1. Study suggests staff satisfaction affects company performance

    November 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of East Anglia press release:

    Companies with high levels of staff satisfaction perform better financially, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

    The study examined the effect of staff satisfaction on corporate performance using employees’ online reviews of where they work.

    Writing in the journal Economic Letters, the researchers from Norwich Business School say that firms rated highly by their current employees in terms of satisfaction achieve greater financial performance compared to firms characterised by low levels of employee satisfaction.

    They add that this association between employee satisfaction and corporate performance indicates that employees’ online reviews are good predictors of a firm’s financial results, and so of value-relevance for investors.

    However, they find that positive employee satisfaction is not fully reflected in equity prices on the stock market, as an analysis using a trading strategy based on investing in firms characterised by high levels of employee satisfaction achieved statistically and economically significant abnormal returns.

    Lead author Efthymia Symitsi said the findings have significant implications for both managers and investors: “Increasingly researchers from a wide range of disciplines argue that in the current knowledge-based economy, employees are a particularly valuable organisational asset as they can contribute to firm value through innovation and customer relationships.

    “Therefore, ensuring their wellbeing and general satisfaction should be a major concern for businesses. This human-centred view of the firm is in direct contrast to the traditional view, according to which employees perform unskilled tasks and, therefore, are expendable commodities. Naturally, which of the two views is the appropriate one is an issue of the utmost importance for both managers and investors.”

    The study, published online this month, analysed more than 326,000 employee ratings of 313 US public firms from 2009-2016. The sample only included firms that had more than 500 reviews during the period studied, with quarterly financial data also collected for each firm.

    Co-author Dr George Daskalakis said: “Our results provide empirical support for a human-centred view of the firm. Interestingly, however, it seems that this is not wholly recognised by equity investors, providing further evidence that intangibles are not fully priced in the stock market and, most importantly, that this is not due to lack of information, since we measure employee satisfaction on the basis of freely available online reviews.

    “The reason we find abnormal portfolio returns and, therefore, conclude that this intangible is not fully priced in the stock market, could be because equity investors don’t believe that employee satisfaction is value-relevant for firms or perhaps because it is difficult to actually quantify its value.”

    Previous studies investigating the effect of employee satisfaction on corporate performance are relatively limited and commonly based on the ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in America’ list, published annually by Fortune magazine.

    However, to potentially be included in the list a firm needs to be certified for a fee first by the California-based Great Place to Work Institute. Therefore, only firms that have, or believe themselves to have, significant levels of employee satisfaction have an incentive to pay this fee and get certified. The authors argue that this can result in any conclusions drawn being driven by self-selection bias.

    To avoid this possibility, this study based its analysis on freely available online reviews that employees posted on job and recruiting site Glassdoor.


  2. Study suggests commonplace jokes may normalize experiences of sexual misconduct

    by Ashley

    From the Taylor & Francis press release:

    Commonplace suggestive jokes, such as “that’s what she said,” normalize and dismiss the horror of sexual misconduct experiences, experts suggest in a new essay published in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, a National Communication Association publication.

    The recent wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations against prominent actors, politicians, media figures, and others highlights the need to condemn inappropriate and misogynistic behavior, and to provide support and encouragement to victims.

    Communication scholars Matthew R. Meier of West Chester University of Pennsylvania and Christopher A. Medjesky of the University of Findlay argue that off-hand, common remarks such as the “that’s what she said” joke are deeply entrenched in modern society, and contribute to humorizing and legitimizing sexual misconduct.

    The first notable “that’s what she said” joke occurred during a scene in the 1992 film Wayne’s World; however, it became a running joke in the hit television show The Office, leading to “dozens of internet memes, video compilations, and even fansites dedicated to cataloguing occurrences and creating new versions of the joke.” After analyzing multiple examples of the joke used in the show, the authors argue that the “that’s what she said” joke serves as an analog to the rhetoric of rape culture.

    By discrediting and even silencing victims, this type of humor conditions audiences to ignore — and worse, to laugh at — inappropriate sexual behavior.

    Furthermore, the authors suggest that these types of comments contribute to dangerous societal and cultural norms by ultimately reinforcing the oppressive ideologies they represent, despite the intentions or naivete of the people making the jokes.

