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How to Measure Employee Effectiveness

When Cyndi hired Sally, she had been very excited. Sally was bright and caught on quickly, a rising star who had become disillusioned with the lack of recognition she had received from her previous employer. Cyndi had thought she had "struck gold" and that Sally would be a tremendous asset to her company. But now Cyndi was having second thoughts. After only six months, Cyndi was having to seriously consider the idea that she may have to let Sally go.

What happened? Well, several things. First of all, Sally never asked questions. She was a strong producer, but she headed in the "wrong" direction much of the time. On top of that, she often forgot about routine tasks like completing her expense reports. For the most part, Sally was not a team player in Cyndi's eyes. Sally produced more than most of her coworkers but seemed to have little regard for her impact on the other members of her team whom she viewed as "less productive" than herself.

The most frustrating thing for Cyndi was the fact that she knew that Sally was very sharp and had a lot of potential to succeed. Overall, Cyndi did not know what to do with Sally.

What would you do in this situation? If Sally has such a high productivity level and potential for Success, why isn't she succeeding?

The problem may lie in the way she is being managed. As in any situation, different folks require different strokes. The key to employee effectiveness is learning how to sort through the different "types" of employees. Once you have determined what type of employee you are dealing with, you will have a better idea of how to effectively manage them.

It is important to note that not all employees will be top producers, no matter how much training or coaching they receive. Many managers fail to realize this basic fact and pay a heavy price as a result. In fact, as much as 40% of your employees may fall in the "less than acceptable" range when you start looking at productivity levels.

Why is this number so high? There are several reasons.

  • One reason is that many managers try to be "saviors". In other words, they believe they can succeed where other managers have failed. However, in most situations this is not the case. The low producing employee may simply not have the necessary skills or abilities to perform the tasks the job requires.
  • Lack of interest may be another obstacle to better performance. If you can move the employee into another job that incorporates their interests and abilities, higher productivity may very well result. Unfortunately, in many companies, this option is limited.
  • Another reason managers tolerate low producers is because that is what is expected of them. "Developing" employees is such a high value in some organizations that managers disregard their better judgment in favor of the values of the organization. The result is a work force which consists of an inordinate number of low performers.
  • A fourth reason why managers do not deal effectively with marginal employees is that most people tend to avoid conflict. Firing someone or moving them into a new position means rocking the boat a little. Most people would rather avoid this situation. However, the overall effects of this type of approach can be very costly to the organization over the long run.

In fact, failing to address the issue of marginal performance is not only costly to the organization, but also to the employee in a lot of cases. As the old saying goes, if one person is unhappy, chances are the other one is too. If an employee is substandard in their performance, a good manager should do their best to find out why. Is it a bad job fit? Does the employee need skills training? Are there personal problems the employee is dealing with? Is low moral an issue? Once you know the problem, it is easier to determine what steps to take.

Of course, to solve any problem related to employee effectiveness, you must first determine what the level of productivity is for each employee. On top of that, it helps to know each employee's level of potential. To help you with this process, we have included a management tool called the Employee Effectiveness Profile. This profile was designed to help managers, such as yourself, determine the overall effectiveness of the individual employees within their organization.

 

Employee Effectiveness Profile

The Employee Effectiveness Profile is a powerful tool for measuring the effectiveness of your employees. As you complete the questions in the profile, be as objective as possible. In other words, guard against the natural inclination to view the employees you like in an overly positive light and those you do not like in an overly negative one. Focusing on one item at a time will help you do this by giving you the greatest degree of objectivity. Overall, try to make crisp, thoughtful decisions as you work your way through the profile.

For each question, mark the answer that most closely demonstrates the performance of the employee you are reviewing. Note that the answers run from 0 to 5, with 0 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree.

0

1

2

3

4

5

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Disagree Somewhat

Agree Somewhat

Agree

Strongly Agree

This employee:

1.

Usually is resourceful in finding ways to overcome obstacles in doing his or her job.

