Monday, 16 December 2013

Music to My Ears - Measuring the Behavioural Competency Beat

I was at a Bruce Hornsby concert recently and there was a line in a song that got me thinking: “20/20 vision and walking ‘round blind”.  It turns out the line is from an old Jimmy Martin song. 
You should feel sorry for me as a human resources consultant that in such a moment, struck by such a poetic line, the first thing that came to mind was a question: “How do you measure behavioural competencies?”
Perhaps it’s because performance reviews are around the corner. Many performance reviews I have had experience with use a scale akin to the traditional five point Likert Scale with the high point being “Exceeds expectations.”  That should be a red flag. After all, how can you exceed expectations when it comes to the demonstration of desired behaviours?
On LinkedIn you can find a spectrum of comments on this debate that range from: “Why bother trying to capture the behavioural performance since it is totally subjective?” to “Use a tool like 360˚ feedback as a means of getting ‘meaningful’ feedback.”  Neither of which are helpful. Everyone who thinks they have the answer has 20/20 vision, while those who say there is no answer believe it is impossible to see.
So how do you measure behaviour and can you measure it objectively? 

Monday, 16 September 2013

The ABC’s of Forced Ranking

No matter where you go employees hate forced ranking – the system by which all employees are ranked as A Players (Top 20%), B Players (Middle 70%), and C Players (Bottom 10%). This is especially so when forced ranking is combined with “rank and yank”, meaning the automatic dismissal of the C Players. Is this just a case of employees being afraid of a cutthroat form of performance appraisal, or do they have a legitimate beef?

We can credit Jack Welch with popularizing the concept when he ran GE to such a great performance record. From his perspective, Forced Ranking is a humane system of performance management (Wall Street Journal in a January 2012). Approximately 60% of Fortune 500 companies still use the system, though some have expanded to five categories over three. Many also insist they do not establish quotas for each category.

And yet, managers being human beings (most of the time), it seems unlikely that the practice of forced ranking doesn’t force them to identify their A, B, and C Players pretty sharply. This forces us to consider a conundrum. If a manager is successful in getting his or her employees to meet or exceed their team objectives, is it legitimate to assess some of those employees as poor performers? Presumably, a manager who is achieving such success is holding people accountable, removing obstacles, coaching up performance, and doing everything necessary to produce desired results. What does it say when, at the end of the year, that manager must stand up and declare some employees to be crucial while others are expendable? What does that do to the group in question?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Strategy Versus Culture

For some reason, whenever a leader wants to affect a big shift in the organization, it’s culture that gets picked on. But is culture the problem or the answer?

Some time ago, a lottery company asked for my help in changing their culture. I listened to what they had in mind. Most of the changes they described were tactical, about business strategy.  So I took a time out and asked them to tell me about their culture, and then about their values. They were able to describe that culture and list those values quickly. After they’d finished, I asked them if they still believed in respect, honesty, customer service, and execution. They said that they did. There was a pause as this sunk in. I suggested to the group that they weren’t really interested in changing their culture, they were looking to change their business plan. This insight completely rearranged how they were looking to solve their problems.

In fact, the lottery company, like any organization, would be more successful implementing change if they did so from the foundation of their unchanging culture. In the last section of my book Inside the Box, the final chapter is subtitled “Culture trumps strategy every time.”  The reason is simple. Deeply rooted behaviours define the values, which are the bedrock of the culture. These elements are the basis for success in the organization. Their taught or passed on from one generation of employees to the next.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Don't Change Your Culture, Celebrate It!

I see it time and again. Culture is what makes an organization unique. If you try and fight that culture, you’ll lose every time. If you embrace it, you give yourself a better chance to win.

Most recently, I was working with a large university hospital to define the unique attributes and behaviours that make their leaders successful. The hospital is over 200 years old and has a long and proud history.  While talking with different employees at different levels about leadership, it became clear that the leaders who made the most meaningful contributions to the organization were those that lived and celebrated the hospital’s values. Those that failed or sputtered out just “didn’t fit” or “tried to change our culture.”

Thursday, 14 March 2013

What Are Employee Engagement Surveys Really Assessing?

Does an increase in employee engagement scores lead to an increase in productivity or does an increase in productivity result in an increase in employee engagement scores? 

Much has been written on employee engagement, most of which focuses on the correlation that an increase in employee engagement leads to an increase in productivity.  In the Forbes article “Why Employee Engagement? (These 28 Research Studies Prove the Benefits)” 9/04/2012 increased engagement scores are linked to improvements in everything from retention, customer service revenue, profit, and shareholder returns, to service, sales, quality, and more. You would think that a little effort on improving employee engagement would cure just about anything in the workplace.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Performance and Pay: Money Doesn't Buy Happiness (Or Results)

Recently I was having a conversation about the issues associated with putting in place a performance management process that is meaningful for both the company and employees.  During the discussion the issue of how to allocate bonuses based on the results of the performance review reared it’s ugly head. That led to a discussion on ‘forced’ distribution. The culture of the firm I was speaking with has always rewarded the top performers through the output of the performance reviews. I suggested that this sacred cow needed to be examined more closely.

Many organizations struggle with this concept: Do you link bonus and pay to the performance review or do you disjoin the two?