An Imperfect 10

Measuring some indices of performance is a relatively straight-forward process.  Revenue & Expense–and all the various expressions of margin–are measured and reported as specific numbers.  The speed you’re traveling in your car is measured precisely and arithmetically, as is the amount of alcohol in your system if your driving happens to become impaired by a police officer.

BUT…When it comes to measuring indices of human performance in work, we have somehow been convinced that measuring people is more art than science.  The earliest human mesurement system I can recall encountering is Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, which was the system rating me in the early grade school years.  Then it became ABCDF, and then it’s numeric equivalent in high school and college, the 1.0–4.0 scale.  When I went to work it became Outstanding, Good, OK, Fair, and You’re Fired.  There’s even a system out there today that uses a rating scale of Very Satisfied, Mostly Satisfied, Satisfied, A Little Bit Unsatisfied, and Ballistic.  “Satisfied” is not a behavior…You can’t see it, you can’t measure it.  How can a person measure their own “satisfaction?”  What does it even mean?

All of these human performance rating systems share a common problem–not enough categories.  Even the old 1-10 scale applied to the overall attractiveness of a person, and the 1-100 scale for scoring math tests, only allow for a limited number of ratings.  Trying to press, say, 200 peoples’ performance into five categories ends up being an exercise in relativity–‘Let’s see, I rated John a Good, but Sally is better, so I’ll have to rate her as a Good+.’

Evaluating a person’s performance is serious work, and it has consequences.  If you enter a person’s life in a helper role, you will either have a positive or negative impact on that person–never a neutral impact.

Communicating to an employee areas of performance that need improving may be the hardest job a manager has.  Most managers are reluctant to communicate directly about a person’s problem areas, because they fear a reaction from the employee, one that will focus on a weakness/need of the manager.  (The manager, like all of us, is mostly thinking about themselves during a performance appraisal.)

To effectively measure human resources, a manager needs some tools.  The first of these is a rating system that gives the manager enough options to reflect the multiple levels of human performance.  The rating system needs to be numeric, so that indices of performance can be weighted, combined, and averaged.  The rating system also needs to give the manager some standards upon which to anchor the ratings.

Human behavior can be observed and measured.  Standards for behavior can be set, and performance against those standards measured.

A 1.0–5.0 rating scale can be applied to human behavior.  The key is to set the standard at 3.0.

5.0  Creates new standards

4.0  Exceeds some standards

3.0  Meets standards

2.0  Fails to meet some standards

1.0  Destructive

Examples of standards include:

Revenue/employee, Forecasting accuracy, On-Time Delivery, Sick Time, Calls per Day, Interpersonal Response Level, Callbacks, Transactions per day…If you can observe someone doing it, it can be measured.

Perhaps the most unfulfilled employee need is honest feedback and information about how to improve.  Managers who can put aside their own fears and provide accurate ratings based on defined standards with an effective degree of empathy will actually help people.

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