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Pay-related performance management versus human resource leadership in schools

By Brett South

Performance Appraisal (PA) and Performance Management (PM) processes are much more complex and potentially destructive than many people realise, and it is important to contextualize and develop an approach properly before implementation.

PA is but a component part of overall strategic and staff management and not an independent concept or practice to be added later. It is unlikely that an attempt to introduce PA into an ethos that is otherwise structured will be successful.

Schools need to adopt a preference

This has to be the starting point in deciding what model of PA one wishes to implement. Whilst there are a number of important organisational contextual issues to consider ab initio, one of the fundamental ones relates to ‘orientation’. This is the extent to which appraisals are constructed and/or perceived to be either evaluative or developmental. Whilst it may be argued that all PAs are, to an extent, both evaluative and developmental, it is unlikely that they can, or should, be equally so and a preference needs to be adopted. The point is that the approach needs to be consistent with the prevailing or desired leadership/management philosophy and ethos if it is to be effective. It is at this point that careful consideration of the organisation’s ‘people philosophy’ is required.

Human Resource Management (HRM) or, to take it to the next level Human Resource Leadership (HRL), is not ‘personnel management’ or ‘a separate department’, but a philosophy and way in which an organisation regards its employees. The key word is ‘resource’, in that it flows from a contemporary understanding of organisational management. Rather than considering people and equipment as expenses and assets respectively, employees are considered ‘resources’ to be leveraged in delivering the organization’s objectives. As cynical as one may be, there is, without question, an important logic to this notion, as it suggests an approach whereby the ‘inputs’ are valued and constructively maximized in order to achieve goals rather than being expenses and costs to be minimised in the production of output.

I suggest that a strongly evaluative orientated approach is often more readily associated with a managerial philosophy, whereas a predominantly developmental philosophy is more consistent with the concept of resource leadership.

Is PA part of your whole HR management process?

The question to be asked is whether a traditional, ‘measurement and evaluation’ based environment exists in your school, with PA as a separate task to be carried out therein, or, does a more modern, resource and development-based environment exist where PA is an accepted, integral part of the whole HR management process? Is there PM or Performance Leadership (PL)?

(A caution: strongly evaluative models, apart from their inherent ‘backward looking’ predisposition, strongly evaluative models can be used inappropriately, with, for example, disciplinary overtones. Whilst consistently poor performance may have disciplinary consequences, the vehicle to address this issue should rather be the formal disciplinary procedure.)

If in your answer to the above question revealed a preference for a ‘renewed’ school, then a strongly evaluative process is probably not the most appropriate model to employ.

Should you link PA to pay rewards?

Debate about the value of a strongly evaluative approach includes the issue of whether PA should be linked directly to pay awards. Care should be exercised in any school-based model linking PA with pay increases for the following reasons:

  1. Do agreed, effective measures and metrics exist in the school environment to make a quantitative, objective, determination of performance that can be reliably converted into a ‘points score’?
  2. Is the system designed to minimise the chances of an individual ‘playing the numbers game’ merely to increase pay whilst remaining, possibly, otherwise dysfunctional?
  3. Given the comparatively narrow range of salary bands and the significant expenditure pressure on salary budgets, is there sufficient flexibility to make for a meaningful, sustained-performance enhancing, related pay differential?
  4. Are teachers really motivated by pay, or, conversely, are we rewarding the right behaviour by manipulating pay? Butt et al suggest otherwise:

…concluded that teacher job satisfaction is strongly associated with ‘the gratification of higher-order needs’ … arising from strong social relationships, autonomy, levels of responsibility, involvement and challenge. The introduction of pay incentives are again reported as being largely unsuccessful in increasing teacher motivation. [Emphasis added]

What of professionalism?

A further aspect to be considered relates to accountability and professionalism. Whilst it is often postulated that professionalism is inconsistent with performance monitoring, this is far from correct. A core tenet of being a professional is in fact the requirement that professionals hold themselves accountable for their performance and expertise; the price of professionalism is accountability.

But what of professionalism? There is much debate about why there is an erosion of teaching as a profession and the element of PA cannot be ignored. Mather and Siefert sound a note of caution:

… the professional element of teaching is systematically and strategically replaced by non-professional tasks, and that the teachers have less say over all and any aspect of their working lives…

Traditionalist, managerial approaches no longer appropriate

In conclusion I suggest that older, strongly evaluative, models of PA and the underlying managerial approach to HR is not the most appropriate for today’s schools. Logically, therefore, direct pay-related performance models are also probably not the most appropriate either.

Winstanley and Stuart Smith criticise the traditionalist, managerial, approach thus:

They take a functionalist stance in identifying problems which prevent performance management from contributing to the success of the organisation, with the ultimate aim of rectifying these. They concentrate on the mechanics and design of performance management and measurement systems rather than their raison d’être, and provide ammunition for an attack based on operationalization rather than on performance per se.

Brett South is the Bursar and Financial Manager at Hilton College.


  1. Armstrong, M and Baron A, 1998, Performance Management, London: Institute of Personnel and Development cited by Gentle, D, in D Gleeson and C Husbands, 2001, The Performing School, RoutledgeFalmer, London, p20.
  2. Butt, G, Lance, A, Fielding, A, Gunter, H, Rayner, S & Thomas, H 2005, ‘Teacher job satisfaction: lessons from the TSW Pathfinder Project’, in School Leadership and Management, Vol.25, No.5 November 2005, pp455-471.
  3. Gleeson, D and C Husbands (Eds), The Performing School, Managing, Teaching and Learning in a Performance Culture, RoutledgeFalmer, London.
  4. Mather, K and Seifert, R 2011, ‘Teacher, lecturer or labourer? Performance management issues in education’, in Management in Education, Vol 25 No 1, BELMAS, Sage Publications, London, p26 – p31.
  5. Viedge, C 2004, ‘The Psychology of Performance Management’, in I Boninelli and TNA Meyer (eds), 2004, Building Human Capital: South African Perspectives, Knowres Publishing, Randburg, p203 – p227.
  6. Winstanley, D and Stuart Smith, K 1996, ‘Policing performance: the ethics of performance management’, Personnel review, Vol 25 No 6, MCB University Press, p66 – p 84.

Category: spring 2017

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