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Why Most Performance Management System are a Waste of Time and Resources

Editorial Team
23/03/2017 6:48 AM

Most performance management systems suffer from two main persistent problems; measurement problem and feedback problem. Regardless of what your system is called, these are the main problems that render most performance measurement systems useless.  I know a lot of organisations have different systems, some very old and some new, and with fancy names. Unless and until the two problems are addressed, the system will not work. You may have noticed that some organisations are abandoning performance assessment completely.

The measurement problem; Regardless of the system you are using Observed Performance = True ability (effort) + Error (Luck).  If your performance measurement system at any level is to be good, it must minimise the amount of error in the measurement system.  To reduce the amount of error, the system must be as objective as possible. In practice we know that most systems are very subjective which makes them unsuitable to differentiate between good performers and bad performers.  When your measurement system can capture the true ability or effort of the individual in the observation of performance, half your job is done.  One of the true characteristics of good performance is that whatever is being measured must show some element of consistency. Variation in performance are mainly as a result of error in the measurement instrument.  As an example, “playing lotto” does not reflect the true ability or effort of the individual. Whether you win lotto or not is a function of luck more than skill. Most of the performance measurement systems we are seeing on the market are like playing “lotto”. They do not reflect the true ability or effort of the employee, instead they show that luck or measurement error is at play. If your system cannot objectively distinguish between good performers and poor performers, it means it’s not a good system.

Feedback Problem: The problem related to feedback is complicated by the first problem of measurement. If your measurement system is not objective, giving employee feedback is very difficult. Employees tend to resist a subjective and inaccurate system. This is precisely why most employees hate performance appraisals. However managers do not seem to learn and they continue with a faulty feedback mechanism.

No Consequences:  What happens if an employee performs and what happens when they do not? If there is nothing in both cases, your performance management system will never work, even if you address the first two problems. People change their behaviour because of what happens to them after performing at a certain level.

Long Appraisal Forms; A good appraisal form should not be more than one page. Anything above two pages will be resisted. A good appraisal form prioritises the goals that need to be achieved and these cannot be more than one page.

Not Training Users – Once all the above key issues are addressed, you need to make sure every user of the system is trained properly. When users know how the system should work, they normally put effort to do it properly.

Memory Nguwi is an Occupational Psychologist, Data Scientist, Speaker, & Managing Consultant - Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/  Phone 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or email: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

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