Thursday, February 19, 2015

Digital Master Tuning: The Digital Shift on How to Measure Employee Performance

Measure thinker performance and doer performance differently but objectively. 

The common symptom of performance failure is to rate employees as a convenience, not a way of improving performance. Rating forms are convenient but have little potential for improving performance. The biggest stumbling block for a large organization to come unstuck is getting performance data that is useful. Human performance is directly linked to human behavior. A highly skilled person perhaps does not put his/her best work forward because he/she isn't motivated. So what's the digital shift to evaluate employees’ performance and manage talent with agility, in order to discover your digital masters?  

The Purpose Of reviews is improvement about the future. The past is over. Move the purpose of performance reviews away from "evaluating" the past, and to improving success in the future. The only reason to do the performance management process is to work with employees to improve their performance regardless of the current level, so they can better contribute to organizational goals. Other reasons involve making sure managers get the information they need to manage effectively. The benefits of doing it well are so huge, that managers should want to do it. When you leverage all the necessary information for managing performance, in the overall interests of teams and the company at large into the foreground, it takes its rightful place at center stage and becomes "the normal way of doing business around here." That means when a performance problem exists individually or collectively, it needs addressing in real time - failure to address it is then perceived as "poor performance." Performance reviews succeed in spite of these demoralizing tools, managers and HR departments need to move past them or even eliminate them. The essence is in the ongoing year-long communication.

Measure thinker performance and doer performance differently but objectively. Both thinkers and doers make an important contribution to their organizations. However, traditional performance assessment only focuses on the quantified result from doers to measure efficiency; lack of tools or methods to properly measure thinkers who have the potential to improve business effectiveness or agility. Most people have hard-wired preferences. If they have high agility meaning they can move between thinker and doer mode all well and good. It is likely they will have a preference for one or the other. The aim is to ensure that across any team there is a balance. The problem with most teams is that they have no idea what the makeup of that team is beyond subjectivity gut feel and intuition. Value the thinker who can translate his/her thinking to deeds. The thinkers that do and inspire others to do is a true leader. A true leader can adopt another's purpose and inspire others to join that purpose. These are the rare individuals who can lead in any environment or organization (either in support of or in opposition to the purpose of that organization). That said, reward your thinkers, the thinker needs to be able to put through his/her idea into action creating value for the company in process/ product/ technology /market innovation to achieve sustainable profitability.

Individualizing expectations even for employees "doing the same job": The "old notion" is that if you have ten staff in the same position, that they should be expected to do the same things, and be evaluated in the same way. The modern digital workplace doesn't work like that. Each person, even in the same job, ends up doing somewhat different things because they bring their unique strengths to the job. So, people in the same position often do quite different things and should be rewarded and recognized for their unique contributions. Hence, treat them the same by treating them differently, and measure them differently by measuring objectively. However, more often, managers might choose to review one team member favorably or unfavorably to maintain a bell curve. No evaluations or employee reviews are completely objective. Subjectivity abounds so you need to stop pretending that your ways of evaluating employee performance are objective. What is important is setting agreed upon goals and objectives, establishing key indicators, and then working with the employee so there is a common understanding of goals and agreement on how to measure them. Again, this means a negotiated approach.

Performance management needs to be embedded in the daily culture of any organization. If performance management becomes an event about 2-3 times a year, then that is how employees will view it. Also, if you move away from trying to use performance management to make employees less than right and use it as a means to develop engage and create a new way to delight customers, you would be well on the way to creating an impactful productive environment. This, in turn, requires a change in mindset, where people really need to understand how their job interacts with other people's job, making sure that at the interface any issues are identified and resolved quickly in a "let's solve our problem" attitude.

It is a complex world out there with so many variables that determine performance - including inter-dependencies within teams/ organizations. Organizations need to move the "elephant" firmly to the space of group evaluations of itself and each other. Such transparency and storming are the only way to build a shared understanding of common goals as well as understand own role in the larger picture. It also then becomes a space of confronting the invariable power/ political issues that either impact performance directly or from perceptions that hinder future performance. Talent is the most invaluable asset in the organization, and the digital shift of performance management can accelerate businesses' journey for high business maturity significantly.


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