    The authors argue that the “that’s what she said” joke cycle is part of a larger discourse that not only becomes culturally commonplace, but also reinforces dangerous ideologies that are so entrenched in contemporary life that we end up laughing at something that isn’t funny at all.


  3. Study examines prevalence of Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD)

    by Ashley

    From the IOS Press press release:

    A memory complaint, also called Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD), is a subjective disorder that appears to be relatively common, especially in elderly persons. The reports of its prevalence in various populations range from approximately 10% to as high as 88%, although it is generally thought that the prevalence of everyday memory problems lie within the range of 25% to 50%. It has been suggested that SCD may be an indication of cognitive decline at a very early stage of a neurodegenerative disease (i.e. preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease) that is undetectable by standard testing instruments. SCD may represent the first symptomatic manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with unimpaired performance on cognitive tests.

    The McNair and Kahn Scale or Cognitive Difficulties Scale was employed to define and characterize cognitive complaints in the GuidAge study, involving a population of more than 2800 individuals aged 70 years or older having voluntarily complained of memory problems to their general practitioner (GPs). It contains items that are related to difficulties in attention, concentration, orientation, memory, praxis, domestic activities and errands, facial recognition, task efficiency, and name finding.

    The results of the GuidAge study suggest that the assessment of cognitive complaint voluntarily reported to primary-care physicians, by the McNair and Kahn scale can predict a decline in cognitive performance, as 5 items out of 20 were statistically significant.

    These 5 items are:

    • item 1, “I hardly remember usual phone numbers”,
    • item 5, “I forget appointment, dates, where I store things”,
    • item 6, “I forget to call people back when they called me”,
    • item 10, “I forget the day of the week”,
    • item 13, “I need to have people repeat instructions several times.”

    Thanks to this short scale GPs, in clinical practice, can identify which patients with memory complaints should be referred to a memory center to assess cognitive functions.


  4. Study looks at language often used by people with ADHD on Twitter

    by Ashley

    From the University of Pennsylvania press release:

    What can Twitter reveal about people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Quite a bit about what life is like for someone with the condition, according to findings published by University of Pennsylvania researchers Sharath Chandra Guntuku and Lyle Ungar in the Journal of Attention Disorders. Twitter data might also provide clues to help facilitate more effective treatments.

    “On social media, where you can post your mental state freely, you get a lot of insight into what these people are going through, which might be rare in a clinical setting,” said Guntuku, a postdoctoral researcher working with the World Well-Being Project in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health. “In brief 30- or 60-minute sessions with patients, clinicians might not get all manifestations of the condition, but on social media you have the full spectrum.”

    Guntuku and Ungar, a professor of computer and information science with appointments in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Arts and Sciences, the Wharton School and Penn Medicine, turned to Twitter to try to understand what people with ADHD spend their time talking about. The researchers collected 1.3 million publicly available tweets posted by almost 1,400 users who had self-reported diagnoses of ADHD, plus an equivalent control set that matched the original group in age, gender and duration of overall social-media activity. They then ran models looking at factors like personality and posting frequency.

    “Some of the findings are in line with what’s already known in the ADHD literature,” Guntuku said. For example, social-media posters in the experimental group often talked about using marijuana for medicinal purposes. “Our coauthor, Russell Ramsay, who treats people with ADHD, said this is something he’s observed in conversations with patients,” Guntuku added.

    The researchers also found that people with ADHD tended to post messages related to lack of focus, self-regulation, intention and failure, as well as expressions of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. They often used words like “hate,” “disappointed,” “cry” and “sad” more frequently than the control group and often posted during hours of the day when the majority of people sleep, from midnight to 6 a.m.

    “People with ADHD are experiencing more mood swings and more negativity,” Ungar said. “They tend to have problems self-regulating.”

    This could partially explain why they enjoy social media’s quick feedback loop, he said. A well-timed or intriguing tweet could yield a positive response within minutes, propelling continued use of the online outlet.

    Using information gleaned from this study and others, Ungar and Guntuku said they plan to build condition-specific apps that offer insight into several conditions, including ADHD, stress, anxiety, depression and opioid addiction. They aim to factor in facets of individuals, their personality or how severe their ADHD is, for instance, as well as what triggers particular symptoms.

