Category Archives: performance appraisal

Tips for measuring performance

This question has been posted by a reader Sarfaraz for the article “Writing SMART goals – part 3”.

This article is very good and it helped me to make an objective for my Department. I wounder if you could provide me some tips to guage employee performance (specially field staff). We provides service by receiving calls from customer and try to provide service as soon as possible.

Once again thanks for this article

Because I haven’t made any posts for a while, I thought this would be a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Here’s some classic ways to measure performance:

1. Quality
2. Quantity
3. Timeliness
4. Cost effectiveness

Sarfaraz’s question is specifically related to the service provided by field staff. So with that in mind, here’s some ideas:

Quality – you can measure the quality of the service provided by surveying the customer, using a mystery caller or having a more experienced officer monitor and review service provided.

Quantity – an example here might be the number of clients served in a given time period. Careful what you ask for here. Quality may suffer if you reward only quantity.

Timeliness – you could measure how long the customer needs to wait before service has been provided.

Cost effectiveness – A couple of ideas here. If your employee’s have control over the costs of components used in providing service, you can set a goal and measure the reduction in those costs. Another idea – escalating problems to a more senior person can be time consuming and costly. So you might choose to measure how many problems need to be escalated.

If anyone else can offer some suggestions for Sarfaraz I’d love to hear them.


How do you set objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals?

Smart organisations are looking to get their people closely aligned to their corporate goals. These organisations are more successful by getting everyone moving in the same direction. To achieve this, their managers need to take the goals of their organisation, division and unit into account when setting objectives for their team.

But what if you’re a manager and your organisation provide little clarity around it’s goals?

This is a good question and one that a reader David has asked in response to my post on Writing Objectives that Produce Results.

I’m going to suggest three ways this can be tackled.

  1. Use a balanced scorecard approach.
  2. Focus on the output of your unit or team.
  3. Focus on the workflow/processes within your unit or team.

The balanced scorecard approach
This approach takes into account a balanced set of factors that affect the long term success of an organisation.

  • Financial.
  • Customers.
  • Internal processes.
  • Learning and growth.

Using this approach you would set objectives for your team for each of these categories.

For business the objectives here are usually centred around increasing revenue or profits.

For not-for-profit and government organisations the objectives usually focus on reducing costs.

Examples are increasing customer satisfaction and retaining customers.

Internal processes
Objectives here focus on improvements to processes used within the organisation. For example implementing a CRM system.

Learning and growth
Goals that will help the individual become more capable and give the organisation the capacity to improve.

Focus on the output of your team
Using this method you focus on your customers (internal or external). Answer these two questions…

  1. What services do you provide to them?
  2. What outputs do you provide to them?

For each of these, your objectives can focus on one or more of …

  • Improving quality.
  • Increasing quantity.
  • Reducing quantity.
  • Improving timeliness.
  • Improving cost effectiveness.

You might be wondering why I included reducing quantity. An example of this is reducing the number of errors in some output.

Focus on workflow
With this approach you create a flow chart for each of the processes within your team.

  • What are the steps involved to provide services or products?
  • Would it be beneficial to the organisation to improve any of these steps or replace them completely?
  • If they can be improved, set goals and targets.
  • Then set individual objectives for your team members that are linked to these goals and within their sphere of influence.

Happy goal setting.

Revealing insights into 360 degree feedback

This is the first of a multi-part article where I’ll address the questions raised by David in response to my post on 5 tips for writing objectives that produce results. Here’s a summary of what he had to say . . .

  • He finds 360 degree feedback orders of magnitudes better than the traditional methods.
  • But the implementation in his company limits the true potential.
  • He believes the way they are using 360 allows managers to avoid providing constructive feedback.
  • It has become a crutch because KPIs are almost always vague and unmeasurable.
  • David wants to know how to tie 360 degree feedback to personal and company KPIs.

I think it’s great that David has identified problems with his organisation’s current process and is looking for solutions. So to respond to David’s comments I’m going to post a few articles over the coming weeks on various 360 degree feedback topics. In the process the answers to David’s questions will be illuminated.

360 degree feedback has become a crutch
OK in this post I want to focus on one of the really interesting parts of David’s comments. He says 360 degree feedback has become a crutch because KPIs are almost always vague and not measurable.

