Looking At Performance Measurement Instruments

We’ve come a long way in understanding and embracing the concept of performance management, at both corporate and individual levels, and the best part of this progress is that more of us know the distinction between performance management (the integrated system that we have been talking about in the last few articles), and, performance measurement, or appraisal, which is the actual assessment of delivery against targets.

There are many different types and levels of performance measurement tools in the market today, and, as far as branding goes, there are some that are positioned as superior to others but rather look at concepts of reliability and validity rather than the many bells and whistles accompanying modern packages.

Reliability simply means that the measurement tool will consistently yield the same outcomes regardless of who is using it. This is very important to establish and maintain the credibility of your performance management system.

If it is perceived that the appraisal tool changes outcomes depending on who was conducting the appraisal then it means the tool is open to bias and outcomes are likely to be skewed, subjective and, well, unreliable. And, validity on the other hand simply means the tool measures what it says it measures.

If your tool is evaluating my work performance by asking you to rate my ‘attitude’, and ‘appearance’, for instance, is that justifiable and are the constructs you are measuring not dependent on your own perception of me as opposed to my actual and measurable output as contracted?

Of course we can’t have a comprehensive tutorial on measurement tools here, so let us just look at the basics that you need to have incorporated in your systems, even before the appraisal meeting.

The performance contract

After we sign the employment contract, we have the performance contract, which is basically a statement of the agreed inputs and support mechanisms on the side of the employer as well as expected outputs described in as much detail as relevant – behaviours to be displayed, timelines to meet, quantifiable outputs/targets to reach. Usually these outputs are termed KPAs and KPIs. Key Performance Areas and Key Performance Indicators.

Where is performance expected, how will it be recognised/evidenced? Landscaping is an example of a performance area if my job is a Groundsman, and the appearance of weeds and overgrowth is an example of a performance indicator.

So, I would have been employed to perform landscaping services, and proof that these services are rendered would be whether there are weeds or not. How will we measure my delivery? Weekly inspections of the grounds? Number of complaints about pests? Those are your specifics to work out. After you have the KPA/KPI figured out, set the actual goals.

How much, how many, what frequencies, quality standards, etc., do I have to meet, within what budget/time constraints?

Don’t just define measures and get into appraisals for the sake of collecting data and assigning employees ratings. Go into it looking for answers to questions such as ‘what corporate goal is being met, or, what problem is being solved, by this KPA/KPI? If you can link the individual’s KPA/KPI to the department’s KPA/KPI, and in turn, link the department’s KPA/KPI to the corporate plans, it means you have a coherent performance plan. It means all work performed in your organisation is adding value. 

The performance appraisal

How is this different from the performance contract? The appraisal is the measurement or the assessment of the employee’s delivery against the performance contract. When used properly, performance appraisals are incredibly powerful for identifying strengths and performance gaps that need to be managed.

Appraisals don’t have any value unless they are aligned to job, and in turn to the corporate plan. Appraisals will not be respected unless staff feel that the appraisal process is a consistent, fair and constructive two-way conversation. There are different ways of doing the appraisal, up to the 360 degree feedback, which I will discuss separately next week.

The personal development plan

So, in closing, I wanted to challenge us to a shift in mindset from associating appraisals with salary increase to looking at appraisals as a personal development opportunity.

Let’s talk about personal development plans. A PDP is effectively a tailored action plan based on an awareness of your performance and development needs as extracted from the performance appraisal, and it sets out goals for your future performance, and actions that will support your personal development. The PDP helps you articulate how you want to grow, and how you can achieve that growth.

So, hopefully, instead of resisting and avoiding performance conversations, I think line managers and employees should be pushing HR to implement systems, so that everyone has a performance contract, and everyone has their PDP coming out of the appraisal process, so that everyone can be more invested in their employer’s business, looking at how building it up can only translate to building you up in terms of skills and professional growth, even before we talk monetary reward. Sorry…I do realise that was not the ending many of us expected.

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