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Performance Records Go To Hanger-51

February 12, 2010 7 comments

President Obama wants to computerize and standardize all medical records within the next 5 years.  An ambition some call audacious and others call imperative.  Proponents suggest that Electronic Medical Records (EMR) technologies would, among other things,  ultimately facilitate a higher standard of care to patients.  Essentially, an integrated system would allow a patient to accumulate a comprehensive medical history that could be accessed at a moment’s notice by healthcare professionals wherever and whenever.  Change your primary care physician? Doesn’t matter.  Out of town with a medical emergency? No worries.  Want to give your neurologist a peek at your cardiologist’s notes? Consider it done.  Are there privacy issues? Yep…and others.  But doesn’t it make sense that the people being paid top dollar to manage your health have the complete picture of what works, what doesn’t, what’s strong, what’s not? Sure does to me.

So what if we could do the same thing with employee performance records?  What if we could standardize at least a piece of those records so the data could be transferrable to new employers? Shouldn’t your development continue where it left off at the old employer?  Seems to me that your new boss would like the opportunity to really understand your weaknesses (as opposed to whatever canned answer you gave him/her during your interview.)  Seems that might actually give him/her a chance to address them head-on before they creep up somewhere down the road and hinder everybody’s progress.  It would also give him/her a chance to quickly highlight and truly leverage your strengths.  Tim Sackett and Fistful of Talent had an interesting post the other day about carrying the “hickeys” of workplace transgressions around with you from job to job.  I’m not sure any one has to see your hickey until you’re actually on the job.  And as long as there was some understanding that they couldn’t kick you out for having a hickey (after all, we’ve all had them) then why not just get them out in the open? 

I think about the many years of performance reviews I had with my former employers.  It kind of bums me out that those are just sitting in a box somewhere in a storage room…worthless to anything I’m doing today.  Electronic Performance Records (EPR)…hmmmmmmmm.

Photo Credit: peteterranova.blogspot.com/

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Toyota, Herd Mentality, and HR

February 3, 2010 9 comments

Let me start by saying that my sincere sympathies go out to anyone who has been harmed in any way by the Toyota accelerator/floor mat issues.  It sucks you’ve been hurt and I hope appropriate reconciliation will come your way…if even possible.  Having said that…

Would all you other crazy-hypersensitive-sky is falling-little ninny nanny-overly judgmental-freakazoids please just cool it?  This is a perfect example of how the general public is prone to media hysteria, hypnosis, and herd mentality.  Here’s a company that did the auto industry a favor: it injected a competitive life into the increasingly arrogant and complacent Big 3 and in the process brought 10’s of thousands of jobs to the US (their Direct Investment in the US has grown to $17 Billion and they spend $29 Billion annually with US companies).  Think of all the cars this company has put on the roads in the US over the last 53 years (27 million Toyotas on the road in the US right now) and then…this.  The media gets a hold of it, the American public cries “foul,” and the next thing you know the company is projected to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $2B by the time this is all said and done.  And for what?  Toyota owners have a better chance of killing themselves by slipping in the shower (2,300:1) than they do having even an issue (not a fatal one) with their faulty accelerators or floor mats (13,500:1).  Check it out.

One of the hardest things you’ll ever do as an HR professional is take a stand on an employee’s performance, suggest they “aren’t done yet,” and insist that you (all) have an obligation to at least try and salvage their career with the organization.  This is easy enough to do when you have some employment law risk to fall back on.  But try it when the mob is forming, when quick-judgment has already been passed, and some loud mouth is crying “foul.”  If HR professionals went along with the herd every time performance came into question, our “Grim Reaper” moniker would be well deserved.  We go out of our way to understand the dynamics at play, we gather facts, we interpret the data, and we always perform a risk analysis.  History (track record) is considered.  Multiple view points and diverse perspectives are sought.  And ultimately a recommendation is made.  But we always start with the benefit of the doubt…don’t we?  Don’t we begin with the premise that people make mistakes, that no one is perfect, that flawless performance is fleeting, and that every one should be given another (and another) chance?  And more than anything, we hate the “either/or” solution and always look for the “and/both” solution…

Why do Americans suck at this?  There are solutions to this problem, their are a number of models not subject to the issues, the company will pay for the fix, and it’s not like they are going to put new cars on the market that have the same issue.  To any one who is thinking some semblance of “I really like Toyota but now there’s no way I’m buying one,” you’re a doo doo head.  I just hope you’re not an HR professional too.

Want to teach your daughter a REAL lesson? Sell their Girl Scout Cookies!