0

1

2

3

4

5

2. Will probably receive at least one more promotion in this organization. 0 1 2 3 4 5
3. Usually produces excellent results. 0 1 2 3 4 5
4. Tries harder than most other employees. 0 1 2 3 4 5
5. Does his or her current job in at least an above average manner. 0 1 2 3 4 5
6. Is probably capable of developing innovative procedures, services, and/or products. 0 1 2 3 4 5
7. Often discovers ways to do existing tasks more effectively than they were being done. 0 1 2 3 4 5
8. Is willing to take on extra work. 0 1 2 3 4 5
9. Takes less than the average amount of time/effort to do the job/task. 0 1 2 3 4 5
10. Will probably stay with this organization for two or more years. 0 1 2 3 4 5
11. Usually contributes well in tasks requiring teamwork. 0 1 2 3 4 5
12. Has and uses good interpersonal skills. 0 1 2 3 4 5
13. Usually does things "right" the first time. 0 1 2 3 4 5
14. Has the capacity to grow and keep up with added responsibilities. 0 1 2 3 4 5
15. Would be difficult to replace with someone else who could do his or her job equally well. 0 1 2 3 4 5
16. Has a high level of commitment to the organization. 0 1 2 3 4 5
17. Is so efficient that his or her absence would result in significantly lower productivity in the organization. 0 1 2 3 4 5
18. Could probably find a higher-level job in another organization. 0 1 2 3 4 5
19. Usually does things on time. 0 1 2 3 4 5
20. Fits in well with the culture of the organization. 0 1 2 3 4 5

Scoring the Profile

After completing the Employee Effectiveness Profile, transfer your answers into the two columns below. Then total the scores in each column.

Productivity

Potential

Traits

1     ___________

2    ___________

4    ___________

3    ___________

6    ___________

8    ___________

5    ___________

10  ___________

12  ___________

7    ___________

14  ___________

16  ___________

9    ___________

18  ___________

20  ___________

11  ___________

Total      ________________ Total      ________________

13   ___________

15   ___________

17   ___________

19   ___________

Total      ________________

 

Identifying Your Employee's Type

The Employee Effectiveness Profile is broken down into six different sections: Star, Workhorse, Marginal, Trainee, Problem Child and Deadwood. Each section reflects different employee characteristics and productivity levels. To determine the style of the employee you have completed the questionnaire for, follow the directions listed for the Productivity- Potential Matrix.

Once you have determined the category that each employee falls into, you are in a position to learn how to manage each employee effectively. For each category, we have outlined what the typical managerial response is to each employee style. We have also outlined a recommended response that you can use to raise your effectiveness in dealing with each type of employee.

Stars

Typical Response of Management

Remember Sally? Sally turned out to be a star. A Star without direction.

Stars are high in both productivity and potential. Most managers respond to them by simply getting out of their way and showering them with recognition in an attempt to get other less productive employees to follow their example.

Often times, managers are intimidated by these exceptional workers. As a result, they have a tendency to take a hands-off approach when managing Stars. Unfortunately, this means that Stars may take off in directions that do not coincide with the current priorities and goals of the organization.

If Stars are not recognized, or worse, unappreciated, for their accomplishments, they become prime candidates for other opportunities which always await them outside of their own organization.

Recommended Response of Management

In order to keep Stars from straying off the beaten path, a good manager must set specific goals for them to follow. Since Stars act as role models and are exceptional performers, it is extremely important that a manager define in writing what it is they want any desired outcome to be. Since Stars tend to shine, it is often essential to coach Stars to adopt a lower profile. This will reduce any potential conflict that could arise between Stars and Workhorses.

One of the keys to managing this group is to develop a strong, trustworthy relationship with them based on mutual respect. By doing so, Stars will accept a manager's guidance on how to set priorities, interact with other employees, and respond to organizational demands. Stars need to be informed as to why a certain task is important. Otherwise, they may pursue other tasks that they deem more important. For example, they may ignore deadlines for routine tasks, such as filing an expense report. Stars rarely consider what impact this action may have on other co-workers who are trying to meet their deadlines. Hence, it is important that the manager focus on helping Stars to deal effectively with these issues.

