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Take Those Numeric Ratings and - Make Them Motivational

Make Numeric Ratings Motivational


Numeric ratings are one of the most abused components of any measurement and assessment system. They make people angry, destroy fragile working relationships, make one employee judge another, and create an artificial, thoroughly uncomfortable situation for both the rater and the person whose work is being rated.

The wonder to me, the way most numeric rating systems are designed, is why you would expect anything different from their use. If an organization takes unsubstantiated, undocumented, uncommunicated, secret numbers and springs a numeric rating on employees periodically, expect the worst.

Do numeric ratings make a contribution in the workplace? Done well, I believe numeric ratings can motivate excellent work performance; done poorly, numeric ratings undermine your positive work environment. Can you use your performance ratings system as part of a process to promote a culture of organizational excellence?

Yes, in fact, according to Dick Grote, in The Secrets of Performance Appraisal: Best Practices from the Masters, in a landmark performance-management benchmarking study conducted by the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) and Linkage Inc., rigorous assessments of talent and potential are helping companies make major progress in developing cultures of performance.

In Current Legal Issues in Performance Appraisal, Stanley B. Malos, J.D., Ph.D. makes six Substantive Recommendations for Legally Sound Performance Appraisals. Even if legalities are not your concern, these six recommendations set the stage for what makes an appraisal rating system, for employees or non-employees, sound, and potentially - motivational.

According to Malos, "appraisal criteria:

  1. should be objective rather than subjective;

  2. should be job-related or based on job analysis;

  3. should be based on behaviors rather than traits;

  4. should be within the control of the ratee;

  5. should relate to specific functions, not global assessments,

  6. should be communicated to the employee."

Malos cites procedural recommendations for legally sound performance appraisals as well. His recommendations include: procedures should be standardized for all people within a job group; they: "should provide notice of performance deficiencies, and opportunities to correct them; should provide written instructions and training for raters; should require thorough and consistent documentation across raters that includes specific examples of performance based on personal knowledge."

Performance Measurement and Numeric Ratings System Guidelines

The following ten guidelines, examples, and ideas will assist you to develop a performance measurement and rating system which is motivational rather than confrontational.

  • Take great care in establishing what it is that you want to measure. Jack Zigon, an expert in performance management and measurement, in Performance Appraisal Lessons from Thirteen Years in the Trenches, states that, "the hardest part of creating performance standards is deciding which accomplishments to measure." Once you decide, my experience is that people will focus the majority of their energies on those aspects of their work for which they believe they are "receiving credit."

  • Develop effective measurements that tell people how they are doing. To the degree these numbers measure what is actually important in the person’s work, they are effective in molding performance. Don’t pick the outcomes to measure just because they are easy to assign a numerical target. Some of the most important outcomes from any job, and especially as more jobs become information based, are not easily measurable.

    As an example, during my consulting engagements, organizations often suggest we measure our success in working together by the number of training classes they offered and the number of people who attended the training sessions. I always countered by stating that I wanted to have an impact on their productivity, customer delivery performance, and staff morale; these measurements were worth their time, even if the impact of training was harder to isolate.

  • Establish straightforward, honest criteria that tell people exactly what they must do to achieve a particular numeric rating. Too often organizations fail to establish criteria beyond the judgment of a manager. If they have criteria, they fail to share them with employees. Both of these make up a recipe for disaster in employee performance. While organizations are unlikely to eliminate the judgment of the manager as part of the criteria mix anytime soon, the impact of her opinion should be minimized, where possible.

Numeric ratings can have a positive impact on your company. Here are more guidelines and ideas that will help you make sure your numeric ratings are motivational.
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