Tag Archives: performance

Are There Any Benefits to Force Ranking Employees?

13_F_041_110501_ranking_cp`I’ve been heads down working and have to admit that means I am not keeping up with reading some of my favorite blogs.  I do a little each day but missed this one from Rachelle Falls over at Corporate HR Girl from about a month ago.

I encourage you to read her take on Microsoft ending their stack ranking, or in old Jack Welch terms, rank-and-yank.  Overall, it sounds like Rachelle clearly falls into the camp that this is not the way to motivate your employees and that there are few benefits in adopting the practice.  It hit me personally though because I was raised for over half my career in this type of work environment and believe it can work in certain situations.

What is the vitality curve?

To get you up to speed, what we’re talking about here is using the vitality curve to evaluate performance.  This means, in most basic terms, that the organization uses a type of forced ranking (or forced distribution) to evaluate where each individual falls compared to the rest of the organization.  In the case of GE, Welch adopted the 20-70-10 model in which 20% of your employees were the top performers, 70% were still very vital to the organization getting work done, and 10% were just not cutting it.

I’ll say that in my opinion, this is not the best way to evaluate performance in all organizations.  However, in consulting organizations for example, this can be a very effective method.  Growing up in Big 4 public accounting, we used this method.  Left to their own devices, many managers or partners would have let low performers or marginal performers hang on years longer and ultimately, hurt our revenue and profitability.  By being asked to identify the low performers in an open forum with other managers, it called out the low performance and those employees had a very short amount of time to improve whatever behavior caused the poor performance or he/she was exited from the firm.

In that situation, it worked fairly well because we were hiring type A, driven employees for the most part.  We also had continuous hiring so that there was always another group of new hires coming in that were chomping at the bit to prove themselves.  You can see that this competitive environment could adapt to the vitality curve fairly easily.  In other industries I’ve worked in, like healthcare, I can’t see this as an effective way to manage performance.  Really, if your organizational culture is one striving for collaboration, this model can certainly hamper your efforts.

Benefits of using a Vitality Curve

There were some benefits to managing HR in an environment like this.

  1. I was always able to have frank, open discussions with employees about their ranking and specifically what the employee needed to do to fill any skill gaps.
  2. It allowed HR leaders to be completely transparent about compensation.  I could tell someone where he/she stood in relation to peers and how that equated to their place in our compensation strategy.
  3. It forced managers who tended to be soft or who would beat around the bush to actually tell lower performers when they were not meeting expectations and specifically why they were not meeting them.

My point is this….like anything, you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Organizations that are highly competitive or want to drive certain behaviors are still using or adopting the curve to evaluate performance.  Not too long ago, Yahoo announced that they are adopting the practice.  Most people are saying that is just another nail in the coffin of Marissa Meyer as she kills morale at Yahoo.  Time will tell.

I will share that as an employee who was raised being evaluated by this model, when you go to work somewhere else it can be frustrating to see low performers left “hanging on” in the organization for years without consequence.    Also, regardless if you use this practice on a regular basis, wait until you have to go through a RIF and your leaders will quickly be ranking their staff to determine who to cut.

Just the other side of the coin.

What do you think?  Too harsh, acceptable, effective?  Have you ever worked in an environment that used the vitality model?  Share in the comments.

The Secret? Surround Yourself By Greatness

Simple messages often resonate longer and louder.  I heard one this week that is doing just that.

Tuesday had been a mentally challenging day for me, in a positive way.  Still, as I left work and headed for home, long after the time I intended to, my mind needed to decompress.  I was flipping through various radio stations when I came across Oprah’s voice.  Something about her tone made me stop and listen.  She was teaching herLifeclass and the guest was Bishop TD Jakes.  I didn’t know who he was, but his booming voice captivated me.  It turns out that Bishop Jakes is the senior pastor at The Potter’s House, a 30,000 strong non-denominational church in Dallas.

