Posts tagged ‘performance measures’
It is impossible these days to open a HR magazine, go to a HR conference or read a HR book without being overwhelmed by terms such as ROI on HR, HR analytics, KPI’s, measurement and Human Capital Management. These buzzwords which are trying to make HR ‘harder’ have really gained acceptance in the HR world today. In many ways, this is a good thing.
The problem with metrics and KPI’s is however, that they actually do work. That is, if you start to measure people in certain ways and you link their pay to meeting those measures they will in most cases try to meet these goals (KPIs) at the cost of other things.
“What you measure is what get’s done” as the old saying goes. It is therefore imperative that you measure the right things.
I was recently inspired by a Ted-talk about measuring performance. The talk was given by Dr. Chris Shambrook who supports organizations with leadership development. He makes the argument that when organizations talk about performance they are usually talking about results. So when you ask a person about how his performance is, what most people think of is results – how well are you doing against the goals set for you. What performance really means is “doing the things you need to do in order to get the things that you want”. He argues that organizations should focus on performance more than results. I totally agree.
I recently wrote about something similar when I advocated that HR also should track effort in the performance management system. Inspired by John Wooden, arguably the best coach in sport’s history, who famously never talked about winning games and wasn’t focused on the points on the board but instead for him it was about sticking to the fundamentals and making an effort to reach your potential. If you do that, he argued, the points will come.
Jon Ingham is a big more cynical when he state that “the easier something in HR is to measure, the more likely it is to be pretty low value”, but I agree with him. It is easier to measure results but HR should be more focused on measuring performance. However just because it is more difficult does not mean impossible. It just means that you should look somewhere else for your best KPI’s.
I freely admit, that I believe HR can add significant value through good analytics, metrics, ‘true’ evaluation and cleaver KPI’s. However I also believe that they are difficult to get right, and if not done properly you can actually do more damage by using ‘ugly’ KPI’s. If you want to do it, make sure you do it right. In that sense I am not a true ‘Demming’ who believed that “In God we trust, all others must bring data”.
By focusing on performance instead of results you focus on how much potential you have and how you need to develop that. That in return will give you more control over delivering your results. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?
Job Satisfaction is one of the most researched concepts in Industrial Psychology and in HR in general. And one of the most robust findings about it is that it correlates highly with productivity. To which degree varies quite a lot. A large meta-survey by Judge et al. suggests that the correlation is about 0.3, but I have seen it as high as 0.5. That is quite a lot.
I don’t dispute that ‘Job Satisfaction’ and ‘Productivity’ correlates highly. There is so much evidence to suggest that. I just wonder about the causality. I can think about three ways to explain the correlation:
The more satisfied you, the more productive you are in your job
The more productive you are, the happier you are with your job
A third element drives both e.g. if the match between job and employee is high then this employee will experience both a higher job satisfaction and be more productive.
In the end I believe that all three of the above are true. Which one of them is ‘the most true’, well I don’t know. However it matters a lot for HR practitioners.
If you believe the first explanation is more true then you would work hard on getting your employees to enjoy their work by increase autonomy, skill variety or give more feedback. If you believe the second to be true you would work on things which can increase productivity such as process optimisation. If you believe in the third explanation then you would work on your recruitment processes to optimize job-fit.
Before you measure job satisfaction in your organization, you must decide which of the three explanations you believe in and therefore how you should use the results.
It is tempting to measure retrospectively – but try to stay away from it.
You may have just held a course or completed a successful leadership training program. Or you are finding that your talent management program is being well received. Now you want to show that it added value to the business by measuring retrospectively. Don’t.
I can think of 3 reasons why you should always start your measurement before the program:
1. True evaluation requires a before measurement. Paul Kearns (http://www.paulkearns.co.uk) highlights that pre-training evaluation work – establishing how the activity is going to add value to the organisation and obtain performance measures for each trainee before the training starts – is the most important in any evalution process. I couldn’t agree more.
2. It is too easy to ‘adjust reality’ when doing it retrospectively. To reconstruct an original intend is always difficult – when you are trying to evaluate it is even harder. You must be able accurately to reconstruct the true context, behaviour and results from the time before the activity in order to assess the progress. You may have data going back in time but it is more difficult to reconstruct the original intend. (see this White Paper from Kirkpatric Partners: here)
3. Measuring is also about assessing if the activity should be done or not. Measuring is not an end in itself – it is a mean to create better HR activities. An important benefit of doing all the hard work before the program is to make adjustments so the outcome is strategically focused and create the most shareholder value. If you only do post-activity-measures then you don’t get all those benefits.
In short, measuring and evaluating is great but do it right – true evaluation starts before the activity is launched.