Essay, Research Paper
Evaluating Computer Professionals for Raises and PromotionsSince the industrial revolution, all levels of management have used performance evaluations and performance reviews as standards for determining the productiveness of employees. This has been true for every type of job, from manual labor positions to top level managers. While the traditional approach to performance reviews may be appropriate for many positions, it is ineffective for many other positions such as computer programmers and software engineers.As we move farther and farther into the Information Age, we can be sure that the evaluation of computer professionals is one of the keys to a company’s success. For simplicity, within this report, programmers, analysts, software engineers, and other titles of software development people will be referred to as computer professionals. Discussion TopicsThis report discusses in great detail all aspects of the evaluation of computer professionals. This discussion will include: current evaluation techniquesproblems with these techniquesnew evaluation techniqueshow these new techniques can be applied for better evaluationsCurrent Evaluation TechniquesTraditional Performance EvaluationsSince its introduction, there has always been a large amount of controversy over the effectiveness and usefulness of the performance evaluation. Most managers will list the task of writing performance evaluations near the top of the list of things they least like to do, yet good managers recognize the importance of performance evaluations to their employees. Managers also realize that written reviews can supply documentation if a fired employee brings a wrongful-dismissal suit.1In theory, employee performance evaluations are supposed to be an enlightening experience both for the manger and the employee. In practice however, these annual rituals are usually less than pleasant. A manager is forced to gather the little information that he or she has about the performance of an employee and put it into a meaningful report. This is largely because managers have too little time to dig up the employee’s files, remember all of the relevant examples of good or bad performance, and write a long, complex document that sounds managerial.2Criticism of the Traditional Performance EvaluationCritics of the traditional performance evaluation say that they are too time consuming, too biased, and difficult to construct. They also say that once the performance evaluations are finally constructed, they often times cause more problems than they fix. Employees are usually not receptive to these evaluations, and managers rarely follow up on them. Computer-Assisted Performance EvaluationsA company called Austin-Hayne Corporation has developed a WindowsTM-based performance evaluation program that tries to help managers increase the effectiveness of the evaluation process.3 Austin-Hayne says their program “allows managers to more easily and accurately evaluate their employees’ performance” by using a database “of over 400 professionally written phrases and paragraphs.”4Another program called Review Writer by Avantos Performance Systems allows managers to choose pre-defined templates for different jobs and rate employees on a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The Review Writer then constructs a generic performance evaluation that the manger can cut and paste from.5Performance Now is similar to the other two evaluation programs. It allows the manager to select a pre-designed form for the performance evaluation and rate the employee. If a low rating is given for a particular category, a warning bow appears urging the manager to add supporting details in case the ranking is challenged.6Figure 1, shown below, shows the relatively low prices that many managers are willing to pay for an easy way out of writing constructive performance evaluations. Figure 1. Computer-Assisted Performance Evaluators7ProgramPublisherList PriceEmployee AppraiserAUSTIN-HAYNE$129Review WriterAVANTOS$129Performance NowKNOWLEDGEPOINT$169Criticism of Computer-Assisted Performance EvaluationsThese programs seem to limit the effectiveness of performance evaluations even more than traditional evaluations. Using these programs does not allow managers to consider each employee as an individual. Instead, the managers will simply print out two or three of these canned phrases and call it a performance evaluation. The evaluations contain simple, repetitive statements that are bogged down in human-resource jargon.8 Since the evaluation of computer professionals is much more involved, these programs are nearly useless in evaluating them. These programs simply provide an easy way out for managers. Importance of the Evaluation of Computer ProfessionalsComputer Professionals – A Hot TopicIt is obvious that the evaluation of computer professionals is sure to be a very hot topic