Purpose – This paper examines the functioning of performance ratings of the human resources (HR) function of National Health Service (NHS). In particular, it looks at the star ratings system and the response of workplace HR managers to this system. Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses a qualitative, cross-sectional methodology. Human resource managers in 17 different NHS trusts, as well as senior civil servants, were interviewed. Findings – The paper finds that poor data quality and inconsistent incentives make the ratings of limited relevance in either evaluating or driving the performance of the hospital HR function. Research limitations/implications – The research highlights the value of assessing government policies from the perspective of those affected by them. Practical implications – The evidence shows that the application of performance indicators does not meet the stated government objectives. Also, the unanimity across managers in differently rated trusts shows that criticisms are not limited to those who received poor ratings. Originality/value – In examining the perceptions and practice of performance indicators, from their formulation to execution, the paper shows that problems with these ratings may occur at a number of points in the process.
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