Leverage on the power of strengths-based performance appraisal

(Last Updated On: June 23, 2022)

Most of the times performance appraisal focus on the negatives by the subordinate being appraised.

In organisation development this is what is referred to as the deficit approach in which the supervisor’s main focus is the subordinate’s shortcomings.

As a result, most subordinates do not like performance appraisals as they could have a destructive effect on individuals’ confidence and effectiveness.

A Harvard Business review report, notes that performance appraisal focus, is shifting from accountability to learning because of the need for people development, need for agility and the centrality of teamwork.

According to Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, (2000) positive psychology has inspired practitioners to promote the benefits of detecting and using individual strengths in order to enhance performance of subordinates.

Individual strengths are characteristics that motivate subordinates to excel. Those seemingly small individual strengths when recognised, can result in motivation which can influence the productivity levels.

Research has shown that adopting strengths-based approach to performance appraisal, results in positive outcomes, such as job satisfaction, employee engagement, mental wellbeing, and higher levels of job performance.

Strength based performance appraisal benefits both the individual and the organisation in that; it focuses on identifying, appreciating, and developing employees’ qualities in line with the company goals.

On the part of the individual, it is natural to see them focusing on where they fail without noticing the huge potential, they possess, and it is these shortcomings which they pay attention to.

Strengths-based approach to performance appraisal stimulates subordinates to be able to identify and focus on their own strengths while expressing appreciation for their unique capabilities and expertise.

According to Cable et al, (2015) feedback from peers and supervisors which relates to one’s strengths in cases where they are at their best has an effect of raising strengths that the individual might not be aware of.

This may be so because positive feedback produces strong positive emotions, which are critical in enhancing performance.

Science has also proven that individuals do not grow and learn in areas of weakness rather individuals grow the new synapses (impulses) in those areas of their brain where they have the most preexisting synapse.

Individual strengths are therefore an individual’s true area of opportunity for growth.

Therefore, if we want employees to take responsibility for their own performance and development, why not start with their strengths? Simply put focusing of individual strengths breeds intrinsic motivation.

A strengths-based performance appraisal does not mean that supervisors should turn a blind eye on any performance problems the subordinate might have.

What it only encourages is that the Supervisor must make an effort to identify the unique qualities in the subordinates and build on it to improve performance encouraging the subordinates to focus on those strengths. So, it should be the desire of every Supervisor to adopt the strength-based approach during the performance review process which will help the subordinates have a positive view of the whole performance appraisal process.

It should be clear to Supervisor’s that, focusing on an employee’s strengths does not mean ignoring their weaknesses rather it is acknowledging that one’s weakens are their “areas of least opportunity for growth”. The benefits of strength-based performance appraisal include but are not limited to:

i.Healthy relationship with manager

ii.Clearer objectives linked to strategy

iii.Motivation to perform

iv.Support need to perform

v.Improved in-role performance

vi.Learning and development

Doug McKie (2016) sums it all up “Strength-based approaches have the capacity to enhance the working lives and effectiveness of all employees by helping them raise awareness of their strengths, align them with the needs of the organisation and build mastery in leadership capability.

Paul Nyausaru is an OD Practitioner and leadership coach. Email pnyausaru@gmail.com

Chiedza Kadare is an OD Practitioner. Email chiedza.kadare@gmail.com


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