Parliamentary committee calls for ‘rule-based’ 360 degree appraisal system

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice has observed that, though the present system of 360 degree evaluation is improvement over the previous one, it suffers from “an element of subjectivity” and also causes “an element of fear as peer and subordinates will also be consulted under 360 degree evaluation”.

In its report tabled in Rajya Sabha on August 8, it said “the 360 degree evaluation system which overrides the assessment based on APAR system needs to be transparent. Officers not recommended by the 360 degree evaluation panel should be told the reason and they should get a chance to represent before the empanelment decision is finalized.”

 The Committee has recommended that the entire 360 degree process should be transparent and rule based. The Government should frame guidelines on the entire aspects of the process of 360 degree appraisal and they should be notified.

The report has observed that “There is a need for a comprehensive performance management. Goals must be identified, certain systems should be in place to measure the performance and at the end, achievement should be evaluated against the goals set. The appraisal should be made more comprehensive to include peer review and stakeholder review. This would ensure a more objective and comprehensive 360 degree assessment in contrast to the present informal methodology adopted for a 360 degree review. Also, the areas of interest and competence along with the reporting and reviewing officers’ assessment of the suitability of the officers for the empanelment purposes should be a part of the APAR over a period of five years.

It has pointed out that in the performance appraisal process followed in the Armed Forces, the immediate reviewing officer shows his assessment to the officer reported upon upto a certain rank. For example, if the reviewing officer is Brigadier, he/she shows the officer reported upon the pen picture and the comments given to the latter’s grading. Beyond the level of Brigadier, when it goes to the General, what the General gives is not told to the officer reported upon. So, the problem of downgrading or giving fewer points and, having problems in the working space do not arise actually in the Army. The same could be applied in the civil services.

It has recommended that a portion of the APAR should be designed which should include a SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunity and Threat) analysis of the officer, future career path and areas of improvement. This portion shouldn’t be used for promotion purposes but only for career direction, training needs of officers. Similarly for the Heads of Offices, Departments etc., even the public delivery part of the functioning and staff welfare aspects should be assessed.

It added that some sort of continuous assessment should be done once in a quarter to see how the officer is performing with reference to the set work plan and also to see if the work
plan needs to be amended.

The report recommends that every rating should be justified. Further, there should be a normalization of grading across Services for the purposes of deciding benchmarks and inter se comparisons. This can be done either by percentile method or normalization through a multiplication index.

It said two outer extremes should not be taken into consideration while averaging the past ten years performance for empanelment and selections. This will ensure that i) officers who are victimized by unfairly harsh evaluation by a reporting officer will not suffer, and ii) officers benefitted by unusually liberal grading will not get undue edge.

The committee observed that two tools of appraisal and empanelment are important not only from the point of view of the careers of officers of the Civil Services but also to ensure good governance and effective administration. Therefore, while reviewing the effectiveness of these tools, a holistic view should be taken to ensure that the appraisal and the empanelment processes bring out the true picture of the officers being reviewed for promotion and empanelment.

It said there is a need to improve the computerized database for better monitoring and scrutiny of APAR submission process. The on-line software called SPARROW, designed and implemented by DoPT with the help of NIC, can be further upgraded to ensure effective performance management.