He was speaking about mothers who have not had a good role model for a variety of reasons when I heard him say, “You have to surround yourself by greatness in order to be great.”  His point was that just because someone did not have a good role model as a mother, as long as they surround themselves with great mothers now, they will learn to be great mothers.

You have to surround yourself by greatness in order to be great.

The power of those simple words spoke volumes to me because I believe them.  They apply in so many ways:

  • You want to be a great leader? Surround yourself with great leaders who you can emulate and learn from.
  • You want to be better at your job?  Surround yourself with others in your field who push themselves to success so that you can learn how they internally motivate themselves, how they train, how they reach the heights they reach.
  • You want to be a better parent?  Associate with parents who make time for their kids, who participate in their interests and who show their love and support openly.
By surrounding yourself with people who behave in ways that are positive and align with the type of person you want to be, you are more likely to incorporate those behaviors into your life.  How do I know?  I have been doing this for years and believe that all my success comes from great family, friend and professional mentors.
How about you?

 

This Is It- Accepting Feedback and Adapting

I watched ‘Michael Jackson: This Is It’ on the flight back home from London.  Beyond being an incredibly entertaining movie, one that showed that Michael was certainly still on top of his game from a singing/ dancing/ performing perspective, something struck me when I watched.  Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, seventeen time Grammy winner, still practices, and practices, and practices.  Even though he’s been doing his job over 45 years.

Are you doing that in your job?  Can you really say that you practice and actively work on your skills to ensure that your job “performance” is as good as it can possibly be?
When you watch him, he has to be able to feel what needs to be done.  He also takes songs that are 25 years old and reinvents the performance.  Michael has directors, choreographers, singing coaches, and producers all telling him what he can do to get better.  He misses cues, he pushes back, he is told that he needs to sing certain parts of songs differently.   And in order to have a successful performance, HE ACCEPTS THE FEEDBACK and ADAPTS.

Now, here we sit in our jobs, pushing back.  We don’t like having a supervisor or coach telling us we don’t do something the way they think will work best.  We don’t really  want someone coaching us to do better.  After several years in our job, we think we’ve mastered it.  At least, many employees do.
The older I get and the more seasoned in my career, the more I know without a doubt that I have much more to learn.  Different laws, techniques, technologies.  I have so much more to give back in my “performance” if I adapt and do it this way.  And, I can certainly take knowledge I already have and reinvent it for the present situation.  I’m rehearsing every day.
So, it’s SHOWTIME!  What are you going to do?  Tell me in the comments.

5 Strategies To Coach “Institutionalized” Employees

~ He’s just institutionalized…The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood, fifty years. This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man, he’s an educated man. Outside he’s nothin’ – just a used-up con with arthritis in both hands. Probably couldn’t get a library card if he tried…these walls are funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on ‘em. That’s ‘institutionalized’…They send you here for life and that’s exactly what they take, the part that counts anyway.~ Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding

Gold Watch for RetirementI was watching the Shawshank Redemption this morning.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth your time.  It’s one of those stories that has so many poignant lessons about relationships, trust, fear, motivation, and well, life in general.  Even though I’ve seen the movie numerous times, one part really hit me this morning.  There is an older gentleman, Brooks, who has spent his whole life in the prison.  When it comes time for him to be paroled, he breaks down and wants to commit a crime in prison so that they’ll be forced to keep him.  His friends prevent him from committing the crime and Brooks is paroled.  Brooks tries to fit in out in the real world, but having been in prison so long, he just cannot adjust.  He eventually commits suicide.

Institutionalized in the Workplace

The movie made me think about the workplace and employees who have worked their whole career at one organization.  As I was growing up, my dad taught me that it was an honorable thing to choose a career and then stay with that employer for the entire time.  Think about it, many people born in the 1930’s- 1950’s have been able to accomplish this.