for at least the next decade. “The systems analyst/computer science field is projected to grow by 79 percent by 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”9 These computer professionals will be earning a respectable salary ($45,000 to $50,000 for a professional with four years experience).10 Specific salaries are shown in Figure 2 below. Figure 2. Computerworld’s 9th Annual Salary Survey11Job TitleAverageBonusTotalProject Manager, Systems and Programming$55,331$3,055$58,286Senior Systems Analyst$50,388$1,522$51,910Systems Analyst$43,710$1,706$45,416Senior Systems Programmer$48,635$3,096$51,731Systems Programmer$41,117$770$41,887Senior Programmer/Analyst$44,263$1,718$45,981Programmer/Analyst$36,274$929$37,981Database Manager$53,610$2,059$55,669Database Analyst$46,766$1,008$47,774Data Security Administrator/Analyst$46,170$1,314$47,484According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “top-level systems analysts and systems programmers were usually the highest paid workers in the computer and data processing service industries.”12 These computer professionals also receive a number of benefits such as health care benefits, life insurance, retirement plans, etc.13 Finally, the salary increases for these computer professionals tend to be higher than many other professions (See Figure 3). Figure 3. Average Salary Increases14ProfessionSalary IncreaseComputer Professionals4.5%Human Resources4.2%Administrative Services3.7%Finance3.4%Marketing/Sales3.1%Engineering3.1%Dissatisfaction of Computer ProfessionalsSince we are going to be investing such a large amount of money and time in these computer professionals, we must have an excellent means of evaluating them. It is apparent in many cases that we are not doing a good job evaluating computer professionals. In a recent Computerworld survey, only 52% of women and 44% of men said they are working to their full potential and 11% of women and 23% of men said they were dissatisfied with their job.15Difficulties with the Evaluation of Computer ProfessionalsThe evaluation of computer professionals is a much more difficult task than the evaluation of most other types of employees. Take the following case for example: “It’s a nightmare: Your new employee, a ‘PC wizard,’ spends hours reading technical magazines and toying with software, but real-world concepts like deadlines and budgets seem incomprehensible.”16
There are many questions that arise from this scenario. Is the “PC wizard” productive? Is he/she valuable to the company? What are his or her roles and responsibilities? How can we fairly evaluate this person? These questions are on the minds of managers at all levels in the business world every day. Better Evaluation of Computer ProfessionalsEducation LevelSo how do we evaluate these computer professionals? Experts and managers have a number of common ideas about this difficult topic. First of all, they all agree that education level is a key. Edward Yourdan who’s company has trained over 250,000 programmers says his trainees must continue to upgrade their skills before they become extinct.17 One programmer at DynaGear Corp. in Downers Grove, Illinois says, “the degree has helped my career progress.”18 He also says the degree has given him an edge over other employees at evaluation time.19 Educators also agree that obtaining a higher degree is directly linked to advancement within a company.20 There are some very good reasons why management relies so heavily on education as justification for employment. Though a higher college degree is no guarantee, it is often a plus when management is looking for someone to promote. The main reason for this is that “it shows especially that they’re able to stick with something and complete it.”21 This leads to another area that usually comes along with obtaining a degree: having the proper skills. Communication SkillsBesides having the technical ability to be a computer professional, these people must have many other skills. The most important of these skills is effective communication. Computer professionals must be able to communicate their ideas through both written and oral communication.22 Employers require these skills from all of their computer professionals. GoalsComputer professionals that have a high degree of education tend to be more involved in their work, which helps them define their goals.23 They also tend to have a wide diversity of experience. Management views this diversity of experience as a key to setting goals and commitment to work.24 Computer professionals that add to the overall performance of a company by setting goals and being committed to their work tend to receive more promotions.25Local ExamplesGraySoft, Inc. Computer professionals at GraySoft, Inc. in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, are evaluated not only on their education level, but their commitment to reaching goals that have