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Love yourself: love your self-assessment

Posted by Justin Field on June 27, 2011

Hey, it’s performance review time, and your manager has asked you to complete your self-assessment.  Are you filled with dread?  Don’t know where tostart?  Don’t know what to write?  Well, here are my personal tips to help you out.

As HR practitioners, we often assume that employees simply know how to do a performance review and how to go about completing their self-assessment.  But, my informal research tells me that people don’t really know what to do, unless they’ve seen a good model performance review, or, they’ve had the benefit of coaching in the art of performance reviews.

Step 1:  Start the hunt
Review your performance dimensions so you know what you need to hunt for.  What are your job competencies embedded in your performance review?  What were your performance objectives?  Are there any other elements that you would like to highlight?

Step 2:  Hunt for the good, the bad and the ugly
There are three elements that I find personally useful here.

  1. Scan your sent email from the last year and see if you can remind yourself of the big projects that you worked on over the past 12 months.  The cognitive bias of recency means that you’ll only remember recent achievements (in the past three to six months) so take some time to remind yourself of the good stuff you did right at the beginning of the performance year.  Pay particular attention to congratulatory emails from others — they have high value in the performance review cycle.
  2. Your performance system may have a journal or notes feature, or, you may have been super-organised and collected little nuggets of achievements and accomplishments in a Word document or a paper file.  Open up your performance notes and remind yourself of all the good (and sometimes the stupid or bad) things that you did.
  3. Use your workplace systems to get good numeric or quantitative evidence that will support your achievements.  For example, I often teach webcasts, and I send out an online evaluation survey after each event.  So I can easily review all the events that I produced, and work out the average satisfaction score for each event.  Another example:  one of my roles is to answer questions from the HR group about the performance cycle and our performance management system.  I centralised all these questions into an online forum, so I can count how many questions were posted, and how long it took me to reply to questions.

Step 3:  Write up your results
If you managed to find plenty of evidence during your hunt, then you’ll find it easy to write up your comments for each performance dimension.  For your competencies, you’ll need to use evidence to call out the behaviours that demonstrate proficiency in that competency.  For example, for a competency such as Presentation Skills, you may write something like:

I presented twice at our staff meeting on the use of social networking tools for learning within our division.  I also posted several blog posts on this topic on our internal team blog.  Four comments on the blog showed that my peers in China and Hong Kong valued this information.  For the last presentation I did, I scored 86% satisfaction from participants.

For your performance objectives, you need to include a blend of qualitative and quantitative evidence.  For example, for a performance objective around building relationships with customers, you may write something like:

For the Carlton Company, I arranged a visit to the CVC in California.  I clarified the purpose and target outcomes with the customer’s Vice President, and shaped the agenda in California to address this, collaborating with Product Development and Marketing.  Later, I arranged four visits to existing customers in Australia and New Zealand (Westpac, Qantas, Air New Zealand, NBN Company).  As an outcome, Carlton signed a new deal worth $1.2 million.

In essence, you need to be as specific as you can, and give good evidence to support your achievements.  Sometimes employees tell me that they feel that they are running out of achievements, so they end up repeating themselves.  A little bit of repetition is okay, but don’t use the same example for every single competency and performance objective — you’ll end up sounding one-dimensional, and one achievement does not illustrate a trend, which is what we are trying to illustrate in our performance reviews.

So, best wishes for your self-assessment.  Do leave me a comment if you find these tips useful (or, useless!).

Posted in cognitive bias, communication, development, engagement, performance, productivity | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s performance time again!

Posted by Justin Field on June 20, 2011

Folks, we’re in the midst of performance appraisals again. Yes, I used the dreaded ‘appraisal’ word because it heavily embedded in our culture.  But I wish that it wasn’t about appraisal in the sense of judgement.  It makes employees nervous and fretful, and gives managers headaches about what to say, how to say it, and how to deliver bad feedback.  What I really wish for is a world where:

  • employees look forward to the performance review cycle as a meaningful way of having a chat about how they are doing in their role
  • managers feel comfortable with reviewing an employee’s performance, giving good concrete examples of desirable and undesirable behaviours
  • employees have a crystal clear picture of the year ahead, and the expectations that the manager has

Sometimes we focus too much on having a good computer system to help with the performance review.  But in truth, the computer system is just a way of supporting the process.  For employees and managers to derive value from the process, they have to engage with open minds and with a willingness to learn.

Posted in performance, productivity, technology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Have you done your performance review yet?

