Article: Personal assessment: A journey, not a destination

Talent Acquisition

Personal assessment: A journey, not a destination

'Be what you would seem to be'—or if you'd like it put more simply— 'Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.' “The Mock Turtle's Story” from Alice in Wonderland

What are the new conversations that we need to have to build in ourselves the character, competence and the enthusiasm of Inspired Leadership?


The employee lists out areas where he feels that his inadequacies have interfered with his job performance and the likely causes for the same


‘Be what you would seem to be’—or if you’d like it put more simply— ‘Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.’

“The Mock Turtle’s Story” from Alice in Wonderland

There is often a substantial difference between how we view ourselves, our work, our achievements and our shortcomings and how others see our performance and assess us. Devoid of an active integration process, both are subjective evaluations that are only marginally useful.

Extensive research by Synergy consultants during the past many years has revealed that there are only two types of employees who are happy with their jobs: those who feel that their financial rewards are better than market norms and those who are satisfied with the degree of learning and growth in the organization. The industry is trying to meet employees half-way on both parameters but a general problem is the widening gap between self-assessment and peer-assessment.

The major cause of this widening chasm is the failure of industry to define the jobs and career paths of employees with adequate degree of clarity and commitment. Without these, an appraisal neither assists the organization in its strategic growth plan nor is seen by the employees as making any contribution to their career objectives.

The basis of a successful appraisal system is to begin at the beginning (!), that is, first define the job. Its contents, functions, role and scope and discuss these with the employee in detail at the time of recruitment or promotion so as to arrive at a fair degree of consensus and agreement. The manager should simultaneously discuss with the employee his expectations from the job to understand and eliminate any inherent contradictions. The next step is to derive key result areas from the above in line with the organizational objectives. At this stage there is no need to establish level or amplitude of achievement. In fact no attempt should be made to add parameters of numerical measurement.

Most organizations still tend to use appraisal as a ritualistic tool, essentially to assist the management in deciding annual increments and promotions. With its heavy bias towards comparative performance, measurement and financial rewards, it completely overshadows the essence of ‘personal’ growth and learning.

This fundamental disadvantage can only be overcome by insulating Assessment from the carrot and stick approach. Instead it should be a strategic management tool for enrichment of available talent. Thus it is suggested to have multiple appraisal meetings separated by considerable time gaps with emphasis on creating a positive non-judgmental environment.

The guiding principle of the first appraisal meeting is to ‘build on strengths’. As a manager you begin by letting your employees list out their personal strengths, special abilities, skills and interests. The employee then defines the relevance of these strengths to his job functions and the role in the organization. The next step is to analyze how the employee has employed these strengths in the actual performance of his/her job and the areas where (s)he has not been able to do so. The employee then identifies the corrective steps that he can take to utilize his capabilities more effectively and what is needed to further enhance his strengths.

With this positive mental framework, the employee is taken down memory lane to reflect upon his performance in terms of his job-definition and the agreed key result areas. The employee lists out areas where he feels that his inadequacies have interfered with his job performance and the likely causes for the same. He then tries to identify, by himself, the possible corrective steps that he can take to overcome these deficiencies. In the process, the employee evaluates his own capacity for learning and identifies the skills or inputs needed for better performance.

In the second appraisal, the employee ‘rates’ her performance in relation to her basic functions and deliverables, apart from appraising her own quality of work and job proficiency. The ‘rating’ however is not so much in terms of degree, numerical or amplitude targets as an indication of positive or negative growth and development. It is helpful to use standard forms for assisting the smooth introduction and administration of the appraisal process.

During numerous implementation assignments, we have observed that an integral part of any successful appraisal process is a trained Manager who contributes to the maintenance of the right attitude and assists the employee in developing a workable strategy for improvement and growth.

While a well crafted appraisal system incorporates assessment in terms of sustenance, maintenance, growth and development aspects, it also includes in-built mechanisms to evaluate innovation, creativity and special contributions. A number of complex psychological parameters can also be added but the primary focus should be to improve performance, enrich job content and assist in an inclusive growth of both individual and organization.

Gurdeep S. Hora is the Managing Director of Synergy Consultants, a leading Executive Search and Management Consulting organization of India, established in 1989. With over 20 years experience in India and a decade abroad in many countries at the CEO level, he is recognized as an eminent Management Consultant in the areas of Talent acquisition, development and retention and Performance Enhancement. Mr. Hora had his first degree in Electronics Engineering from the IIT, followed by Post Graduation in Business Management, and also in Company Law, all from Delhi. He can be reached at

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development, Leadership

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