Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #731 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

I started job in a well-known multinational pharmaceutical company and kept working with MNCs till 1998. I switched to a well-known local corporate in 1999 and have continued with the local industry since then. I have therefore seen both the worlds, up close and in detail. It is true that the MNCs were/are years ahead in their concepts and practices. The learning from MNCs has been constantly trickling towards local pharma as people trained over there keep switching to local industry. Some of the local corporates have surpassed MNCs in business size, but not in management area. On the other hand, some MNCs have resorted to following local corporate practices to survive the fierce competition they face from them. One big example is launching of branded generic products by MNCs. Many tried their hands at it though the success remained mixed.

We were exposed to in-depth customer analysis as far back as 1976, when we were given a 6-page questionnaire to be filled for each customers. Some part of this information was incorporated into the ‘Doctors Record Card’ which was among the most dreaded and hated items of the time.

The MNC I was working with already had a formal appraisal system when I Joined. Later, they switched to MBO – Management by Objectives – which was modern and popular at that time. At the beginning of the year, we would set up a list of objectives which were to be accomplished during the year. These included business objectives, learning objectives, and team objectives. The appraisal was done on six monthly basis where progress was determined against each objective and the rating was given accordingly. It was an open appraisal where the appraiser and the appraisee discussed and knew the rating.

The government departments in Pakistan had a long history of performance appraisal coming down from the colonial days. It was ACR – Annual Confidential Report. The bosses would write ACRs for their subordinates and sent it up. The appraisee was neither invited for discussion nor was informed about his/her rating. The armed forces also had a similar system. I understand the same system is still working in the government sector. We shall discuss the closed appraisal system later, for now we shall focus on the right things.

The first point is that the appraisal system has been accepted and adopted by Pakistani companies, though not universally. The organizations who have subscribed to formal appraisal system have evovled through various stages and are now following Key Performance Indicators – KPIs system.

The second point is that the managers in companies who have adopted appraisal system, have done varying degrees of effort to train their managers to do appraisals the right way. The first common issue to address is the matter of bias. Most managers, if not all, carry biases about their subordinates, which they justify on the basis of results. A high performing person would be given much leeway on other counts where he may be rating poorly. Another bias is of favoritism which is also quite common. Yet another is about who takes care of the boss with public praises, appreciations, and occasional gifts. More on these things in the next post.

The third point is the insistence on making appraisals more open and transparent. The appraiser and appraisee are required to sign the appraisal document after discussion so that nothing can be changed confidentially.

The fourth point is that the HR function has been strengthened and more widely applied. The HR management has evolved into sub-specialties like Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Organizational Development, Performance Management, etc. Lately, the concept of HRBP – HR Business Partner concept has also caught up where HR staff is based in the major functions to facilitate HR work there.

The fifth point is that the organizations have committed resources to train relevant staff for implementing, managing, and monitoring performance appraisal system. KPIs is barely twenty years old and therefore expert protagonists are not found everywhere. Constant training is certainly required.

The sixth point is that appraisals are reviewed by reporting officers of the first appraisers to eliminate the elements of biases, prejudices, favoritism, and poor judgment. It is a good way to improve the quality of appraisal, though it is not foolproof.

The seventh point is that the HR department reviews all appraisals and compares it to see that people may not be appraised too liberally or too miserly; but rather in a balanced, rational way.

Performance appraisal is certainly required to ensure people stay on track, that they perform to the best of their ability and to the desired level, and that people are rewarded equitably for their performance. This last point has been under debate. When annual salary increase was connected to appraisal rating, it was found that the appraisees tried to influence their appraisers to get good ratings so that they would get better salary increase which would last for next many years. Therefore, the two were delinked. Presently, appraisal score in many companies is related to one-time payment of bonus, or profit participation, or some other incentive.

In the next post, we shall see what is not happening right about appraisals in Pakistan.


Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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