 

Trainees

Typical Response of Management

Managers typically fail to give Trainees enough attention due to their own work overload. Even if they truly wanted to take an active role in developing a new Trainee, prior time commitments usually prevent it. When time becomes an issue, Trainee development is usually the first thing to get pushed to the back burner.

In most cases, Trainees are shown a desk and given a stack of papers to review on their first day. When the time comes that they need direction, they must find it on their own. By default, less productive workers are usually the ones that show them "how it is done". Before long, you are left with a new employee that has developed sub optimal work habits. As with any habit, work habits are very difficult to change once they are in place.

Many managers assume that if a Trainee has been involved with a similar task in the past, he or she can produce similar results in the new situation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, the Trainee wastes a considerable amount of time due to numerous false starts and lack of specific direction.

Recommended Response of Management

Immediate, concentrated attention is the key to new employee effectiveness. The Trainee should receive both a big picture orientation related to the goals and objectives of the organization as well as specific information related to all aspects of his or her position. Managers should expect to spend from fifteen to thirty hours with a new employee over the course of the first month. This should be broken down into one to two hours per day for the first two weeks and then one-half to one hour per day for the remaining two weeks. Over this period of time, the manager should give the Trainee brief assignments that are clearly explained. Feedback and monitoring are critical during this time period since the employee is learning new habits that he or she will use over and over again.

Workhorses

Typical Response of Management

Workhorses demonstrate a consistent pattern of above average results. This is a fact that is usually missed by most managers. Instead, managers tend to focus on the times when Workhorses are not performing up to par. This is unfortunate since Workhorses are some of an organization's best workers.

Following a philosophy of "I'll tell you if you are doing anything wrong; otherwise, everything is fine", managers end up devoting little time or attention to Workhorses. This management approach results in Workhorses feeling undervalued and unappreciated. Eventually, problems such as lower morale, reduced commitment, and sub optimal performance are the result.

Recommended Response of Management

When you are managing Workhorses, the key is positive reinforcement. It is amazing what a genuine "pat on the back" will do. Giving Workhorses attention only when something is wrong is demotivating to them over the long run. By paying attention and noticing when a Workhorse has done something right and THEN recognizing them for it, a manager will make tremendous strides in gaining Workhorse loyalty and commitment. The cost of this loyalty and commitment is management time. Some managers feel that providing a paycheck to an employee should be enough to balance the scales. However, this is simply not the case, especially with Workhorses.

Since Workhorses make up almost 50% of a manager's work force, the manager should spend an equivalent amount of time with this group. An excellent way to reinforce Workhorses is to get to know them on an individual basis. A good manager will find out what they like, what their families do and who they are as people. The manager can use this information to reward Workhorses in ways that they would most like to be rewarded, a win/win situation for both parties involved.

Deadwood

Typical Response of Management

Deadwood employees are fairly common in very profitable organizations and in not-for-profit organizations with large budgets. Most managers feel that dealing with these nonproductive employees is not part of their "job". In other words, Deadwood is considered a necessary inconvenience by most managers. Managers usually base this decision on the overall culture of the organization and tend to tolerate Deadwood in an effort not to "rock the boat."

Recommended Response of Management

Dealing with Deadwood employees can be a double edged sword. On the one hand, the manager must consider the social responsibility associated with employees who are not as productive as they should be due to age, illness, or personal problem distractions. On the other, a manager must consider the negative impact that nonproductive employees have on more productive workers. It is very difficult to promote high productivity among some employees while still accepting nonproductive activity from others. Taking this a step further, a small, struggling company simply can not afford any Deadwood at all or it will fail.

The best way for an organization to approach this problem is to provide a clearly articulated standard for the manager that provides just enough leeway to let the manager make the final decision. In other words, a manager should approach the issue of non productivity on a case by case basis using the overall standards that the company has defined in combination with his or her best judgment.

