The report hereafter discusses and evaluates the competing definitions as they are understood in organizational and human resources practice.

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Performance Management HRMT 19012 Assignment One        Student: MI Zhi Jie  S0039857


A key issue in understanding and applying techniques of performance management is defining exactly what is meant by ‘performance’ and ‘performance management’.

The report hereafter discusses and evaluates the competing definitions as they are understood in organizational and human resources practice.

Performance is a multi-level, multi-dimensional construct. It is important to understand what level of performance is considered important when an organization talks about performance management. At each level- organizational, work unit or individual; there are a combination of factors that influence performance: direct, indirect, individual and situational. Any human resource intervention designed to assist, enhance, encourage ‘performance management’ has to be effectively targeted at the right combination of factors (Study Guide 2004, 2-8).

Performance, a Definition

Contemporary organizations consider performance to fall into two major areas:  performance at the individual level and performance at the organizational level (Williams 2002).

At the individual level there are differing views on what performance is.  Some research regards it as simply the record of outcomes achieved (Bernadin 1995).  Performance has also been defined as behaviour, that is, the way in which teams and individuals get work done (Campbell 1990).  At the individual level performance can be thought of as either ‘what’ is achieved, that is as output and results, or as ‘how’ it is achieved, that is demonstrated behaviors, competencies, adherence to process (Study Guide 2004, 2-6).

Williams (2002, cited in Study Guide 2004, 2-7) starts with the proposition that individual performance is behavior, which is determined by factors of declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and motivation. Declarative knowledge is the ‘what’ of performance; procedural knowledge is the ‘how’ to do’ whereas motivation refers to the exercise of choice over whether or not to perform; what level of effort to expend; and, whether or not to maintain a consistent level of effort on the specified tasks over an extended period. The three factors above are direct determinants of performance. There are also indirect determinants which might be termed ‘situational’ factors, first are those inherent in the individual employee, the second are those inherent in the work context, which might be termed ‘situational’ factors (Study Guide 2004).

However, the most comprehensive view of performance is achieved if it is defined as embracing both behaviour and outcomes (Armstrong & Baron 1999).  

Performance at the individual level cannot be seen as merely a function of ‘ability’ and ‘motivation’. Issues such as individual differences, the context in which performance is expected, and the interactions between system and individuals should also be considered.  Performance at the individual level is even more ‘multi-dimensional’ than performance at the organizational level (Study Guide 2004).

The concept of performance as embracing productivity or efficiency as well as effectiveness, adaptability and responsiveness. It is clear, then, that organizational performance is far from being a simple concept (Williams 2002, p. 68). Somehow, at the organizational level we are concerned with issues of efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.  

To address the aforementioned multi-dimensions, we need meaningful performance measures.  An increasingly popular approach to measure organizational performance has been through the use of the ‘Balanced Scorecard’ developed by Kaplan and Norton in 1996, which attempts to capture some of the contradictory nature of organizational performance (Williams 2002). It aims to measure performance in terms of four sets of indictors namely financial, customer, internal business process and learning and growth. The aforementioned four sets of indicators have each taking a different perspective. To succeed financially, how should we appear to our shareholders; to achieve our vision, how should we appear to our customers; to satisfy our shareholders and customers what internal business processes must we excel at and to achieve our vision, how will we sustain our ability to change and improve.

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It is important to remember that when studying performance management, we must consider both inputs – the behavior aspects and outputs the results aspects.  Hartle (1995) calls this the ‘mixed model’ of performance management, reflecting the importance of both the ‘how and what’ of performance.  This is when we consider that performance is about how things are done as well as what is done.

Efficiency is defined by Robbins, Bergman, Stagg & Coulter (2000, p. 8) as the relationship between inputs and outputs, the goal of which is to minimize resource costs whereas effectiveness is defined as ...

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