Posted by Justin Field on June 21, 2010

Well, folks, we are in the midst of our annual performance review season.  You won’t guess the Number 1 question I get asked (well, maybe you’re smart and you will guess it):  why should I do a performance appraisal?  What’s in it for me?

Sadly, most people take a selfish and purely financial view of the corporate world.  If the performance review doesn’t result an any salary increment, then why do it?  What’s the point?  And that is one possible view of the world.  To those people, I ask:  aren’t you interested in getting any feedback about how well you’ve done over the past year?  Don’t you want to know if you’ve done anything badly?  Or something that you could learn to do better in the year ahead? 

Don’t you want to grow your own skills and competencies?  Or would you rather just sit, like a lump of coal, and do nothing with your career and with your life. 

Since you’re spending at least 40 hours a week at work, and perhaps significantly more, wouldn’t you want to be happy and motivated and fulfilled and flooded with energy every morning as you wake up?  Or would you rather sit around and moan about your manager and your co-workers and let the world wash over you? 

Now, some folks might like to let the world wash over them.  They’re not interested in feedback.  They’re not interested in developing themselves and their careers.  And I say:  good luck to them.  Because it’s pure luck that they have managed to keep their jobs during the GFC and it’s pure luck that their manager still thinks that the employee should stay on.  In fact, what do those employees know anyway?  They’ve never bothered to wonder; they’ve never bothered to ask.

So, look around you, take stock of your world, and get stuck into your performance review.  Don’t make it tedious and boring — make it your chance to shine and your chance to get some realistic feedback about where you are and where you want to go.  Put lots of detailed, specific evidence in about your achievements during the year (you’ve saved all those laudatory emails, remember?).  And ask your manager about how you can go further and take it to the next level.  I bet they’ll be happy that you’ve shown the interest, that you want to be successful and that you want the best for yourself and your career.

Posted in Career Development, development, engagement, performance | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Secrets of a successful talent review – part 2

Posted by Justin Field on January 14, 2010

In my last post, I wrote about performance calibration as being one of the secrets of success for talent reviews.  But performance isn’t the only dimension of top talent.  The other dimension we look at is potential.  Now with performance, it’s well understood by most managers and executives, and we can place some measures around performance, to make it easier to pick the appropriate performance rating for an employee.

With potential, it’s so much harder.  We often get asked, what is this thing called potential?  And what does it mean?  Potential for what?  So we’ve tried to invest more time in educating managers and executives about our definition of potential and what it means.

In the talent review, we quickly found that some managers really get the idea of potential and how it can be applied to their business.  They understand that they have to build and grow the next generation of leaders.  They understand that most of the time it’s better to build and grow internally; and that only some of the time it’s better to buy talent externally — and really great leaders have the ability to distinguish between these two situations.

On the other hand, some managers were less solid in their understanding of potential and how to apply it to their organisations.  A high performer is not necessarily top talent, unless they also have high potential.  We saw a few cases where the employee’s performance was being rewarded, rather than focusing on the high performance and high potential employees, who have the potential to go one level up or even two levels up.

Now we’re thinking about what to do.  We don’t think quotas of top talent are the right way to go:  the “right” number of top talent depends solely on the requirements of the business.  In growth economies you need a solid bench of front-line and middle managers, with a good portion that have potential to grow to higher levels and lead the business into the future.  In mature economies, you need less of the accelerated pool, but you still need enough top talent to sustain the business.

We are tossing around ideas about getting much more specific and detailed in our measurement of talent.  At present we use questionnaire that is applied equally to individual contributors, front-line managers, directors, vice presidents and above.  It gives us a really good first cut of the population, but we need to take it to the next level.  We call this next level “second filter.”

What might this second filter be?  What would be involved?  Well it comes down to two parts:  defining what is necessary for success at the next levels (I like to call this “plus one” and “plus two”); and then putting in place measurement instruments that uncover a high potential employee’s individual fit with the success definition.

Our ideas fall into a number of different initiatives.  Some areas of the business use assessment centres successfully.  Here a group of high potential employees is brought together for a day or two.  They are intensively tested and assessed.  The results are analysed and fed back to the employees, to help them craft their personal development plan.

We’ve also looked at detailed behavioural interviews (similar to that proposed by Bradford Smart in Topgrading.)  Here, we’d have two consultants interview high potential employees, to gather information about their personal capability and motivation, compared to the success model.  The interview process also involves detailed one-hour reference check interviews, with two or more referees, to get independent validation of the high potential employee’s skills, capability and potential to grow.  The output of the interview processed is viewed from an organisation level, but also fed back to the employee, with development recommendations, so they can craft their personal development plan.