January 25, 2010 3 comments

It’s Girl Scout Cookie time again. Not only are those cookies worthy of a good glutinous binge, but who can resist that timid knock of that neighborhood girl practicing the fine art of door-to-door sales? It’s also a great way for children to get first-hand exposure to capitalism, commerce, ownership, responsibility, and…hard work.  So what’s up with all of you parents who bring your daughter’s order sheet into the office?  Some people would argue that you’re depriving your daughter of a good experience…that you’re giving them a cop out…that you’re spoiling them.  Others would say your actions border on unethical.  But I say you’re doing them a favor and that there’s a hidden lesson there for any of those daughters who may one day end up in the business world.  And here’s the lesson:

“People who succeed in corporate America inevitably have people in high places who help them get there.”

It’s just too tough out there to go it alone…hard work doesn’t cut it any more…it is mostly about who you know…nice gals do finish last…the “Good ‘Ole Boys Club” is alive and well.  I hate to say it, but it does matter whether you can play golf with the “big guys” (check out PunkRockHR today) or whether you can shoot the shit around the Super Bowl or whether you can smoke a cigar and drink scotch at a poker table.  And it will always matter when it comes down to promotions, evaluations, compensation, and any other “workplace competition” that you have someone in the room who can champion your cause.  Just like your parents are doing when they bring your Girl Scout Cookie order form into the office.  I have two daughters – only one of them is old enough to sell cookies.  We don’t even ask her to go door to door yet – that’s just too much for a 7-year-old.  She gives her pitch to her grandparents and close family and that’s it.  We end up buying most of the boxes, though; and that’s alright with me and my sweet tooth.  And I’m not sure I’ll ever bring her order form in to the office – it still kind of bothers me.  But I’m also not sure it’s such a bad idea either.  After all, helping your daughter – who will most likely one day become a working woman – get ahead in the workplace can’t be all that bad. 

Photo Credit: Factpile

The Power of Fine Dining

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

I had dinner last night with my boss, our company’s CEO.  We do this from time to time.  Sometimes it’s with others, sometimes it’s one-on-one.  Last night two of my peers joined us.  I had a boss once who made it a point to not socialize with his colleagues outside of work (actually, I think it was at his wife’s insistence).  I didn’t like that boss.  Not that one has to socialize to be liked, but it says a lot about one’s style if they make socialization a part of their approach to leading, developing, and engaging their people.  Maybe it’s the wine (and the Manhattans), but I always leave the table feeling more valuable, less anxious about my shortcomings, and more optimistic about our future.  And my trust in my boss and peers escalates immediately.

Again, we’re not talking rocket science here.  And again, that’s the point.  This meal required a 3 hour investment of time and several hundred dollars…the return on that investment is far more lucrative than any performance management process, learning tool, or compensation scheme.  When’s the last time you took your greatest asset to dinner (lunch doesn’t count)?  If it’s longer than 60 days, I’d recommend a quick jaunt out to OpenTable.

Dear Mr. CEO, stop being such a baby

November 4, 2009 6 comments

sweepI was talking with a CFO buddy of mine last night – he’s with a large telecommunications organization – 5,000+ employees.  Anyway, he was complaining about their HR Leader and his inability to integrate successfully with the rest of the leadership team.  He expanded by suggesting the HR Leader was always one step behind everyone else: has trouble seeing the bigger picture, thinking beyond programmatic responses to issues, rarely adding anything creative.  I asked him how long the guy had been there, and he said 5 years.  I said, “no way.”  He said, “yes way.”  Shame on you, CFO buddy.  And shame on your peers. 

Would you allow a CEO, COO or CFO, who wasn’t making the grade on this level, to stick around that long?  Why does there seem to be more tolerance for mediocre HR performance than there is for other roles?  The longer C-Suite Leaders put up with mediocre performance from HR, the longer they’ll get it.  It’s up to that group to demand the most from us.  Stop crying about your HR Leader not being strategic enough and go out and find one who is.  It’s not like they don’t exist.  If, Mr. CEO, you’ve tried – really tried – to give your HR leader the opportunity to add value to your organization through strategic contributions, innovations, forward thinking, thought leadership, and they haven’t responded, then get rid of the clown.  Your doing the organization a disservice.  But more importantly, you’re doing the HR profession a disservice.  Stop sweeping HR under the rug…keeping them hidden in some back corner because “they just don’t get it.”  Man(Woman) Up and deal with it.  Make tough decisions, be highly demanding, and hold us accountable.  And if all else fails, fire us for goodness sake.

