Piss Poor Performance Revews

Performance AppraisalAccording to SHRM and NCMM most organizations give themselves a poor grade for managing performance reviews.  They cite a number of obstacles including:

  • Time
  • Lack of training
  • More important priorities
  • Varying appraisal standards

What grade would you give your organization?  And why?

Staying out of trouble: the importance of progressive discipline

Progressive discipline is an essential tool for management, particularly when it’s combined with good documentation and communication practices. Progressive discipline systems are designed to help employers apply fair, consistent disciplinary decisions. Proper documentation and communication strengthen the legal defensibility of those decisions and protect the company from false accusations.

Mutually beneficial
A structured system understood by both managers and employees takes some of the guesswork out of the relationship. Employees aren’t wondering what penalties could come next, and managers can be confident in their disciplinary decisions.
The ultimate goal of correcting undesirable conduct requires communication and collaboration, particularly in the early steps of the process. Because each step is progressively more serious, the system starts with mild “penalties” such as coaching or supplemental training. The employer and the employee can focus on what will work best for the employee to improve his conduct and avoid more serious discipline down the road. Employees are often invited to participate in the problem-solving process and can work with the employer to develop a performance improvement plan (PIP). Involving the employee in the process will increase her engagement and likelihood of success.

Typical steps, essential elements
Generally, progressive discipline systems follow five steps: (1) coaching or reviewing expectations; (2) oral counseling; (3) written warning; (4) suspen¬sion; and (5) termination. Throughout all steps, there are certain elements managers must maintain. First, the employee must be informed explicitly of the unacceptable behavior and understand the specific actions that constitute the unacceptable behavior. Likewise, the employee must be made aware of what desirable behavior looks like. Perhaps most important, the employee must be informed of the manager’s expectations moving forward and the consequences of a failure to comply.
While most progressive discipline systems loosely follow the structure above, the specifics can vary. In a unionized environment, the system is usually sub¬ject to negotiation. A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) often contains detailed provisions addressing progressive discipline. Therefore, if you have union¬ized employees, your managers need to be acutely aware of the disciplinary provisions in the CBA. A violation of a contract provision will be taken very seriously by the union and could escalate to arbitration or litigation.

Proper documentation is key
The safety net provided by a progressive discipline system is inextricably dependent on proper documentation by management. With proper documentation, the system can successfully establish the employer’s effort to correct misconduct before considering more damaging disciplinary action. Then, if an employee is ultimately discharged, management can be confident in its decision. (For additional advice on the right time to terminate an employee, see Jerry Glass’ “Words on Wise Management” column “Are you really documenting performance” on pg. 5 of our March 2014 issue.)
Effective documentation before, during, and after the process serves as a solid record when facts are called into question, demonstrating that the company acted in accordance with its policies and procedures, and encouraging cooperative behavior.

All documentation not created equal
Illegible shorthand notes cannot be considered proper documentation. For your documentation to be effective, you should use your own words, write chronologically, be specific when possible, date and time stamp all documentation, provide the informa¬tion to all parties involved, and always file a copy.
Documentation should not be tedious or overwhelming. If you make it a habit to maintain simple records and follow the above guidelines, it will become second nature. Just ask around—most managers who properly document the disciplinary process have thanked themselves for it later.

Author: Cassandra Lewis a labor analyst for F&H Solutions Group.

Originally published in Words on Wise


To ‘Rank and Yank’ or Not

Does your organization need forced ranking? An overlooked source of guidance sits within your quality improvement framework.

“Zero defects” is a popular slogan, but quality management warns that not all defects are equally bad. Zero defects can impede quality if you try to drive out every defect. Optimal process improvement is applied only where its value exceeds its cost.

In November, Microsoft ceased its long-held performance management practice of force ranking employees, just as Yahoo introduced the same practice. Does your organization need forced ranking? An overlooked source of guidance sits within your quality improvement framework.

The Microsoft announcement emphasized the company’s goal to encourage teamwork and collaboration. Lisa Brummel, Microsoft’s executive vice president of human resources, stated, “No more curve. We will continue to invest in a generous rewards budget, but there will no longer be a predetermined targeted distribution. Managers and leaders will have flexibility to allocate rewards in the manner that best reflects the performance of their teams and individuals, as long as they stay within their compensation budget.”

Yet forced ranking can clarify performance differences and allow (or force) managers to improve or remove low performers. One Forbes report suggested that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, “inherited a workforce that was bigger than it needed to be and riddled with paycheck-cashing clock-punchers. Precisely because it’s so big, figuring out who the slackers are isn’t easy.” This description may overstate reality, but it illustrates the point that forced ranking has value when restructuring benefits from better revealing high- and low-performers.

David Calhoun, the former CEO of Nielsen Holdings who had a 27-year career at GE, has defended the forced ranking system, saying, “At GE there was only one objective … to force an honest discussion between your manager and you. And there’s nothing that quite forces that more than employees knowing … how that manager ranks them, and then asking that manager, ‘Tell me where I rank and tell me why.’”

Let’s retool this debate using quality management principles: Performance management, including forced ranking, should be applied when value exceeds cost, and that depends on the consequences of the defects discovered and corrected. The defects are unaddressed poor performance (lingering problems) or unrewarded high performance. This helps explain the Microsoft/Yahoo distinction.

By scrapping forced ranking, Microsoft will likely see some high performance not rewarded as handsomely and some poor performance lingering longer. That’s a good trade-off if the lost value is less than the increased collaboration created without forced rankings. Microsoft used forced ranking for a while, which may have removed most low performers, so the value of detecting low performance is less. Microsoft may also now be better at rewarding high performance without rankings.