Another option is to use psychometric instruments like Hogan HPI.  This tends to give some view of the employee’s true potential, but we need to match this information with the employee’s motivation to achieve and their motivation to gain power and influence, to get the full picture.

So really, an ideal approach would be a blend of these initiatives.  It would give us concrete reliable information that is predictive of success:  we would know that certain characteristics lead to promotions and sustained high performance over time.

If you have other ideas about potential and how to measure true potential, leave a comment for me.

Posted in leadership, performance, succession planning, talent review, top talent | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Secrets of a successful talent review

Posted by Justin Field on December 22, 2009

Well, folks, we’ve just been through a talent review here.  You might think the process is fairly well understood and everything should just go smoothly, but of course, real life is not that smooth, and nor is a talent review.

One of the problems we faced was around the calibration of performance ratings.  Specifically, employees with a performance rating of 3 don’t get on the shortlist of top talent; those with 4 or 5, have a chance, but naturally we’re looking for high potentials among that population.

In the talent review, we discovered that some groups had been very strict with their performance ratings, and that other groups had been lenient.  For example, when sales quota was a key measurement of performance, some groups gave quota achievement of 100% a performance rating of 3; other groups gave quota achievement of 90% a performance rating of 4.  Result:  those cheap (easily won) 4’s distorted the shortlist of talent for that group; the hard won 4’s in other groups came closer to our true definition of top talent.

So what’s the secret of success?  I’ve always said that effective performance management is the true foundation of effective talent management.  You have to have a good grip on who the top performers are before you can start segmenting that group down to find the high potentials.  And in a large organisation, you’d better be sure that the measurement of performance is the same across groups, otherwise it destroys the credibility of the talent review.

My key learning for 2010 is two-fold:

  • We have to publish crystal-clear guidelines for groups regarding how to score performance based on key measurements.  We need a consistent approach across all groups.
  • After the majority of performance ratings are in the performance management system, we need a comprehensive calibration exercise, especially for those groups that will later do a talent review.  If we don’t make some effort to calibrate, the talent review itself becomes an exercise in performance calibration, when we really want the talent review to focus on high potential top talent.

Leave a comment with your views on calibrating performance and the impact on talent review.

Posted in performance, succession planning, talent review, top talent | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

The June Leadership Development Carnival is Up!

Posted by Justin Field on June 9, 2009

carnival
Dan McCarthy has assembled a great collection of leadership development articles in his June 7th Leadership Development Carnival.   We are proud to be featured for our article entitled Are you a talent magnet?

Dan has collected over thirty great posts on all aspects of leadership.  Go and have a look and have a read of the fantastic materials on his Carnival page.  As Dan advises in his article, you may want to return on multiple occasions to dip into the fount of knowledge he has assembled, and then reflect and review once you’ve had the chance to digest all of it.

Happy learning about leadership!

Posted in carnival, leadership, learning, top talent | 2 Comments »

Are you a talent magnet?

Posted by Justin Field on May 26, 2009

I was reading materials on performance management and came across the concept of being a talent magnet.  We know that we want to retain top talent and we do a lot of good things to keep high potential / high performers in the organisation.  But taking the organisation perspective, and particularly the manager perspective, do you, as a manager have a good track record of retaining high potential / high performing employees?  Are you a talent magnet?

A manager who is a talent magnet will, over time, develop a reputation for leading high performance teams and for developing and retaining key employees.  The organisation will know this and respect them for this. 

Managers who lose talent, or who develop a reputation for driving talent away from their teams, will naturally end up with mediocre or low performing teams. 

I am hoping that we can find a good way to measure this, as a talent metric:  talent magnetism.  If you have a good idea of developing a metric for this, leave a comment on this post.  Personally I am thinking about the rate of loss of top talent, over a five year period (or some similar rolling average).  I think a long time frame, like five years, is really required in order to see the true trend regarding a manager’s track record.