Anything You Can Do They Can Do Better

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

ethel mermanThe New York Times had an interesting article last week related to the profusion of talent in the market right now – “Tables Turned, Former Hires Can’t Get Hired”  We all understand that there are lots of people on the street right now looking for jobs; what’s different, though, is that a lot of those people are really really good.  It’s easy to think that the lowest performers get let go first, but that’s definitely not true in an environment where the factors driving workforce reductions are dynamic, widespread, and to a large extent uncontrollable.  The other big difference: no one is picking this talent up as quickly as they used to ’cause there’s nowhere to put them.  Or is there (Vincent Price cackle in the background)?  And that’s where my deviousness comes in…

Take a look at your under performers…or your marginal performers…or even your sub-optimal performers and see if now’s the time to upgrade.  Yes, that means involuntarily separating people from the organization simply for the fact there are better people out there to take their place.  This would be the epitome of the “up or out” approach to talent management – Jack Welch would love this.  One of the guys referenced in the article was a former SVP at PNC Bank responsible for providing Human Resources to 3,500 employees.  The guy can’t find a job.  Tell me he wouldn’t be the perfect candidate for that organization where the HR Director just can’t seem to get up the curve, can’t get to the table, can’t play a more vital role in directing the success of the business.  Get rid of that guy already.  And a lot of these guys are willing to take a pay cut just to get back on the playing field.  Why would you drive the Chevy Malibu when you could have the Saab 93 Turbo for close to the same price (I know, I’m the king of mixed metaphors)?  Here’s what the naysayers will throw at me:

  1. You’ll say, “Yeah, but they’ll leave when they find something better.”  And I say, “Maybe…if there’s something better…ever.”
  2. You’ll say, “There’s some employment law risk here.”  And I say, “Maybe, but the decision is based on legitimate business criteria  – we found someone who could do the job better.”
  3. You’ll ask, “But how do you know whether that person is really better?”  And I’ll answer, “my screening process is thorough, my performance management system is reasonable, and I’m a bettin’ man.”
  4. You’ll say, “but that just isn’t nice.”  And I’ll say, “Maybe not, but you know where nice guys finish.” 

Tough times call for tough measures and I say it’s all fair play.  Get that former SVP of HR, who the board squeezed out, to be the new HR Director for your fledgling organization.  Find that HR Manager, who was on the fast track only to be tossed aside during a downsizing, and put them into an HR Generalist role.   Get rid of the laggards, who are doing your HR Team a disservice, and give yourself a makeover.  Your (new) HR Team will thank you, the leadership team will respect you, and your employees will love you.

Bench the Player/Coach

October 27, 2009 4 comments

Pete RoseHas anyone else out there given up on the idea that Managers have to be good developers of people?  I’m close…real close.  I’m not saying they can’t be or they shouldn’t be.  I am just saying that if they aren’t, they should get the hell out-of-the-way.  I know there are some companies out there that do a really good job of holding their managers accountable to this aspect of their role – providing them with the appropriate training, measures, incentives and accountability tools.  If you work for one of those companies, you’re lucky.  The majority of us, however, are more familiar with those organizations that will always let the manager’s contribution to the bottom line (as measured by traditional financial results) shadow any ineffectiveness in promoting and developing their people.  Ya know what, I’m OK with that.  But admit it and stop trying to pay lip service – and throw resources out the window – to the idea that the management team is good at and responsible for the advancement of staff.  Being a good developer, a good coach, isn’t something you just flip a switch on like “ok you’re a manager now, get at it…your employees are waiting.”   You may ask any ole’ father to coach the third grade soccer team, but you wouldn’t let him get close to the coaching staff of a World Cup team.  And Pete Rose was marginal as a player/coach…remember that?  Isn’t this the workplace equivalent?  Let’s face it, most of the time managers learn how to develop people directly from their managers and most of the time those managers suck at development too.  Here’s the cold hard reality: even if managers are good at development, even if they want to be more active in and deliberate with their employees’ advancement, there will always be something else which will occupy the number one spot on a long list of priorities…always!  And who suffers?  The employee…always!

So why not hire a couple of full-time coaches who can keep it as the number one spot on a short list of priorities?  People who are educated, trained, experienced, and proven to be effective in getting people to identify key areas for development, helping them focus on those areas, and then holding them accountable to them.  Have them work closely with the manager in gaining perspective and insight to the employee’s needs, but then let them get back to what they are good at (or to whatever the squeaky wheel is).  Two full-time coaches could provide up to 4 hours of dedicated coaching time annually for each employee in a 1,000 person organization.  Imagine what you could do with that.  And we’re not talking about a huge investment; plus any investment will be offset by the heightened productivity of your managers who no longer need to worry about filling out evaluation forms, etc.  And these coaches won’t just be “going through the motions.”  They’ll be making measurable and meaningful impact to the employees’ preparedness, productivity, potential, and advancement.  They can help cull the low performers and keep the HiPos.  They can help manage risk, plan for succession, and on and on and on…

Does anyone out there do something like this with success?  If so, how?  If not, why?