Is rating and ranking employee performance a pendulum swing?

One of the great questions posed at the HR Minds Employee Engagement conference is whether the practise of rating and ranking employees and their performance whether for salary purposes or promotion is one of those trends that swings back and forth like a pendulum. One speaker explained how they went from a rigid structure of rating all employees to an app based continuous feedback structure without ranking at all, just feedback on ongoing work. Others said they had followed a similar path, but then in the end went back to some form of ranking.

The thing about employees and performance in my view, is that you have to set a standard of expectation of some kind. What I hear a lot when working with organisations, is that employees do want to give a great days work, but a lot of them don’t know what that means. Obviously this starts with leadership, a vision and consistent implementation of said vision into workable operational expectations. It doesn’t have to go as far as micro-managing and describing each step, but it does entail for each manager to be able to recognise whether they are on target and can elicit to their team what they need to do to achieve this.

One model I saw work, was to have competencies related to job categories and an explanation of how you could move from basic knowledge to true mastery of a competency. Job performance was measured on a relevant set of competencies and based on what you displayed in your actions, an individual had a benchmark to aim towards and given a score based on what had been observed. Each score was a conversation at the end of each project. Both you and the relevant project manager could indicate the competencies you wanted to focus on and give your view on how you displayed it. Now in my view this was fair, because there was ultimate transparency of expectations and clear guidance on how to do well. You had the freedom to take responsibility and you could plan out how to make it work for you.

What I see in terms of trends from younger employees is that they crave feedback and not all of them are getting it. Some of the older generations in the workplace, may have become complacent in a feedback pattern based on salary reviews, without active other initiatives. Tolerance of weak and ignorance of high performance can have the result of creating a culture of apathy and a breeding ground for disengaged employees. What a lot of the speakers at yesterday’s event shared is that culture and working on a clear view with input from employees, is key to achieving consistent performance.

In games you will always known at an overview how you are doing, whether it is through he resources you collect, energy indicators, lives left, ammunition left, levels taken, points accumulated, etc. The feedback loops are constant. A lot of games also reward your moves with “Awesome!”, “Well played”, “Nice move”… Feedback is at the point where it happens. Some job roles obviously are easier to apply this kind of feedback structure to than others. For it to work your manager needs an understanding of your role, your motivations and career aspiration and then an appropriate feedback structure. I have seen colour coding, traffic lights, points and scores, feedback with happy and unhappy faces, battling joint monsters, designing agreed images together, etc. A fun imagination can help with making something that is creative and engaging for all. Either way my advice is to put some thought and budget into this for best results.

Inspiration in combination with yardsticks on what good looks like, combined with authentic leadership and learning agility seem to be the source of great employee engagement. Feedback does play a role whether you just give indicators of good, bad and ugly behaviour or add in scores and ranking, either way in a feedback trained society thanks to social media not having any is no longer an option. And that is if it ever was… of course.

How do you work with performance feedback?


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