The first point I need to make here is that writing good quality KPIs is the most important part of the whole performance process. Everything else is next to useless if this isn’t done. People need a specific goal, otherwise they aren’t going to arrive at the right destination.

The problem with vague goals comes to a head at review time
One of the problems of using vague and unmeasurable goals occurs at review time. Because there’s no way of measuring achievements, the end result has to come down to the manager’s opinion. So your performance result rests on the way your manager feels about your performance, or their observations of your performance.

The problem for both the manager and employee here is what happens next. It’s almost inevitable . . . disagreement! The employee feels they have busted their gut for the company and the manager might agree but hasn’t seen the results they wanted. So you end up with dissatisfaction, growing cynicism, less and less engagement . . . looking for another job!

360 degree feedback
Enter 360 degree feedback. Now it’s not just your manager’s opinion. Your peers, reports and customers get input. And they provide input based on a structured set of competencies, behaviours or values. This is great. You get some useful feedback on a person’s capabilities from a range of people with differing perspectives. Very useful stuff as we’ll see in the next article.

It’s no wonder 360 has become a crutch in David’s organisation.

It’s giving them useable information that is much less subjective than the manager’s opinion on performance against objectives.

There’s something missing here though. 360 degree feedback can tell us a lot about a person’s capabilities and behaviour, but it doesn’t tell us what the person has achieved. So you end up rewarding people for their capabilities, not on outcomes. And definitely not on outcomes tied to the organisations goals.

Quality objectives
I’m sure David’s not alone here. So if you can identify with this problem, the first thing that has to happen is quality objectives. They are essential. From his comments David has come to this conclusion as well. He’s asked the question how he sets SMART objectives without the clarity of business goals and resolution of metrics. So we’ll take a look at that as part of this set of articles.

Jump in
If you haven’t already, jump in and take a look at these three articles:

To continue shedding light on the answers to David’s questions, in the next series of posts we’ll look at:

  • What is 360 degree feedback.
  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.

Writing SMART goals – part 3

Edit: you can find a more up to date version of this article here.

In part 1 of this article we looked at the definition of a SMART objective. In part 2 we turned the problem producing provide good service to all customers into new SMART objectives.

There’s three things left to do that’ll make the new objectives work really well for you. On top of this they’ll help remove headaches come review time. They are…

Performance standards, and

Let’s see what this looks like with our two new objectives from part 2 (Retain 99% of your customers, and Increase your Customer Service Satisfaction Rating to 4). We can break these objectives down further.

Objective: Retain customers

Measurement: Percentage of your customers retained. Using data from the CRM system.

Performance standard:
90 – 92% = partially met
93 – 95% = met
96 – 98% = exceeded
over 98% = outstanding

Objective: Increase customer satisfaction

Measurement: Your average customer satisfaction rating. Measured using the monthly mystery shopper result.

Performance standard:
This objective will be partially met when:

  • Average time taken to respond to customer requests is 4 minutes.
  • Mystery shoppers record that you are usually courteous.
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 enquiries need to be escalated to the supervisor.
  • On your follow-up, 7 out of 10 customers report that their needs have been met and no further action is needed.

It will be met when:

  • Average time taken to respond to customer requests is 3 minutes.
  • Mystery shoppers record that you are almost always courteous.
  • etc…

I’m using Measurement to describe the source of the data and how it will be measured. The Performance standards are basically explaining how the end rating or score will be determined.

This is great! Once those objectives are agreed by the manager and employee, there’s no disagreement as to the result.

But wait … that’s not all – if the employee knows how to measure their progress, they’ll know how they are traveling. Why does this matter? Well, when something is achievable and you know how you’re traveling, you’re much more motivated to reach the end goal.

Making the objective a more powerful statement
OK, now something I do to turn the objective into a really powerful statement . . .

Find out what sort of result your team member wants to achieve. Then write that into the objective. So Retain 99% of your customers for example. The measurement and performance standards stay the same. It’s just a memory aid. Making sure that when you think of the objective, you think of the target as well.

To illustrate why this technique is useful, it might be useful to relay a story about Ethan Hunt’s first six months working at Mission Impossible.

Basically he used to receive his jobs via video recordings on his iPod. The message would describe the mission goal, measurement and performance criteria. And then the iPod would self-destruct.

