How can organizations effectively use appraisal systems to retain knowledge workers? A systematic review of the literature.

John Onyeaku
Muma Business Review  •  Volume 4  •  2020  •  pp. 157-168
Organizations have long struggled with appropriate interventions to mitigate knowledge worker turnover. Because of their unique skills, knowledge workers have a considerably higher rate of turnover than traditional workers, and they are expensive to replace. Organizations use performance appraisal systems to identify and retain critical employees. Knowledge workers enable organizations to remain creative and innovative as well as maintain their competitive edge. The purpose of this study was to use systematic review of extant literature to show how organizations can effectively use performance appraisal systems to improve the retention of knowledge workers. This was done by gathering evidence on performance appraisal systems and knowledge workers from various databases and conducting a rigorous synthesis of available evidence.
The efficacy of appraisal systems in mitigating knowledge worker churn was viewed through the lens of expectancy theory and a conceptual framework was developed. Expectancy theory focuses on an individual’s belief that they can obtain desired outcomes if they exert certain effort. Knowledge workers want to be challenged and evaluated based on objective criteria. A thematic analysis of the evidence revealed important themes for management practice: identify and segment knowledge workers, ensure a positive perception of the appraisal system via ‘voice’ inclusion, and deploy competent job evaluators for accurate performance evaluation. This is the first known systematic review of the literature which focuses on the competence of the appraiser as an important influence on knowledge workers’ reaction to appraisal outcome and how this impacts intention to quit.
Performance appraisal, appraisal systems, knowledge worker, knowledge worker segmentation, competent rater, retention, systematic review
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