By adding forced ranking, Yahoo will incur new costs (in managerial time and effort, public backlash, employee resistance and internal competition). That may be worth it if its workforce is too large, and poor performance is costly and hard to identify. The defects of unaddressed poor performance and unrewarded high performance are more consequential at Yahoo, so the quality improvement value of forced ranking is greater.

Microsoft and Yahoo have engineering-driven cultures, where leaders make quality improvement investment decisions like this every day. Hopefully, those leaders are as rigorous in decisions about forced ranking.

One thing suggests they could do better. The quality improvement discipline suggests that a single approach is rarely valuable for an entire process, let alone an entire organization. Targeting matters. Yet, Microsoft and Yahoo both seemed to make these decisions for their entire workforce. We know the consequences of high and low performance varies across jobs, so one-size-fits-all is almost certainly not optimal, just as with software or any other process.

How will your organization decide about forced ranking? Too often, it is with anecdotes or a one-size-fits-all solution that swings from one extreme to the other. A better answer may be as close as the quality improvement processes you already use.

Originally published in Talent Management

Let’s Start an Employee Engagement Revolution!

I am writing this to you as a friend, colleague, and peer.  Our methods for “doing” employee engagement are captured in our new book published last fall that many are starting to call THE book on Employee Engagement because of its straight forward and practical approach.  Sales of my new book “Employee Engagement:  A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance and Increasing Loyalty” have been rock solid.  I have so far exceeded the publisher’s expectations.  But that is not good enough.  I believe in this book.  I know it can help organizations and people as it has already with many of our clients.  I want to start an engagement revolution

That is why I am asking for your help and support.  Here are a few ways you can support the cause.

  • Purchase the Book:  If you have not purchased a copy of the book please do so now – you can purchase it on Amazon  or at a discount directly from my company, Performancepoint
  • Read the Book:  If you have purchased the book but have not yet read it, start it today
  •  Write a Book Review:  If you have read the book please write a review about it on a blog, review site, your LinkedIn profile or on Amazon
  •  Refer the Book of Give it as a Gift:  If you know someone who would benefit from reading the book then tell them about it or give it to them as a gift 

If you are not familiar with Employee Engagement:  A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance and Increasing Loyalty and would like to sample the first chapter, email me at bfederman@performancepointllc.com and I will personally send it to you.  

Help people find out why:

  • Homewood Suites by Hilton purchases copies for every new GM
  • Macy’s bought copies for their top HR Vice Presidents and Directors
  • Mosaic provided copies for their entire leadership team

If you have an office library, place a copy in there.  Buy it for your team. 

Find out why people are saying things like…

“The ideas expressed in this book explode off the page. They are so relevant and meaningful for employees and managers, especially during these hard economic times, when most employees are made to feel that they should simply be happy to have a job. Employers should read this book and start maximizing their productivity by developing engaged employees. Excellent resource – with practical, real life examples of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of employee engagement.”

“Federman has positioned himself as the lightning rod for this topic by really landing the “plane” with this book. He uses the science “behind the curtain” in order to help us understand the “art” of building employee engagement. Easy to read, easy to understand graphs, and great real life stories made this an important read for my business. I appreciate the time, effort and energy it took to take this subject and make it meaningful.”

This is it!  The time is now!  Help me take the ideas in this book to a whole new level.  Small actions create major waves.  Thanks in advance.

NFL Draft Picks and Engagement

Experts had Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen as a top 10 pick in the draft.  Clausen had the experience.  He played under Charlie Weis for Notre Dame which prepared him for the pro’s and distinguished him from his competition, however Clausen didn’t get drafted in the first round.  Nor did he hear his name in the second round.  He was even passed over by Charlie Weis his old coach who is now with the Kansas City Chiefs.   

The Carolina Panthers picked Clausen.  He was the 48th overall pick; a far cry from a top 10 pick.  What should we garner from this? 

Lesson 1: Technical expertise and talent are just not good enough.  Attitude makes a difference; a big difference!  Clausen was known to have attitude problems and that created concerns.  

Lesson 2:  Hire for cultural fit.  Make sure your candidates can succeed in your environment.  

Lesson 3:  Hold associates accountable for how they accomplish goals and accomplishing goals. 

Lesson 4:  Create ownership among your team for creating an engaging culture and environment.

Feedback to Inspire

I believe feedback can inspire, motivate, activate, encourage, enthuse, stir, drive, propel, energize, and awaken confidence and performance.  I have seen it occur.  However it can also…

Dampen, dull, decrease, lessen, lower, diminish, reduce, suppress, smother, asphyxiate, and choke confidence and performance.

My research and experience show that there are a number of factors that influence the outcome.  Here are a few of the big ones:

  1. The provider of the feedback: Why, how, when, and where are as important as the what.  Many times the feedback they provide says more about themselves than the person they are providing it too.
  2. The receiver:  History and experience with feedback play a specific role in how someone interprets feedback, as well as personality preferences.
  3. The relationship:  The relationship between the people involved plays a role.  People respond based on patterns.  If there is a relationship pattern it will be difficult to break and they will have to work at it.
  4. Organizational Culture:  Culture of the organization plays a significant role.  If the culture is based on fear and distrust it can be difficult to inspire.
  5. Diversity:  Cultural and generational differences impact how the message is received.  With all of the best intent, positive attitudes, skills, and technique sometimes we are just unaware of customs, style, and cultural backgrounds.

However, all of these issues can be worked through, improved or overcome and the provider plays the biggest role.  So providers of feedback…lets aspire to inspire!


New Economy and Old Rewards Don’t Mix

For several years now, many of us have been saying that the business world has changed and that many of our tools in our toolboxes have become outdated.   One of those tools is our incentive structure:  our carrots and sticks.  In this video Dan Pink makes an argument, a very persuasive one at that, to change the way we do business.  Take a look and let us know what you think…