an elaborate appraisal process (that is hopefully online), but mostly cause we have to deal with several aroused emotions of ego, disappointment and anger. A lot of these directed to the HR function. One of the other tough parts about the appraisal process is that on one side we have fairness & consistency in mind and on the other side there is business and practical issues to take care of. And I believe that a good HR professional has to balance both. It's very easy to have a well-structured model that is based on market data, bell curve and compa ratios, but it's very tough to know where to draw the lines.

The tragedy of creating a fair reward system is the need to deal with fewer variables. Few variables mean we need to categorize people in buckets or ranks or ratings. This allows us to then build several models that we think are the most fair. Not just that, in order to ensure evaluations are consistent, we force rank people into the BELL CURVE.

So my question to all HR professionals is that does it really work?

If we do not expect our employees to compare each other's salary and bonuses, why do we propagate a relative rating mechanism that compares their performances?

Is trying to be fair the most unfair practice?

Can we deal with the rewards exercise without really putting a number on each employee?

Can we do this differently?

I don't have an answer to that question. And even some organisations that claim to have eliminated ratings actually haven't. They have just camouflaged it to a certain extent. But I do know that the 'how part' is as important as the 'What part'.

Following are some of my learning around managing the process:

  • Firstly, do not take to heart the nasty blaming comments. It's what the doctors need to endure when they have to give the bad news.
  • Make sure that you try as hard as possible to create an environment where development of the employee remains core to the appraisal system.
  • You will have to make exceptions to your process. Just let them be few and let them be the right ones.
  • Your reward strategy cannot be kept a well-guarded secret. Talk to your stakeholders about the rationale. Either you are transparent or you are unfair.
  • Take some effort in creating a good perception about the process. A little marketing helps. Everyone likes an attractive package (No, I didn't mean salary package).
  • One emotion that either gets over played or forgotten is 'Empathy'. Don't get completely carried away by emotions. However, without empathy you will be like the 90s multi-starrer movie. They had everything except an audience.