Problem Child

Typical Response of Management

A Problem Child employee tends to bring out the worst in a manager. A Problem Child, by definition, is very high in potential, but for one reason or another, does not produce. Just like a teacher dealing with a prankster in school, the manager has a tendency to invest a lot of time and energy into these employees with little or no results. As a result, a pattern of overreaction, threats, and recanting begins to develop as the manager becomes more and more frustrated with the Problem Child. At this point, the manager may become reluctant to abandon his or her efforts because of the time already invested in the Problem Child. However, it is important to realize that a Problem Child can have a surprisingly high negative impact on his or her fellow employees.

Recommended Response of Management

The key to dealing with a Problem Child is to put boundaries in place. The manager must learn to deal with this type of employee in an unemotional manner. Substandard performance and inappropriate behavior should be documented by the manager on an incident by incident basis. If a pattern emerges, action must be taken. Even if no one incident is enough to justify termination, a series of negative events should not be ignored. Overall, ground rules should be established, relayed to the employee, and enforced when violated.

Marginal Employees

Typical Response of Management

The most outstanding characteristic of Marginal employees is their erratic performance levels. For the most part, they perform very similarly to Workhorses. Marginals, however, tend to have more than their fair share of "bad" days. Missed deadlines and performance slippage, although irregular, nevertheless become a problem over time. At first, most managers will tend to overlook the fact that there is a problem. After a while, though, managers will begin coaching and counseling Marginal employees in an effort to eliminate these irregular performance lapses.

If the Marginal employee raises his or her performance to the Workhorse level, it is usually at the expense of the manager's time and attention. In other words, a dependency relationship often develops between the manager and the Marginal employee whereby the manager spends an inordinate amount of time with the Marginal employee in return for more consistent performance. The question the manager must ask is "Is this really the best use of my time?" If most of the manager's time is spent with the Marginal employee, there is little time left to respond to other employees.

Recommended Response of Management

The best response in dealing with Marginal employees is for the manager to maintain a firm sense of perspective. In the bigger organizational picture, a manager must ask, "Where should I spend my time in order to obtain the greatest results?" Of course, many managers would argue that they have spent too much time developing a Marginal employee to give up on them now. However, this line of thought is a fallacy and, in fact, could be very costly in the long run. The best thing a manager can do is look at how the situation stands today and move forward from there. By doing so, a manager will be able to make a better decision on how to deal with the Marginal employees he or she is responsible for.

Employee Traits

Employee traits have little to do with productivity and potential. At least, they are not supposed to.

Copy the answers from questions 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20 of the Employee Effectiveness Profile into the Traits column below.

TRAITS

4    ___________

8    ___________

12  ___________

16  ___________

20  ___________

Total       ___________

According to Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) legislation, productivity and performance should not, in any way, be tied to employee traits. In other words, a manager trying to make hiring, firing, or promotion decisions should not consider anything related to subjective criteria such as whether or not the employee tries harder than other employees, fits into the company culture, or has a high level of organizational commitment. Even an employee's willingness to take on more work or their use of good interpersonal skills should be exempt from the manager's decision-making process according to the law. The main reason for this is that all of these items are subjective. In other words, they are based on the manager's perception and bias.

It is important to keep all of this in mind whenever you are dealing with an employee since it is very difficult for most people to separate productivity from traits. In fact, chances are that the trait score for the employee you reviewed was very similar to the productivity and potential scores. Although this may be a legitimate rating on both counts, you will do well to keep in mind the natural human tendency to think more highly (and value the traits) of the employees you like and less so of those you do not.

With that said, we should back up and look at the bigger picture. A business, like any institution, has its own culture, attitudes, and perceptions. As the owner of your own business, you get to decide what type of culture people will thrive in. It would be nice if all of us could be objective all of the time with everyone we deal with, but this is rarely the case. To separate traits from productivity would be ideal. However, the fact is that this is not at all common. The best thing a business owner can do is build an organization that values the diverse talents of all of its employees. By doing so, you can more realistically achieve greater productivity without having to override the biases that automatically arise whenever we confront differences.

 

David L. Heiserman, Editor

Copyright   SweetHaven Publishing Services
All Rights Reserved

Revised: June 06, 2015