It is often said that “the best people want to work with the best people.” What a company stands for is important in an employee’s eyes and an organization that maintains a high ethical standard – and is a good corporate citizen in the bargain – says something about the caliber of everyone who works there. In turn, the more pride employees have in their companies, the more productive and contented they become. Creating such an environment requires that the management set standards of behavior, let them be known and teach by example.
Standards of another kind are those that measure job performance. In some cases, these are cut and dried: A sales company, for instance, may set a minimum quota for its salespeople, which clearly sets out what is expected from each. Many other people are in lines of work that don’t lend themselves so easily to gauging performance – the administrative assistant who has multiple duties, the editor in a publishing house who slogs away at a manuscript day after day, the graphic designer at a small record company who acts as a jack-of-all-trades until he’s called on to deliver an album cover.
In these gray areas, a good manager devises a means by which he and his employees can measure whatever productivity is required to satisfy the needs of the company’s bottom line – whether it is to stack a number of finished folders of credit loans or send in a completed and reviewed application for short term loans. It is the manager’s responsibility to make sure his employees have a concrete notion of what is expected of them, whether it is written down or simply conveyed and reinforced through his day-to-day interaction with an individual or a team.
Even the most amorphous kind of work can be measured by quantity or the amount of work produced and time lines, otherwise known as how quickly a particular job is done. Setting goals based on these will give a reasonable picture of performance.
A good company sets explicit goals for itself to improve productivity in certain area, for instance, or to lower outside costs to subcontractors and then spells out the employee’s role in meeting them. The gauge of success? The performance review, the source of much hand-wringing and debate. There are generally two types:
The Once-A-Year Appraisal. In most large organizations, appraisals are done once a year and are based on numerical rankings from 1 to 4 – the coveted and rarely awarded 1 meaning “superior performer,” the feared 4 meaning “not meeting objectives” or in the language of the floor, “outta here.” These appraisals have been found by many forward-thinking companies to be wanting and very much separated from their purpose.
The Continuous Appraisal. Ideally, the review process seeks to make sure an employee does her job and well, at that and develops in a particular way. So it stands to reason that the best appraisals are those given informally and frequently – short review sessions at opportune times and constructive criticism or praise of others. Continuous appraisals tie in with the need of companies to focus more on the individual.
Performance appraisals need not be an either/or proposition. While some companies do away with the numerical ranking altogether, others use it as the culmination of the continuous review, with the rationale that last year’s 3 needs to be told she’s moving to a 4 so that she can turn things around before it’s too late – the number acting, in the words of one executive, “a two-by-four that’s going to get someone’s attention.”