    The applications will also include mini-interventions. A recommendation for someone who can’t sleep might be to turn off the phone an hour before going to bed. If anxiety or stress is the major factor, the app might suggest an easy exercise like taking a deep breath, then counting to 10 and back to zero.

    “If you’re prone to certain problems, certain things set you off; the idea is to help set you back on track,” Ungar said.

    Better understanding ADHD has the potential to help clinicians treat such patients more successfully, but having this information also has a downside: It can reveal aspects of a person’s personality unintentionally, simply by analyzing words posted on Twitter. The researchers also acknowledge that the 50-50 split of ADHD to non-ADHD study participants isn’t true to life; only about 8 percent of adults in the U.S. have the disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In addition, people in this study self-reported an ADHD diagnosis rather than having such a determination come from a physician interaction or medical record.

    Despite these limitations, the researchers say the work has strong potential to help clinicians understand the varying manifestations of ADHD, and it could be used as a complementary feedback tool to give ADHD sufferers personal insights.

    “The facets of better-studied conditions like depression are pretty well understood,” Ungar said. “ADHD is less well studied. Understanding the components that some people have or don’t have, the range of coping mechanisms that people use — that all leads to a better understanding of the condition.”


  5. Study suggests biomarker may predict early Alzheimer’s disease

    by Ashley

    From the Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute press release:

    Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified a peptide that could lead to the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The discovery, published in Nature Communications, may also provide a means of homing drugs to diseased areas of the brain to treat AD, Parkinson’s disease, as well as glioblastoma, brain injuries and stroke.

    “Our goal was to find a new biomarker for AD,” says Aman Mann, Ph.D., research assistant professor at SBP who shares the lead authorship of the study with Pablo Scodeller, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at SBP. “We have identified a peptide (DAG) that recognizes a protein that is elevated in the brain blood vessels of AD mice and human patients. The DAG target, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) appears in the AD brain before amyloid plaques, the pathological hallmark of AD.”

    “CTGF is a protein that is made in the brain in response to inflammation and tissue repair,” explains Mann. “Our finding that connects elevated levels of CTGF with AD is consistent with the growing body of evidence suggesting that inflammation plays an important role in the development of AD.”

    The research team identified the DAG peptide using in vivo phage display screening at different stages of AD development in a mouse model. In young AD mice, DAG detected the earliest stage of the disease. If the early appearance of the DAG target holds true in humans, it would mean that DAG could be used as a tool to identify patients at early, pre-symptomatic stages of the disease when treatments already available may still be effective.

    “Importantly, we showed that DAG binds to cells and brain from AD human patients in a CTGF-dependent manner” says Mann. “This is consistent with an earlier report of high CTGF expression in the brains of AD patients.”

    “Our findings show that endothelial cells, the cells that form the inner lining of blood vessels, bind our DAG peptide in the parts of the mouse brain affected by the disease,” says Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., distinguished professor at SBP and senior author of the paper. “This is very significant because the endothelial cells are readily accessible for probes injected into the blood stream, whereas other types of cells in the brain are behind a protective wall called the blood-brain barrier. The change in AD blood vessels gives us an opportunity to create a diagnostic method that can detect AD at the earliest stage possible.

    “But first we need to develop an imaging platform for the technology, using MRI or PET scans to differentiate live AD mice from normal mice. Once that’s done successfully, we can focus on humans,” adds Ruoslahti.

    “As our research progresses we also foresee CTGF as a potential therapeutic target that is unrelated to amyloid beta (Aß), the toxic protein that creates brain plaques,” says Ruoslahti. “Given the number of failed clinical studies that have sought to treat AD patients by targeting Aß, it’s clear that treatments will need to be given earlier — before amyloid plaques appear — or have to target entirely different pathways.

    DAG has the potential to fill both roles — identifying at risk individuals prior to overt signs of AD and targeted delivery of drugs to diseased areas of the brain. Perhaps CTGF itself can be a drug target in AD and other brain disorders linked to inflammation. We’ll just have to learn more about its role in these diseases.”