been set by management as well. An increase of an individual’s performance is directly related to an increase in performance for the entire company.26Merx, Inc. Computer professionals at Merx, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are evaluated using a three-pronged approach. First, a self-evaluation is performed by each computer professional. Then, all computer professionals perform a peer-evaluation on each other. Finally, an evaluation is performed by the technology manager. All evaluations rate a wide range of skills that include technical skills, communication skills, and team skills. This allows both the computer professional and the manger to see how far off they are on their respective evaluations.27ConclusionThis report has discussed how employees, especially computer professionals, are evaluated for salary raises and promotions. This has included a discussion of current evaluation techniques for all types of employees, problems with these evaluations, new evaluation techniques, and how these techniques are applied. Computer professionals are evaluated according to a number of different characteristics, the most important of these characteristics being education. Having the proper education leads to having the proper skills, which allows a computer professional to set goals and provide a commitment to their work which will increase their company’s overall performance. BibliographyBaid, Edward C. 22 August 1994. “So you hate rating your workers?” Business Week, p. 14. Berney, Deirdre. 3 March 1994. “Austin-Hayne Corp. introduces software for better employee performance evaluations.” Business Wire (Redwood City, CA). [CD-ROM]. Available: Business NewsBank PLUS — LONG PRINT; Record Number: 00705*19940303*00024. DiTomaso, Nancy, George F. Farris, Rene Cordero. April 1994. “Degrees and diversity at work.” IEEE Spectrum, pp. 38-40. Earls, Alan R. 4 September 1995. “Computerworld’s 9th Annual Salary Survey.” Computerworld, pp. 70-78. Fryer, Bronwyn. October 1993. “Dealing With the Techknow-It-All.” PC World, pp. 63-64. _____ August 1994. “An Easier Way to Write Performance Reviews.” PC World, p. 109. Melanie, Menagh. 9 October 1995. “Gender Gap gapes in IS.” Computerworld, pp. 133. Orr, Lois L. May 1989. “Research Summaries: pay in data processing services varies by occupation and area.” Monthly Labor Review, pp. 52-54. Raker, John. Technology Manger of Merx, Inc. 31 October 1995. conversation, Milwaukee, WI. Schwartz, Evan I. 1992. “Twilight of the Nerds?: Programming Must Go Beyond Grunt Work.” Business Week: Reinventing America Special Issue, pp. 174- 180. Stoltenberg, John. Director of Research and Development of GraySoft, Inc. 30 October 1995. conversation, Brown Deer, WI. Sulski, Jim. 27 March 1994. “Associate’s degree-cum laude.” Chicago Tribune, pp. 2, 5. Williamson, Elizabeth. 27 March 1994. “In Demand: Health Care, computers, sales fields booming.” Chicago Tribune, pp. 9-10. Zeff, Patricia. 27 March 1994. “Mid-managers hit the books.” Chicago Tribune, p. 11. 1 Edward C. Baig, 22 August 1994, “So you hate rating your workers?,” Business Week, p. 14. 2 Bronwyn Fryer, August 1994, “An Easier Way to Write Performance Reviews,” PC World, p. 109. 3 Deirdre Berney, 3 March 1994, “Austin-Hayne Corp. introduces software for better employee performance evaluations,” Business Wire (Redwood City, CA). [CD-ROM]. Available: Business NewsBank PLUS — LONG PRINT; Record Number: 00705*19940303*00024.4 Berney. 5 Baig, p. 14. 6 Baig, p. 14. 7 Baig, p. 14. 8 Baig, p. 14. 9 Elizabeth Williamson, 27 March 1994, “In Demand: Health Care, computers, sales fields booming,” Chicago Tribune, sec. 19, p. 9.10 Williamson, p. 9. 11 Alan R. Earls, 4 September 1995, “Computerworld’s 9th Annual Salary Survey,” Computerworld, pp. 72,24. 12 Lois L. Orr, May 1989, “Research Summaries: Pay in data processing services varies by occupation and area,” Monthly Labor Review, p. 52. 13 Orr, p. 54. 14 Earls, p. 71. 15 Melanie Menagh, 9 October 1995, “Gender Gap gapes in IS,”, Computerworld, p. 133. 16 Bronwyn Fryer, October 1993, “Dealing With the Techknow-It-All,” PC World, p. 63. 17 Evan I. Schwartz, 1992, “Twilight of the Nerds?: Programming Must Go Beyond Grunt Work,” Business Week: Reinventing America Special Issue, p. 174.18 Jim Sulski, 27 March 1994, “Associate’s degree-cum laude,” Chicago Tribune, sec. 19, p. 2. 19 Sulski, p. 2.20 Sulski, p. 5.21 Patricia Zeff, 17 March 1994, “Mid-managers hit the books,” Chicago Tribune, sec. 19, p. 11. 22 Zeff, p. 11. 23 Nancy DiTomaso, George F. Farris, Rene Cordero, April 1994, “Degrees and diversity at work,” IEEE Spectrum, p. 38. 24 DiTomaso, et al., p. 39. 25 DiTomaso, et al., p. 40. 26 John Stoltenberg, Director of Research and Development of GraySoft, Inc., 30 October 1995, conversation, Brown Deer, WI. 27 John Raker, Technology Manager of Merx, Inc., 31 October 1995, conversation, Milwaukee, WI.