Appraisals – an opportunity to build a diverse, inclusive and equitable India Inc.

The past three years have unleashed a new age of new normal upon us. The year 2022-23 was about returning to the workplace for India Inc. For a bank like us, the past three years have been a refresher course in building a highly flexible and efficient workplace where talented, experienced and innovative people can thrive, upskill and assume expanded roles. The key takeaway from the pandemic is that new-age workplaces must be a continuous learning place designed to invoke sustained engagement. The same learnings have started to define appraisals in recent years – offering flexibility yet rewarding a sense of responsibility.

Appraisals play a crucial role in providing feedback to employees on their performance and identifying areas for improvement. With the change in how we work, the appraisal process has evolved in the past year. Performance parameters have changed – with productivity and impact taking centre stage in a work-from-anywhere scenario. This has led to the inclusion of new skills, attitudes, and competencies to navigate the remote and in-office workstyles. The age of always-on also translates into consistent appraisals comprising several review sessions and feedback mechanisms throughout the year. This helps employees understand their gaps and promptly upgrade themselves with new skills and certifications. It enables the HR department to partner responsibly with the growth of the people in the organisation.

In an age of “my work on my terms”, hiring is prone to a shortage of good talent, high attrition, and mismatched expectations. As an HR professional, the focus is constantly upon reducing the expectation gap and recruiting and retaining good talent while delivering on traditional responsibilities, including completing performance appraisals on time, motivating and maintaining the morale of their employees with good salary increases, and rewarding performance.

India has become a hotbed of economic activity and has witnessed the highest rates of salary increases globally. The room to navigate expectations is reducing fast – necessitating Corporate India to reward the deserving talent through alternate means and by presenting a scalable growth path. Organisations are deploying the Pareto principle in their talent planning. Higher differentiation in performance with differentiated salary increases for exemplary performance and creating a talent pool with a career progression and inbuilt development programs are the key focus for a growing organisation like ours. Other key retention measures include recognition, fair and equitable rewards for all employees, and flexible work arrangements, which most organisations continue to do.

However, it is essential to ensure that the appraisal process is fair and equitable, particularly for women employees who may face unique challenges in the workplace. One of the critical challenges women employees face in the Indian banking industry is the lack of representation in leadership roles. This can lead to a perception of bias in the appraisal process and make it difficult for women to receive the recognition and rewards they deserve. Banks must proactively increase representation and diversity in leadership positions to address this.

Ms Sajitha Pillai,
Head HR,
SBM Bank

As a new-age local full-service bank, we at SBM Bank India have focused on various programs to improve the induction and appraisals of women employees into the system. We believe that good talent must be inducted to nurture good leaders. To ensure good quality of talent and, in turn, also improve the gender ratio at the workplace, we introduced “The Great Comeback” program – designed to hire women professionals re-joining career post sabbatical or interruption. This program has enabled us to build a culture of inclusion and celebrate professional excellence of new age women. The program has helped us to set the first thing right – to know and normalise the employees’ expectations before building a system to appraise them. This initiative has strengthened our ability to offer our employees a motivating and engaging workplace – around the clock.

Another challenge women employees face in the banking industry is the prevalence of unconscious bias, which can manifest in many ways, such as assumptions about women’s abilities or stereotyping based on gender. To mitigate the impact of unconscious bias, we at SBM Bank India continue to ensure that the appraisal process is based on objective criteria and that managers are trained to evaluate performance objectively.

In conclusion, appraisals are crucial to ensuring that workplaces appreciate the right talents and offer room to improve to the deserving. At the same time, recruiting the right talent and setting realistic expectations while continuously improving them is essential. By following these best practices, banks can create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and ensure that the deserving talent receives the recognition and rewards they deserve.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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