RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Software Review:
“Performance Now!” (A Software Package for Windows)
Developer: KnowledgePoint

KnowledgePoint (199?). “Performance Now!”, KnowledgePoint.

Reviewed by: Ulku Dicle

“Performance Now!” is a computer software progrm, developed by KnowledgePoint, designed to assist supervisors in evaluating the performance of their subordinates. Basically, it combines the features of two distinct performance evaluation techniques, namely, the graphic rating and the essay technique. The primary structure of the program is based on the graphic rating technique, but in the form of a free essay. The graphic rating technique makes use of camparisons of basic “performance dimensions”, such as “quantity of work done”, “quality of work done”, etc. on a scale of 1 to 5. After ratings for each subordinate on all dimensions are completed by the supervisor, the program automatically converts that information into text in the form of an essay.

From the practitioner’s point of view, we can list the following advantages of this software package:

  1. The program is user friendly. It is menu driven. Instructions are quite clear.
  2. The program facilitates rapid performance evaluation. This may motivate supervisors to carry out their performance review responsibilities in a relatively short period of time and without much distraction from their other daily tasks.
  3. The program provides consistency and standardization throughout the company in terms of the type of information gathered and methods of evaluation used. This may help and encourage lever level managers to use this data in their decisions.
  4. The program is flexible enough to let the supervisors add their personal views and specific information related to the employee being evaluated. This, it also makes limited use of the “critical incident” evaluation technique.
  5. The program provides solid, presentable, and uniform data on performance which might be useful in case of legal disputes.
  6. Finally, the program is able to integrate job descriptions into the performance evaluation process.

The “Performance Now!” software package, however, does not seem to be as exciting and promising from a scholarly perspective as it is for practitioners.

  1. A performance review, ideally, is expected to serve two major purposes: (a) evaluative purpose (evaluating the present performance of the employee), and (b) developmental purpose (to help the employee to overcome his/her weaknesses and improve the potential for future success). This program does not provide the necessary guidance with regard to the latter.
  2. As it was mentioned above, “Performance Now!” is fundamentally making use of the graphic rating technique which eventually reduces the performance evaluation into a few numbers and averages that, at the end, become meaningless for upper level managers to base their decisions on.
  3. Moreover, since the program is structured around the graphic rating technique, it can be contaminated by the typical measurement problems of this technique such as “central tendency”, “leniency”, “halo effect”, and “supervisory bias”.
  4. Some of the more contemporary techniques, such as BARS and MBO, are not integrated into this program and, therefore, the package lacks the blessings of the recent developments in this field. As a result, the program is more suitable for more routine types of jobs at lower levels of the organization.

In sum, “Performance Now!” is a useful tool for practitioners who are short on time and who supervise a large number of employees performing repetitive tasks. It does not, however, meet the challenges posed by higher levels of managemnt and the scholarly concerns of academicians.

Ulku Dicle
National University of Singapore

Response to the Review

Diane Pratt, KnowledgePoint’s Director of Human Resources Product Development, has responded to the review with the following observations:

The software does not provide guidance with regard to development issues.

Performance Now! currently contains over 700 ideas for improvement, approximately 30 per performance dimension. These developmental ideas are intended to serve as the basis for the discussion between the employee and the supervisor as they develop an improvement plan together.

The software has a strong emphasis on the graphical rating scale.

We recommend that rating numbers not be included on the review. (Showing either the rating description or the rating numbers is optional.) Much more important are the narrative, or essay, portions of any review. Because “getting started” writing is the most difficult part of the process for most supervisors, Performance Now! is designed to facilitate this aspect. However, since many firms want ratings and numbers to use as inputs to salary decisions, the software can accommodate this desire.

Further, when a supervisor rates an employee, Performance Now! produces descriptive language for performance at that level. This actually has the potential to reduce biases and rating errors. If a manager inadvertently inflates or deflates a rating, the created language that results from the rating can alert the manager to the problem.

Performance Now! also contains an easy-to-use Employee Log function that helps supervisors keep notes on critical incidents. This feature can significantly reduce “recency” and “halo” problems.

The program is more suitable for routine jobs at lower levels.

A mid-1995 module release will permit an organization to create its own performance dimensions and automatically add them to Performance Now! This module should help address the needs of higher level management and professional employees.

Diane Pratt
Director of Human Resources Product Development
KnowledgePoint
1129 Industrial Avenue
Petaluma, California 94952
U.S.A.