Posts Tagged ‘Performance’

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.

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Executive Comp Programs Shouldn’t Make You Blush

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

The Wall Street Journal had a great article this morning entitled “No More Executive Bonuses.”  The author’s argument is that “the problem isn’t that they are poorly designed.  The problem is that they exist.”  Now I’m an “executive” in my company – you can read about what my bonus plan is by picking up a 10-K.  I can assure you that said plan has not been terribly lucrative in the recent past.    As the plan’s primary architect, I have to say it does a fairly good job of matching stakeholder value with annual rewards to executives.  But I can also tell you that even as someone who stands to profit from this plan, I have always struggled a bit with one element in particular.  What it doesn’t encompass is the tremendous amount of work executives – and all employees – put forth even when the business is in the tank (especially when it’s in the tank for reasons beyond the company’s control).  In other words, company success does not always equate to level of effort, sacrifice, and contribution on the workforce’s part.  This particular issue relates to some of the “faulty assumptions” highlighted in the article – fault with which I cannot argue.  These faulty assumptions border on “criminal” when it really gets right down to it.  And it demonstrates an age-old issue in Corporate America…we do things because it’s always been done that way. 

Why not simplify the approach we take to paying our executives…and senior management…and managers?  Why not focus more on total compensation through base pay.  It may mean more variability to base pay from year to year, but no reason company performance and individual contributions can’t be incorporated into base pay planning.  It means the Board of Directors and Management need to have the cojones to hold others accountable for their contributions (or lack thereof) – something they need to get better at any way.  It means we’ll have to attract executives who aren’t necessarily in it for the selfish, ego-boosting reasons – a good thing for sure.  But it also means there’s a bit more equal footing on pay-for-performance.  It’s time that corporate America wake up to the fact that no one person – or exclusive group of persons – is solely responsible for an organization’s success.  I’m not talking about socialism here – I’m just talking about realism.  I’m also not saying executives shouldn’t be paid a lot of money – I’m just saying the moolah should come with sustained results measured by factors other than what can be derived from a set of financial statements. 

The only problem – well, the biggest one – is that the executives themselves usually create these plans (with the help of the Board of Directors and Compensation Committees who are all cut from the same cloth.)  What’s going to change that?  It starts with the selfless initiation of the executives to “get over it.”  They might as well because I’m convinced the time is rapidly approaching when the market realizes their lofty compensation expectations don’t have to be met in order to attract exceptionally gifted leaders.  Then perhaps…just perhaps…HR/Recruiting can get back into the game by a) actually finding and hiring those people and b) designing a pay-for-performance comp plan which is easy to administer, understand, and doesn’t make you blush.

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?

Where’s my Agent?

October 22, 2009 1 comment

Show me the MoneySo I have this idea about how we set base compensation every year – I’ve floated it in front of Execs and HR pros alike.  More often than not, my idea is met with some question about how much crack I smoked before I came into the office that day.  I usually take this as a good sign, though.  So here it is:

What if we asked our people to tell us what THEY THOUGHT THEY SHOULD BE PAID as another data point in our comp planning process every year? 

Now give me a chance on this one…

1)  The compensation planning process is already perceived to be a smokey back room exercise to begin with; more transparency is good; this level of transparency might be great.

2)  You still run the normal analysis re: market, banding, performance, company projections/budgets, economics, etc.  You still come up with a recommendation by employee, but…

3) You compare your recommendation directly to what the respective employee thinks they should be paid. 

4) If the employee thinks they should be paid more than what you’re recommending, then it requires further investigation – if it’s off by a bunch, you either reach the conclusion that the employee is delusional or you understand what it is you’re missing.  At the very least, you’re in a better position to then explain to the employee why it is you came in under their expectations. 

5) If the employee thinks they should be paid equal to or less than your recommendation, then you know you’re going to have a happy customer on the other end.  I’m not suggesting that you would lower your recommendation to their’s (and that’s something they’d have to trust you on). 

6) This allows you to identify that population that’s going to need a bit more hand-holding and thoughtful communication when compensation is announced.  It may also identify those people who need to set their expectations more appropriately – maybe they aren’t getting the right feedback on their performance or on their value to the organization.

Might every employee “high ball” their input – sure. Might you piss some people off because you didn’t give them what they want – sure.  But that would have happened any way –  at least now you’re out in front of it. 

Ultimately this approach allows you to heighten transparency, level set expectations, and involve your people more directly in the decisions that effect them.  That’s all good stuff…right?  Compensation is the most widely discussed topic in the workplace (I only have anecdotal evidence on that one), why not ask your employees – better yet give them permission – to talk about it with you?

Guess What…Employee Satisfaction Don’t Mean Diddly

October 19, 2009 2 comments

missed targetThe Street had an interesting blog post the beginning of this month re: the efficacy of HR’s focus on “Employee Satisfaction”.  Known in HR circles now as “Employee Engagement” (which has unfortunately become just a fluffed up version of Employee Satisfaction in many organizations), the argument is that any commitment to improving an employee’s sense of satisfaction has short lived benefits.  Organizational responses to satisfaction and engagement measures are often fleeting, reactionary, and fail to go deep enough in promoting individual success.  Success, in this argument, is what it’s all about… 

This is an interesting tweak on the traditional approach – slight, but important.  In all the employee engagement surveys I’ve conducted, including those I’ve authored, I’ve yet to encounter one that directly addresses an employee’s sense of success.  Rather, they focus on surfacing those things – if done better by the organization – that will heighten the employees’ intent to stay or their willingness to put forth discretionary effort.  They may be similar; some times they may even be the same.  However, what one employee deems “success” may have absolutely nothing to do with their intent to stay with the organization.  And their intent to stay with the organization may have absolutely nothing to do with their intent to put forth discretionary effort.  And their intent to put forth discretionary effort doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with performance – the former is quantitative while the later is qualitative.  Promoting success, though, arguably accomplishes all three.

So what do we do about it?  Well, the blog has some good recommendations so take a look.  My quick take, though, is to stop worrying about what makes your people “happy” or “satisfied” and start focusing on how your people define “success.”  Then all you have to do is figure out how to help them succeed 😉  Well, from one mountain to the next…but, it’s at least a new way to look at what is maybe becoming a tried, tested, and soon to be tired approach.