As one of the main formal ways that organisations have of talking to individual employees, appraisal is an important and integral part of human resource management (HRM).
If it is true that 'people are an organisations greatest resource', and that the quality of HRM is related to bottom-line performance, then it is vital.
One of its most important functions is as a communication tool. It gives organisations an opportunity to communicate their priorities to employees by stimulating discussions about how the individual's performance and training needs relate to the organisation's requirements.
A second function is that it encourages dialogue on careers and should help to make employees feel they know what they have to do to progress in an organisation. Where 360-degree appraisal exists, it allows for multiple views of an individual's performance to be obtained.
The Cranet International survey on HR practices provides useful data on these issues, allowing companies to benchmark their practices against others. The data is gathered from the most senior HR manager in each organisation.
The survey shows that very few organisations practise true 360-degree appraisal, as a very high proportion do not claim to have completed the process.
However, appraisal systems are used and the existence of a formal procedure implies that the methods used have been thought through sufficiently and that they are transparent to all of those participating in the process.
The results here are interesting because they provide an indicator of how common formal appraisal systems are in the UK, The Netherlands and Sweden. By showing the high proportion of managers covered by formal appraisal systems, it demonstrates the importance of appraisal in the UK and how widely accepted it is as a management practice.
While appraisal systems are common for non-managerial grades of employees, their existence among managers themselves underlines how entrenched such systems are for all UK employees.
This table focuses on the UK only. It shows how organisations make use of the information acquired during appraisals.
Clearly, it would be remarkable if the information were not used to identify trai