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Great food for thought…

I tend to weigh in on the side of a combination of both continual coaching (puppy approach) and cumulative review – on what is working and what is not on an occurrence and overall basis. Also, for those working on cyclical or infrequent projects, interim reviews of the project and its component pieces are effective. In the end, one needs to know if they are hitting the target or are way off the dart board. Recently in evaluating job descriptions and speaking with managers about the job requirements that they expect, I found that a number of managers had not really taken the time to think about this matter. Given that, I had to ask, “How do you know what you want from an employee when you are assessing them in a performance assessment system?” This discussion yielded far more than a rating on a performance review or the words on the job description itself – it facilitated the manager’s thinking about what they wanted the employee to do, how they wanted them to do it, and what results would be evident it they did it right.

I think that when a manager can focus on the results and how they want those results achieved, the task itself becomes less arduous and the yield is more beneficial to the employee. But – alas – some thinking must go into doing that. I have to ask though, “Without such a gauge, how do we run a business?” After all, our customers are making judgments and assessments every day on how we are doing in delivering the right products or services, in the right manner. Take a look at the influence of customer reviews and “thumbs up” signs on websites and social forums, and you can’t escape the fact that a continual process of review is more powerful than ever.

While we may continually be in search of the ultimate system or method for performance evaluation – that may not be such a bad thing. At least we are thinking about it.

I also posted this response on the Compensation Cafe:

http://compforce.typepad.com/compensation_cafe/2010/05/in-defense-of-the-insidious-performance-review-i-think.html

I recently blogged on this issue and if I may condense it here, essentially I am for separating the coaching/feedback/development phase of performance management from the goal setting/measurement/evaluation phase.The former should be ongoing and documented as needed, analogous to your parent-at-home model, while the latter phase should be the actionable goals and measures established in the context of a well drafted job description, analogous to the exams at school.

This becomes especially relevant in the context of compensation awards, analogous to the almighty scholarship in the academic world.
An exaggeration perhaps, but this hints at the assumptions that shape our perceptions.

Thanks for sparking metaphorical thinking, so much more interesting...here is a link to my post.

www.njhessassociates.com/blog

Vita:

Thanks for the comment - I replied in a little more depth over at the Cafe - but I like where you're going...

Nancy:

Thanks for sharing the link to your post ... and for your appreciation of the metaphor. I think many of us support the separation you describe, for the reasons you state. I also appreciate, from your post, the emphasis on results versus personal characteristics - although I also think that there should be a behavioral element to the appraisal. We just need to ensure that this is more about observable behaviors and less about a popularity contest. Like all of this, often easier said than done.

Thanks for the continued discussion here!!

You don't keep score at children's games? I talked to my (American) colleague about this to be sure I understood your point. As a Dubliner, it just didn't make sense. As we talked, my colleague speculated it's likely better to not keep score to keep the PARENTS in line. It seems there have been incidents of poor parental behavior at children's events.

What's the parallel there for performance management? Perhaps some managers don't do reviews not out of concern for the employee but out of concern for themselves (laziness, hate to be the "bad guy," afraid of the poor numbers of the subordinates reflecting back on themselves).

But that's a tangent. It's interesting to think about the focus -- on the results or on the process. Without results, there is no company. But without attention to the process, there are no good results. I dissected this a bit more in this discussion based on the research results that recently appeared in Time: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2010/05/rewarding-outcomes-or-process-which.html

Derek:

The scoreless game thing is not a universal phenomenon, but it is certainly a philosophy that has taken root in many youth sports leagues. And yes - I agree that it is likely based as much in the need to manage parents and their expectations/behavior.

Thanks for the link - interesting research and discussion!

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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