The Wall Street Journal article is greatly appreciated because it highlights what occurs when an employee rating system is poorly implemented and used in organizations. However, it was an incredibly simplistic perspective. The perspective was that of someone who has only taken a cursory look at this approach, and we see this from newer employees and rookie leaders who have not thought through ratings systems properly in the past. It did not explain how powerful this approach can be if correctly and carefully put in place.
Over the years, we have assisted organizations implement many systems like this with great success by looking deeper into the reality of individuals, teams and cultures. Understanding the real world allows us to use human nature to everyone’s advantage. Proper implementation of an evaluation system excites employees, and provides them an opportunity for clarity of their current role in relation to growth opportunities.
In an organization, whether or not there is a formal rating system in place, most people in a workplace have a sense of who is working hard, working smart and making a difference. There is also a sense of those who are not engaged, struggling, or being ineffective. Not all these perceptions are correct, however (allowing for some amount of bias), it is amazing how widely these views are held within a team or organization. It is human nature to make decisions based on what we believe is or isn’t working, and who is involved. In many organizations, someone will not engage with those they believe to be a “C” player, but will readily engage who they perceive as an “A” player.
In other words, informal ratings are already in place and it is not possible to stop these “judgments”. However, great leaders pay attention to the perceptions employees have of each other and work to bring people closer together, develop a better understanding and awareness of themselves and others, and bring tangible paths of progress to each person they work with.
Formalizing the ratings can be helpful: many employees are looking for clarity in terms of what they are doing, what is working and not working (where are they appreciated and how can they advance). They desire feedback and they also desire to be able to give their own feedback on the organization. However the rating system is designed, it should be a collaboration of those involved to become better together, and to do it by sharing and developing a deeper and better understanding.
In looking at reality and our decades of experience with employee rating systems, we have found the following to be good antidotes to bad implementation of an employee rating:
The bottom line is that every high performing organization has some way of sorting and rewarding those that are succeeding at a high level from those that just are not making it happen. Sports teams around the globe do it all the time; they keep score not just in terms of the game, but have myriads of statistics about the players. This makes the game more fun and allows better decisions to be made by everyone.
Your organization does need to rate people. No system is perfect, but one that works will:
If you are challenged by any of these issues or the many symptoms that can develop from faulty implementation (or not having any system of feedback!), call Don Hadley at 919-368-9008 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.