  6. Study suggests customers who pay for their purchases by card are less likely to remember the precise amount paid

    November 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt | Graz | Wien press release:

    The transparency of spending money depends on the mode of payment used: cash, single-function cards that offer only a payment function, or multifunctional cards which may also include bonus programmes, user identification or other functions. A recent study has shown that the recall accuracy associated with the act of paying is lower for both card formats than it is for cash transactions.

    According to current estimates, approximately 3 billion new so-called smart cards will be issued across the globe in 2017. Smart cards conveniently combine the payment function with additional types of functionality. Since 2000, the number of smart cards that are carried in users’ wallets has grown by around 20 per cent annually. It is anticipated that these types of functions will be made available directly through smartphones or smart watches in the future.

    Intrigued by this boom, researchers at the University of Cologne and the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt have recently examined the effect these shifting payment methods are having on the customers. Rufina Gafeeva, Erik Hoelzl and Holger Roschk have carried out a field study, as part of Rufina Gafeeva’s PhD-thesis, to determine recall accuracy in relation to recently made payments. Data were gathered at two separate time points in cafeterias at a German university; the first time point was during the summer of 2015 (prior to the introduction of a multifunctional card on campus), and the second time point was during the summer of 2016 (following the introduction of the multifunctional card). Researchers were able to analyse guided interviews, which were conducted with a total of 496 students immediately after the act of paying.

    “We were able to show that individuals who pay by card have a less accurate recall of the amount paid than individuals who settle their bill with cash,” the research team summarises the findings. In addition, regarding the multifunctional card, the individual patterns of use play a critical role: “Individuals who use the non-payment functions of the multifunctional card are less likely to remember the transaction details accurately.”

    According to the authors of the study, these results are relevant for the financial wellbeing of everyone. After all: “A precise recollection of past spending has an effect on the willingness to spend money in the future,” the researchers explain. Efforts to encourage the customer to adopt a financially healthy behaviour require increased transparency. “To heighten our awareness we need designs that separate the payment function from other functions, or that visualise the act of spending money, such as immediate payment information or transaction summaries.”


  7. Study suggests hair cortisol levels predict which mothers are more likely to suffer postpartum depression

    by Ashley

    From the University of Granada press release:

    Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR), who belong to the Brain, Mind and Behavior Research Center (CIMCYC, from its abbreviation in Spanish) and the Faculty of Psychology, have proven that cortisol levels (a steroid hormone secreted as a response to stress) present in the hair of pregnant women during the first or third trimesters of pregnancy may indicate which of them are more likely to suffer postpartum depression.

    Their work, published in the PLoS ONE journal, showed that hair cortisol levels in women who developed postpartum depression were higher throughout pregnancy than those seen in women who hadn’t developed it, being that difference statistically more significant during the first and third trimesters.

    The UGR researchers carried out their study doing a follow-up on 44 pregnant women throughout the whole gestation period and after giving birth. Each trimester the mothers underwent a series of tests that evaluated their stress and psychopathological symptoms while simultaneously taking hair samples from which the researchers extracted the cortisol corresponding to the last three months.

    The following days after labor the researchers evaluated the mothers’ emotional state in order to assess who among them had developed postpartum depression.

    Quarterly psychopathological symptoms

    Additionally, the results of the study showed that the participants which developed postpartum depression showed higher levels of somatization during the first trimester. During the second trimester they showed higher levels of somatization, obsession-compulsion, depression and anxiety, and during the third trimester they showed higher levels of somatization and pregnancy-specific stress. Therefore, all those symptoms along with higher levels of cortisol would be indicators of a future postpartum depression.

    As María Isabel Peralta Ramírez, lead researcher of the project says, the consequences of those results are very important in the prevention of postpartum depression, “since they show that there are various altered psychological and hormonal variables throughout the whole gestation period in comparison to those women who will not suffer postpartum depression. Detecting those differences is the key to anticipate the psychological state of the mother as well as the consequences for the baby that said state could mean.”

    This study belongs to the GESTASTRESS research project, in the research excellence framework of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Its primary goal has been to assess the effects of psychological stress on the mother throughout the whole gestation period as well as on birth variables, and on the baby’s stress and neurodevelopment.


  8. Study identifies group of brain cells responsible for keeping us awake

    by Ashley

    From the Emory Health Sciences press release:

    Scientists have identified an additional group of cells in the brain responsible for keeping us awake: the supramammillary nucleus, part of the caudal hypothalamus.

