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How to Measure Employee Performance and Success

Measurements of employee performance and success are critical data points that fuel hiring, retention, and promotion decisions. (At Cangrade, these data are the basis for all of the sophisticated AI that goes into building our customized Success Models.)

So, when it comes to measuring employee performance, hearing that someone is doing “fine” just doesn’t cut it. However, getting a better answer takes careful planning and consideration.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the steps of how to get that answer…

Define What Employee Success Looks Like

The Problem: To measure any feature of people or their behavior, you first need to define what it is you’re trying to understand.

The Solution: This initial definition will guide the entire process, so don’t rush it. Decide what the critical elements of the position are, and what employee success in those elements looks like. Is it meeting sales quotas? Producing on time? Meeting the clients’ needs? Not every quality is essential to every job, so be sure to focus on the ones that are.

Pick a Metric to Measure Employee Performance Against

The Problem: Some jobs lend themselves to very clear, quantifiable metrics, such as units produced per hour, sales per quarter, etc. Measuring employee success with these metrics is straightforward and objective. Most jobs, however, are not quite so easy. Success becomes fuzzier, with goals such as satisfaction, creativity, productivity, diligence, etc. These can create space for unconscious biases (e.g., gender bias) to manifest. For example, research finds tall male leaders are seen as more valuable while female leaders are judged more harshly.

The Solution: Ultimately, how you defined success in the last step will be the most important consideration in choosing your metric. For subjective assessments (e.g., productivity, communication, “team player”), a simple 1-10 rating can help ground a more holistic summary of performance and facilitate comparisons among employees.

Choose an Evaluator That is Neutral

The Problem: An employee’s coworkers and immediate supervisor will likely have the most relevant information on an employee’s performance. However, they may also be biased in their judgment because of their social interactions, view their coworker as a competitor to be undermined, or worry their subordinate’s failure could reflect poorly on their leadership. Research has shown that individuals tend to undermine others when their own self-esteem is threatened by a poor comparison. Even customer or client satisfaction measures may introduce bias – ever notice the extremes you see in online customer reviews?

The Solution: If someone has a stake in a matter, they can be biased in their reports. So, it’s best to find a neutral judge (i.e., someone from outside the immediate work group) to aggregate objective reports, or to collect and summarize subjective reports (emphasis on the plural – when bias is possible, it’s best to have multiple reports).

Accurate, useful data doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a matter of planning, and sometimes making decisions between competing concerns (e.g., precision vs. comprehensiveness). Following the steps outlined here, and making mindful decisions about your priorities should give you the critical information you need to make smart personnel decisions.