Nearly two years ago, HDFC Life was rattled by complaints of unfair appraisal ratings at his company. As many as 10 officers complained against a functional head who had given a rating of 4 to all the senior people but the entire junior, frontline staff got ratings of 2 and 3. There were also instances where ratings were handed out by managers without personal discussions. All this led the company, which employs over 15,000 people, to overhaul its appraisal process. Over the past two years, HDFC Life has introduced separate bell curves for senior and junior staff. It also introduced an online mechanism, which made sure managers answered queries on discussions with staff before submitting performance reviews. This was visible to the staff as well. The company also introduced monthly reviews of functional heads, and professionals at the level of associate vice presidents and above were called in regularly for mid-year reviews.

As a result of these changes, employees are less cynical than before, he says. With pay hikes expected to be dismal this year, appraisal conversations – both for subordinates and managers – are bound to get tougher and the performance review process is under greater scrutiny. Companies across sectors and training firms are working on creating mechanisms that enable a fair and fool proof appraisal process to alleviate employee anxiety.

Training firm Work Better has seen queries on feedback and appraisal training shoot up by 15 per cent to 20 per cent this year. Inquiries are mostly from industries like manufacturing and BFSI that are being impacted directly by the slowdown. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) India, which conducts training programmes for corporates to build HR-related capability in managers, is modifying role plays, games and case studies for its programmes HR Next and HR Next Plus.

It is looking to incorporate a module on appraisal-related anxiety management. With an increasing number of managers and leaders in their late 20s, organisations are realising the importance of training and mentoring programmes to build the capability in them to deal with anxiety and understand team members' feelings. This is not taught in a business school