    Neurologists had suspected that a component of the “ascending arousal system” could be found in this part of the brain for more than 100 years, but the precise location had been a mystery. In mice, activating this region using targeted chemical genetic techniques resulted in prolonged wakefulness during the animals’ normal sleep periods.

    The results are scheduled for publication in Nature Communications.

    In humans, this region could be a target for bringing some brain injury patients out of a comatose state via electrical stimulation, says lead author Nigel Pedersen, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine and an epilepsy specialist at Emory Brain Health Center.

    The supramammillary nucleus was known for its connections to the hippocampus, important for memory formation, and parts of the frontal cortex involved in focused attention, Pedersen says.

    “Given these connections, this region may be important for the voluntary maintenance of wake and attention, but more work is needed to study this,” he says.

    Pedersen conducted the research with Clifford Saper, MD, PhD, and Patrick Fuller, PhD, at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Pedersen is continuing work at Emory on the importance of the supramammillary nucleus in memory and learning, and studying its connections to the hippocampus in relation to epilepsy control.

    For decades, neurologists had known that damage to the hypothalamus — including that seen in the mysterious post-World War I epidemic encephalitis lethargica — resulted in marked sleepiness. Now that the location and identity of the wake-promoting neurons are precisely defined, the supramammillary region joins other parts of the brain known as being involved in keeping people awake, such as the nearby lateral hypothalamus, the upper brain stem and basal forebrain.

    In the current paper, Pedersen and his colleagues used genetic engineering techniques to selectively activate particular groups of cells in the brain. They did so with a combination of a designer drug (clozapine-N-oxide) and receptors engineered to be triggered only by that drug. They injected viral vectors carrying an activation switch into the hypothalami of mice, and then gave the mice clozapine-N-oxide.

    Investigators mapped precisely where their injections went and which ones promoted wakefulness; only those involving the supramammillary nucleus did. So what does having this part of the brain stimulated “feel like” for the mice?

    “It’s hard to say, but they display a normal repertoire of behavior,” Pedersen says. “They’re not as wound up, and they don’t show stereotyped repetitive behaviors, as they would with stimulants. The main difference between these and normal mice is that there is no ‘quiet’ wakefulness or napping during the normally sleep-enriched daytime period.”

    Inhibiting the same area of the brain with similar techniques increased the amount of time mice slept, especially non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, although sleep was not instant upon drug administration, as has been shown for other parts of the arousal system, Pedersen says.

    “The effects of inhibition of the supramammillary region is to increase sleep, but not dramatically,” he says. “Disruption of other components of the arousal system typically has relatively mild effects. This may amount to some redundancy in the arousal network, but may also relate to the way in which different components of the arousal system have a role in particular types or components of wakefulness. We are actively exploring this idea.”

    Genetic manipulations also allowed the scientists to determine that the brain chemical glutamate was critical for wake signals. When the gene for a glutamate transporter VGLUT2 was snipped out of the supramammillary nucleus, artificial stimulation had no effect on wake and sleep.

    The presence of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase was used to identify an especially potent wake-promoting group of neurons, but their functions still depend on glutamate release. The role of the gaseous neurotransmitter nitric oxide in this brain network is not yet known, Pedersen adds.


  9. Study suggests sleep apnea may increase risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

    by Ashley

    From the American Thoracic Society press release:

    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may put elderly people at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to new research published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

    In “Obstructive Sleep Apnea Severity Affects Amyloid Burden in Cognitively Normal Elderly: A Longitudinal Study,” researchers report that biomarkers for amyloid beta (Aß), the plaque-building peptides associated with Alzheimer’s disease, increase over time in elderly adults with OSA in proportion to OSA severity. Thus, individuals with more apneas per hour had greater accumulation of brain amyloid over time.

    According to the authors, AD is a neurodegenerative disorder that afflicts approximately five million older Americans. OSA is even more common, afflicting from 30 to 80 percent of the elderly, depending on how OSA is defined.

    “Several studies have suggested that sleep disturbances might contribute to amyloid deposits and accelerate cognitive decline in those at risk for AD,” said Ricardo S. Osorio, MD, senior study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine.