There are certainly employees who fit this description and who stay engaged and are the best representatives of  the organizational culture.  But, most workplaces have those employees who are just there and going through the motions.  They do this year after year.  They continue to come to work and just do the minimum to get by.  They might as well be carving a hash mark into the desk to represent each passing day.

So, what can a manager do with these employees to turn being “institutionalized” into a positive?

Coaching Strategies for Managers

  • Be Direct- Don’t ignore the situation.  Even if your organization has a “contribute and stay” mentality, a lesser engaged long-term employee can cause real morale issues in your department.  Often, these employees have been there many more years than you have as the manager.  The only approach is to be direct.  Have that tough discussion and find out why they stay, what would make them more challenged at work, what makes them feel valued, etc.  Then, act on what you learn.
  • Find their strengths-  When you get to know your staff on a more personal level, you may learn that they use skills outside of work that will benefit the organization.  For example, if you have someone who is a deacon at church or who is very involved in planning and organizing at functions for their children’s school, capitalize on those skills and use them in that capacity on the job.  When you recognize someone’s skills and praise them for is, they will be more engaged at work when they get to use the skills.
  • Loan them out- With the economy the state it’s in, we’re all working to do more with less.  This includes staff.  But, if you can find opportunities to give up a long-term staff even for a couple days a month, you can improve their engagement.  Loan them to another department to help expose them to another type of work.  This will also spread the good will and demonstrate your willingness as a leader to look out for the organization as a whole.   Each time the employee returns, have them tell about the experience at the next staff meeting.  Other people on your staff will see the enthusiasm and may learn something as well.
  • Job Shadow-  I recommend using this strategically.  For example, if you have an employee who could use a specific type of coaching, pair them up with someone from another department who does really well in that area.  This will be a non-threatening way to coach the employee.  I also use this technique when I need to assess how a particular employee is doing in their role.
  • Capture their knowledge-  One of the things that managers struggle with is losing the long-term employee’s knowledge when they retire or resign.  A way to address this is to find ways to capture that knowledge before they leave.  Start a private collaborative site online and teach your staff how to use it. Ask them to write about everything from processes to ideas on how to handle issues.  Not everyone is a writer, so provide training on how to write and edit.  Make sure they feel comfortable sharing their knowledge, then recognize and praise them when they do.

By focusing on ways to improve engagement of long-term employees, you may actually turn them into your greatest asset. What techniques have you used as a manager in order to coach your staff?  Share them in the comments.

Succeeding: Teaching Vs. Coaching Your Employees

coaching-8One of the greatest benefits for me as a writer is creating conversation.  Last week, I wrote Are YOU Coachable? 3 Ways To Ensure You Are.  I received emails, phone calls, comments, and tweets about the post, so I knew I hit a nerve.  Then, Sean Conrad wrote a follow-up article to accompany mine.

Sean, the Senior Product Analyst and Sales Trainer at Halogen Software, share his thoughts and expanded on mine in an article you need to check out:

Are You Committed To Your Employees’ Success? Teaching vs. Coaching Your Employees

I think we use the words teaching and coaching interchangeably  so it is great to hear a new perspective on why and how they are different.  Be sure to check it out and comment on my post or his.  Would love to keep the conversation going.

Are YOU Coachable? 3 Ways To Ensure You Are

picture from shorespeak.comWe’re nearing the end of football season and I haven’t made a single reference to sports and HR yet.  Unbelievable, right?  I mean, there are SO many great analogies to be made here. As I was watching the pre-game for the NFC Championship, there was a piece on Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons.  Gonzalez, a tight end and likely hall-of-famer, talked about his career and how he arrives at this point after playing sixteen years in the league.  One thing he said stood out to me….he said he wanted to be remembered as a player who was coachable.

Can you say the same?

I’ve often said, I am hard to manage.  I’m driven and like to work where I am challenged to learn and apply new things.  Even so, I’d also like to think I’m coachable and if there are things I can do to improve my own performance, I’m not too arrogant to bite the bullet and take the constructive criticism.