The only problem was within five minutes of the iPod self-destructing, poor old Ethan would be like Oh crap! How many bad guys was I supposed to capture again?

Now they include the target in the objective. And you know the rest of the story – he’s been very successful since!

Back to serious stuff now – a word of caution – don’t use this technique where there is a potential for putting an employee on a performance improvement program for unacceptable performance.

One thing left to do . . . and this is an important one. How is the objective going to be achieved? What actions are needed? You need to describe the steps or plan for reaching the goal.

Even if your organisation hasn’t reached the point yet where a manager and employee set objectives jointly, you at least need to have input on this one from the employee. For employees with little experience, you’ll need to do most of the work here in terms of outlining the actions. But even then, I’ve been amazed at the value of the ideas provided by inexperienced employees. It is so worth getting employees involved.

For people with a lot of experience, you’re really going to benefit by using their collective knowledge and skills. And they’ll be more satisfied and more likely to be motivated if they have planned their own action steps.

Some things to avoid…

OK there’s a few things you need to avoid when writing objectives. I’m not providing legal advice though, so if you want a definitive answer on what you can and can’t do, you’ll need to consult someone who can provide that advice.

  • Objectives must be achievable.
  • Avoid using terms that don’t allow a margin for error like always, every, each, all, never.
  • An objective can be very challenging, but it should be possible for someone to achieve outstanding performance.
  • Avoid describing objectives as things you don’t want done, focus on what you want achieved instead.
  • There can’t be an expectation for a person to be perfect.

Go for it!
OK there you have it. I hope you’ve got something from these three articles on writing objectives that produce results. Thank you to everyone for your comments and emails.

At the start of your next review cycle write SMART objectives. You’ll reduce your performance review headaches . . . . . and be more successful.

How do you do this when you barely have the time to get through your email inbox?

Learning how to write SMART objectives is one thing.  But how do you manage to do this for a whole team when you barely have enough time to get through your email inbox each day?  The answer is software.  Cognology has designed an online performance management system that makes the process easy.

Writing objectives that produce results – part 2

Edit: you can find a more up to date version of this article here.

Alright, let’s get straight into it.

What I want to do is revisit the “Provide good service to all customers” objective from part 1 of this article. This is the sort of objective that leads to what I call the dreaded annual appraisal. So I’m going to show you how to turn that problem producing, airy fairy, jumble of words into something that’ll make a real difference.

The first thing to recognize in “Provide good service to all customers” is that it’s an action, not an objective. Objectives should be outcomes or accomplishments, not the actions that lead to them. So what’s the outcome you’re really looking for when you say “provide good service to all customers”?

You would be looking to have satisfied customers. And ultimately you would be looking to retain customers. And the reason for this is that income generally comes from two sources; new customers and existing customers. And existing customers usually account for a greater proportion.

So how do we re-write it as a SMART objective. First look at the organisation’s goals. Imagine the organisation has a goal to retain 99% of customers. We want our objective closely aligned with that goal. And the easiest way to do that would be to make the objective…

Retain 99% of your customers

This sort of objective would work well in a lot of situations. But what about the person working on the front line handling enquiries. Their actions influence whether a customer is retained. But there are many other factors out of their control. So in that case what you want to do is use an objective like this…

Increase your Customer Service Satisfaction Rating to 4

I’m assuming a rating system for customer satisfaction from 1 to 5. I’ll talk about how to measure these in the next article. When you use an objective like that, make sure you let the person know it’s linked back to the organisation’s goal of retaining 99% of customers. So there’s more to their job than an uninspiring job description. They’re involved in the real mission.

So which objective do you think would get better results?

The old style Provide good service to all customers

or the SMART Retain 99% of your customers

OK, that should get you running through the office like a football player who’s just kicked a goal. Fist in the air, one finger pointed, holding your shirt out with the other hand.

Um hello! I can’t see myself running around in my office I hear you say. Yeah OK, but you will be kicking goals. And best of all, the goals will have a measurable affect on the bottom line.

In case anyone missed it – I just said B O T T O M L I N E.

I’ve had some feedback about the length of the articles, so I’m going to keep this short and talk about how to measure the objectives in part 3.

Are you wondering how you’ll manage to write performance goals when you’re so busy each day?

The answer is an online system.  Cognology has designed performance management software that saves time setting objectives and aligning a team to a strategic plan.