    “However, so far it has been challenging to verify causality for these associations because OSA and AD share risk factors and commonly coexist.”

    He added that the purpose of this study was to investigate the associations between OSA severity and changes in AD biomarkers longitudinally, specifically whether amyloid deposits increase over time in healthy elderly participants with OSA.

    The study included 208 participants, age 55 to 90, with normal cognition as measured by standardized tests and clinical evaluations. None of the participants was referred by a sleep center, used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat sleep apnea, was depressed, or had a medical condition that might affect their brain function. The researchers performed lumbar punctures (LPs) to obtain participants’ cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) soluble Aß levels, and then used positron emission tomography, or PET, to measure Aß deposits directly in the brain in a subset of participants.

    The study found that more than half the participants had OSA, including 36.5 percent with mild OSA and 16.8 percent with moderate to severe OSA. From the total study sample, 104 participated in a two-year longitudinal study that found a correlation between OSA severity and a decrease in CSF Aß42 levels over time. The authors said this finding is compatible with an increase in amyloid deposits in the brain; the finding was confirmed in the subset of participants who underwent amyloid PET, which showed an increase in amyloid burden in those with OSA.

    Surprisingly, the study did not find that OSA severity predicted cognitive deterioration in these healthy elderly adults. Andrew Varga, MD, PhD, study coauthor and a physician specializing in sleep medicine and neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said this finding suggests that these changes were occurring in the preclinical stages of AD.

    “The relationship between amyloid burden and cognition is probably nonlinear and dependent on additional factors,” he added. This study finding may also be attributable to the study’s relatively short duration, highly educated participants and use of tests that fail to discern changes in cognitive abilities that are subtle or sleep-dependent, the authors wrote.

    The high prevalence of OSA the study found in these cognitively normal elderly participants and the link between OSA and amyloid burden in these very early stages of AD pathology, the researchers believe, suggest the CPAP, dental appliances, positional therapy and other treatments for sleep apnea could delay cognitive impairment and dementia in many older adults.

    “Results from this study, and the growing literature suggesting that OSA, cognitive decline and AD are related, may mean that age tips the known consequences of OSA from sleepiness, cardiovascular, and metabolic dysfunction to brain impairment,” Dr. Osorio said. “If this is the case, then the potential benefit of developing better screening tools to diagnose OSA in the elderly who are often asymptomatic is enormous.”


  10. Study suggests performance appraisal success depends on frequent feedback and good standard setting

    by Ashley

    From the University of Leicester press release:

    Appraisal of employees often gets a bad press, but recent research suggests if it involves frequent feedback between the formal appraisal and good prior planning and communication of standards then it can be successful and appreciated by employees.

    The research, conducted by Stephen Wood at the University of Leicester and Shaun Pichler and Gerard Beenen, both at the California State University, Fullerton, is based on a meta-analysis of existing research. It shows that acceptability of appraisals is enhanced when feedback is frequent and standards are set and clear to employees but also that these two things have a synergistic relationship, so feedback has a greater effect when standard setting is good.

    Professor Shaun Pichler commenting on the results said: “People like receiving feedback, yet all too often employees do not get it. The research suggests that appraisal is unlikely to motivate employees, without frequent feedback throughout the review cycle and their being given meaningful performance standards.”

    The implications for practice are that rather than abandoning appraisals or continuing to treat that as an annual ritual, more attention should be paid to feedback and standard setting than is all too often the case. It is important that in standard setting and feedback the potential trade-offs between goals is acknowledged. And the existence of multiple or conflicting goals is not used to justify a fatalistic approach to appraisal, that it can never really be much use. Standards make appraisal and feedback easier so the appraisal does not need to focus on the person; and they can be defined as ideals and not obligations so the appraisal can focus on development and not ensuring obligations have been fulfilled.

    Professor Stephen Wood, of the University of Leicester School of Business, said: “All too often appraisal is treated as a once-a-year ritual or conceived as monitoring people’s performance, but with well communicated expectations and good quality feedback, it can be transformed from a tool of performance management to a potentially vital high-involvement management practice.”

    Just as feedback transforms the traditional attitude survey to a high-involvement management practice – the survey feedback method – so feedback transforms appraisal.