The Critical Incident Method of Performance Appraisal is defined by the Usability Body of Knowledge as a “method of gathering facts (incidents) from domain experts or less experienced users of the existing system to gain knowledge of how to improve the performance of the individuals involved.”
What does this mean in layman’s terms?
In essence, this rather complicated definition translates into the following:
Performance Management: The fundamental aim and purpose
The primary goal of measuring an employee’s performance is to determine to what extent an employee meets the Key Performance Indicators that are linked to the employee’s job. If the staff member doesn’t meet the minimum KPI specifications for the job, then management will intervene either through training, counseling, or termination of the employee’s contract.
Essentially, because an employee is paid by a business organization to perform a job function, the organization needs a way to measure whether the employee is worth the money paid to him/her. The best way to monitor KPIs is via an online, real-time employee performance management system.
Performance Appraisal: The critical incident method
Traditional KPI metrics are set up against the benchmarks a business organization decides to monitor to ensure success.
For example, if a company sells a product, it will employ sales staff. And, one of the metrics measured will be the number of products sold per month, quarter, and year. Depending on how many salespeople the organization employs, the sales metric can be further broken down into the number of products sold per employee. And, each employee can be set a minimum target with an incentive of sorts to exceed the minimum target.
Juxtapositionally, the critical incident method measures both the employee’s output (or performance) and the behavior linked to the performance metric. Furthermore, this methodology or technique records instances where employee behavior, both positive and negative, has affected the outcome of an event. The recorded behaviors are kept in what is known as an “incident’s net”.
Ensuring that the critical incident technique is user-friendly
It is easy for the descriptive process to become confused and meaningless if the narrative is not kept within strict guidelines.
Therefore, to manage the potentially vast number of narratives, it is a good idea to divide these employee behavior descriptions into categories. Examples of these categories include Customer service, teamwork, punctuality, and general attitude in the office.
There are several primary benefits of arranging the narratives into categories. Here are a few of the more important advantages:
- The organization of behavior descriptions as lengthy narratives can quickly become very disorganized.
- Each employee can be measured against all the categories simultaneously. In other words, the critical path or measurement is how the employee conducts himself/herself based on each of the decided categories as well as the accumulated result of all the individual categories.
- The individual categories can be measured against all the participating employees. For example, let’s assume that the company is measuring its success based on the customer service category. Therefore, it will look at all the individual employee scores for the customer service category and combine them to form an overall impression on the success (or lack thereof) based on the customer service metric.
Driving organizational success
As mentioned above, the primary aim of performance management and online performance management software is to align “individual objections to organizational objectives” and to make sure that individual employees understand and uphold the organizational ethos and the core values. This definition by TutorialsPoint.com goes onto state that the “overall aim of performance management is to establish a good culture” within the company. And, it allows for individual employees to increase their skills via a process that highlights shortcomings and attempts to find solutions through education and training.
In theory, the critical incident technique or method is just another way of measuring performance. However, in practice, because of its emphasis on the narrative instead of the numeric measurement, it has the capacity and potential to highlight different employee strengths and weaknesses as opposed to the traditional KPI measurement methodology.
Therefore, both methods can be used to measure employee and organizational performance. Finally, it must be reiterated and highlighted, that employee success translates into organizational success and vice versa.