Business & Society

MHR Graduate Students Evaluate the Evaluation Process

That loud groan emanating from every window across Utah State each spring is, of course, campus reaction to the annual and much-loved performance appraisal process. Employees and supervisors each spring participate in the appraisal process that is so important for communicating institutional goals and for development and training of university employees at every level. But how effective is the current process and what does the future look like?

Vice President for Administrative Services Vice President Fred Hunsaker asked two classes of Human Resource Management graduate students to assess the overall effectiveness of the current system, and for a recommendation of its readiness to move to a pay-for-performance system of appraisal.

And the grade? "The system is working fairly well right now, but as the university moves toward a pay-for-performance system, some changes will be needed," said Mary Arevalo, a graduate student in the Human Resources Research Methods class.

The students presented their findings recently to President Hall and his executive committee. Click here for an executive summary of the report

Hall said the university is in the "gathering information" phase of reviewing the performance appraisal system. Meanwhile, the same system used last year will be used again this year. But the university is looking seriously at linking pay increases to performance measures in the future. The details will have to be resolved, he said, and he is looking for input from people on campus. But the information presented by the graduate students was an in-depth and comprehensive assessment that certainly will be used as an important tool in any decisions.

"This was brilliant work by a highly trained team of students," Hall said after the presentation. "We will use the report as part of our on-going study of the issue."

Hall said the report is a good example of using available and inexpensive campus resources to answer important questions.

Troy Mumford, assistant professor of management and one of the professors of the HR graduate class, said the project fit perfectly into the academic model the Department of Management and Human Resources is pursuing.

Academic models traditionally fit competency into "silo" areas, that is, into different knowledge-based courses that too often are not integrated across content areas. Students learn sets of skills but never get to blend them as they have to do in the real world. Mumford and his colleague, associate professor Steve Hanks, combined the department's Performance Management class with the Research Methods class to help students develop competencies across courses.

"In this 'competency model' colleagues in the department have developed, students are not just passing separate classes," Mumford said. "They are taking skills and knowledge learned across curriculum and applying those to a real-life project and dynamic they'll see in real-world organizations.

"They learned that it's a lot more complex when they have to take those 'best practices' in their textbooks and actually apply them to a project with real implications and important consequences."

Arevalo said she is flattered that the team was asked to address the president's executive committee, among other groups on campus. But she is even more pleased that what might be considered "just a class project" will make a real difference.

"We worked hard to give them something they can use," she said, "and we appreciate the positive feedback we received."

Story by Tim Vitale, 797-1356
Photo by Steve Hanks

MHR Graduate Students Evaluate the Evaluation Process

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