Posted in engagement, Innovation, performance, top talent | 5 Comments »

Rich social network = rich productivity

Posted by Justin Field on March 11, 2009

I was browsing through last month’s Harvard Business Review and lo and behold there’s a short article on social networking. The article was about the types of social networking interactions that are required at different times or for different purposes. A centralised structure works for discovery; but a richly connected network supports integration and decision making.
But that wasn’t the important bit! The important bit was recent research from MIT showing the productivity of poorly connected workers versus richly connected workers. Those workers with the most extensive personal digital (i.e. electronic) networks were 7% more productive than their colleagues. Of course, there’s no substitute for face to face, so the same study also found that workers with the strongest and most cohesive face to face networks were 30% more productive.
So I see corporate social networks as places for:
– gathering to share information
– gathering to integrate information and make decisions communally
– building a virtual network that supports and extends the face to face network

Posted in analytics, Career Development, community, engagement, social network, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

The Delicate Etiquette of Unfriending

Posted by Justin Field on February 20, 2009

So, pop quiz: what’s the one notification that Facebook doesn’t send? Yes, it’s the action of unfriending that is never accompanied by an email to your new un-friend.

I was intrigued by this. I guess we are living in a brave new world, where we all have heaps of online friends, some of the near and dear, and some of them high school friends that one hardly recognises (esp. the women who have married and taken on new names).

The Sydney Morning Herald had a nice story about unfriending. I wondered if being unfriended on Facebook by an acquaintance is really that bad. It’s hard to keep up with the deluge of emails, status updates, blogs, tweets and such that now come streaming in all day (and all night) long. Perhaps I’m a Quality Guy (rather than a Quantity Guy.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Get rid of performance reviews?!?

Posted by Justin Field on October 22, 2008

Dr Sam Culbert writes in the Wall Street Journal that performance reviews destroy morale, kill teamwork and hurt the bottom line.  I take pity on Dr Culbert’s manager, who must be tearing his or her hair out with Dr Culbert’s obvious distaste for the performance review process.  And I wonder what it is like to work at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.  Are they practising all the bad habits that Dr Culbert’s shares in his article?

If only Dr Culbert’s arguments made sense.  He is clearly trapped in a performance review timewarp.  His version of performance review is medieval, with the manager (who he consistently calls “the boss”) standing in judgement of the hapless employee, who meekly accepts the manager’s opinion.  There are however kernels of truth in Dr Culbert’s analysis, so let’s take a look at the modern (non-medieval) way of performance evaluation:

1.  We believe in the concept and vision of daily performance managementDr Culbert does make reference to this when he says the once-a-year judgement of performance is a poor vehicle for giving and receiving feedback.  And he’s 100% correct.  Our concept of daily performance management is that the manager and the employee have a continuous, ongoing dialogue regarding the employee’s performance and how it can be adjusted to make the employee successful and to make the organisation successful.  To enable daily performance management, we believe our applications shouldn’t limit the user to a once-per-year interaction.  The system should be open and flexible and it should facilitate more frequent interactions.

2.  We believe in a future-facing performance management environment.  Dr Culbert seems to hate having his manager look back at past events and indiscretions and pointing out how bad he was.  Poor sausage.  Instead, think about a system based on performance objectives or goals, where the manager and the employee discuss those goals upfront, and then they collaborate on achieving them.  Dr Culbert would think he’d died and gone to heaven!  In fact, it comes very close to Dr Culbert’s idea of “performance previews,” looking at collaborating to support future performance, rather than looking back at historical events.

3.  We believe in open lines of communication between the manager and the employee.  The thing that struck me reading Dr Culbert’s article was how often the problems he perceived could be dealt with by open communication.  Now, it is true that it takes effort for a manager to build trust that would facilitate this level of communication, and the employee has to play their part too, but that is not to say that it is impossible. 

4.  We believe in customised and relevant content in the performance evaluation.  One of Dr Culbert’s gripes is that “bosses apply the same rating scale to people with different functions” and that managers “don’t redo the checklist for every different activity.”  Well, of course, that would be silly and unhelpful.  So our applications provide the ability to define precisely the content and measurements for each job, so that the manager and the employee have specific and relevant attributes that define success for each role.  And over and above that, the manager and the employee can define specific and personal objectives that apply only to that employee.  By supplying a library of skills, competencies and accomplishments, and by defining highly specific job profiles, our applications will help managers and employees to understand what the baseline expectations are.

Dr Culbert’s right about improvement:  “[it] is each individual’s own responsibility.”  So let’s have a performance management system that helps the individual clearly identify the opportunities.  And he’s right about trust too:  there needs to be a high level of trust between manager and employee.  So let’s have a performance management system that supports building of trust, rather than tearing it down.

Posted in Career Development, competency, engagement, goals, leadership, performance, personal, profiles, succession planning, teams, top talent, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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