The use of appraisal systems is particularly British. Indeed, no other EU
nation uses them at managerial level more than the UK.
In 1999/2000, 92 per cent of UK organisations had an appraisal system for
The only exception is Sweden, where organisations are just ahead in terms of
spreading the use of appraisals to other categories of staff.
Other countries, such as Germany, do not tend to implement appraisal systems
as widely, although even there, about one in two organisations have a system in
One explanation for the uneven take up in Europe is the degree of fit
between the assumptions underpinning an appraisal system and the organisational
and national context.
Appraisals work best in cultures where it is acceptable for subordinates and
superiors to receive feedback from one another. This pre-supposes a degree of
informality and flat management structures.
Traditionally, appraisals are carried out by an immediate superior (92 per
cent of cases in the UK). However, this is not the only model. Some appraisals
are carried out by the next person up (57 per cent of cases in the UK). The use
of self-appraisal systems is also very popular (88 per cent in the UK).
However, all these methods raise issues of bias.
However, 360-degree feedback – which involves all of the above as well as
peers, subordinates and customers – is currently considered best practice as it
is based on multiple viewpoints and allows a more precise assessment of
someone’s performance. But the use of 360-degree feedback is resource intensive
and remains marginal. Only about 4 per cent of organisations in the UK use this
instrument. Yet it is much more popular now than it was in 1995 when even fewer
organisations (2.4 per cent) made use of it.
Not surprisingly, HR managers in other EU countries are less likely than
British managers to offer 360-degree feedback in their organisations.