That is not easy.  Why not?

  • It’s easier to maintain the status quo
  • You may feel like there is something wrong with you if you need a coach
  • You think you know more than the person attempting to coach you
  • You may have incentives to keep doing things the way you always have

Even with these barriers, there are ways you can avail yourself to improve through coaching.

Three things you can do to break the chain

  1. Seek out feedback.  We all know deep down that we can do things better, faster, or differently.  Instead of waiting for your boss or someone else to come tell you how to make the change, seek out opinions.  Ask colleagues, members of other teams, or your boss.  Yes, setting the tone and asking for guidance is typically viewed as positive, pro-active behavior.  I know I always make note of my team members who ask for feedback and have ideas of what they can do to change and improve.
  2. Realize that someone else can see your flaws better than you and that you can actually perform better when you tweak your performance behaviors.
  3. Understand that even in high-level positions, your role is still just one piece in the big picture.  By seeking out coaching, you give yourself permission to practice new techniques and perform at a higher level.

What do you see as barriers to being coached?  Do you believe YOU are coachable?

Self Promoters: How Great Do You Say You Are?

self-promotionI’ve worked in Human Resources nearly all my adult life.  This means I’ve had the opportunity to talk with more people about their job qualifications, skills, abilities and interests than most.  One thing is clear, a majority of people I talk to are people who do not want to tell you how great they are.  It’s usually the opposite.

I hear about peoples’ anxieties, feelings of inadequacy, desire to improve, etc.  The people who really are the “rockstars” are often the least likely to toot their own horn.  The people that constantly tell everyone how great they are or how many things they accomplish are often the ones who are doing so in order to cover the fact that they are living a lie.  Their performance can be sub-par and they overcompensate to hide that they are insecure or less productive.

I am starting to see the same thing on social platforms.  Do you have that one friend who posts non-stop about how great their marriage is?  Well, it probably isn’t.  How about the “friend” who has the “best job in the world” or who self promotes constantly in order to sell something? Safe to say we probably all know people like these.

So what’s the point?

When are we going to be able to convince people that it’s ok to not be perfect at everything?  I’m going to challenge everyone to use 2013 as a year when you do two things:

  1. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to take credit or accolades for all the good things you do…. try to do it more in the coming year.  YOU are the type of people we want to hear from because you’re the one doing your best to keep companies running, to treat employees and customers with respect, to volunteer in charitable organizations, to participate in your religious community, and more.
  2. If you’re someone who ONLY shares a hyped-up version of reality or over-inflates your performance, take it down a notch in 2013.  Just be yourself.  Be real.  It will make others accept you more and you’ll find that whether it’s being more honest at work about areas you can improve or online by promoting yourself less…. you’ll be happier and more supported.

What do you think?  Which bucket do you fall into?

 

Managing others is about…..YOU

Too often in my career I have the discussion with a manager that starts off, “Trish, my employee won’t listen to me.  He is disrespectful and undermines my authority.  He doesn’t do his job.  Tell me what I can do to get him to comply.”  To this, I explain to the manager that the approach should not be how to change that person.  Managing others is about YOU:

  • You have to give a critical look at how you interact with this employee.
  • You have to take ownership for what is working as well as what is not.
  • You have to figure out when and how to modify your behavior to elicit different responses from your staff or colleagues.
  • You have to tell the employee what the expectations are in a clear and concise manner.

You cannot change others, so don’t focus your time there.  If you rethink your approach to the person and try another way, it will elicit a different reaction.  It still may be a negative one, however, a majority of the time it throws that person off enough that they are more likely to actually show more respect or at least listen to advice on how to perform better at their job.

Managing others is not about how we get someone else to change.  It’s about how we change and adapt our approach for maximum success with many different personalities.  They ultimately have to take personal ownership for their behavior.  And, if they are not able to improve performance and respond positively to your approach as the leader, they will face the consequences of their own behavior.