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Performance appraisal discussions have decreased, other interaction with supervisors has improved

Twitterissä: @HannaSutela
Kuva: Kari Likonen

YLE reported last week that performance appraisal discussions between supervisors and employees are changing their form. In particular, millennials or employees born between 1980 and 2000, are said to want constant feedback on their success at work.

Performance appraisal discussions taking place once or a couple of times a year are considered too rigid and slow at some workplaces. Instead, more up-to-date feedback and situation updates are now in use.

Statistics Finland's 2018 Quality of Work Life Survey shows that performance appraisal discussions are common particularly among upper-level salaried employees. Of them, 69 per cent had had performance appraisal discussions with their supervisor over the past 12 months, while the corresponding share for blue-collar workers was 43 per cent.

Performance appraisal discussions also have a direct connection to the size of the workplace. In establishments with over 250 employees, over 70 per cent of employees had had performance appraisal discussions but in establishments with fewer than five employees fewer than every second (44%) had had one in 2018.

In the Quality of Work Life Surveys, the generality of performance appraisal discussions has been measured since 2003. It is interesting that performance appraisal discussions increased consistently from the beginning of the 2000s right up to 2013 but declined abruptly by a couple of percentage points by 2018.

Figure 1. Has had performance appraisal discussions with the supervisor in the past 12 months, wage and salary earners by sex, per cent
Figure 1. Has had performance appraisal discussions with the supervisor in the past 12 months, wage and salary earners by sex, per cent. The key information of this figure is presented in the text.
Source: Quality of Work Life Surveys 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2008, Statistics Finland

The results for 2018 about the decrease in performance appraisal discussions were undeniably surprising at first. We thought, however, that perhaps discussions like performance appraisal discussions, those between supervisors and subordinates concerning planning of work and employee development, have not as such decreased but may have changed their form and designation. This is exactly what the employers interviewed in the YLE news reported.

This interpretation would also seem to be supported by the fact that the results of the Quality of Work Life Survey show increased or at least improved interaction of wage and salary earners with supervisors. From 2008 onwards, there is consistent growth in the share of wage and salary earners who feel that their superiors support and encourage them, offer thanks for good work performances, share responsibilities sensibly, are inspiring, manage to reconcile conflicts between employees, and encourage them to study and develop.

Slightly more than before also feel that their supervisors give enough feedback on how they have succeeded in their work. In 2018, good one-fifth (21%) of wage and salary earners agreed fully with the statement and 39 per cent agreed more or less with it. Ten years previously the corresponding proportions were 17 and 39 per cent.

The youngest wage and salary earners and those working in small workplaces of under 10 persons were most satisfied with the amount of feedback received from their supervisor. There are surely more daily meetings of supervisors and subordinates in small workplaces than in large ones.

One of the strengths of Finnish working life when compared with the countries of Central and Southern Europe is that we do not have unnecessarily rigid and formalistic interaction between supervisors and subordinates. The fact that the threshold to turn to supervisors in case of problems or suggestions for development at work is not too high may have far-reaching benefits.

And vice versa: the importance of interaction, feedback and encouragement between supervisors and subordinates in everyday life should not be underestimated, even when infrequent and more formal performance appraisal discussions have been found to be a good practice at the workplace.

 The author is Senior Researcher at Statistics Finland's Information and Statistical Services.

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