The Challenge in Finding Good Performance Data

In validating tests, getting a hold of good individual performance data is key.  But, it is also one of the more difficult parts of the process to get right.

Intuitively, we all think we can judge performance well (sort of like we all think we are good interviewers).  But, we also know that supervisor ratings of performance can be, well, unreliable.  This is so much the case that there is a whole scientific literature about performance appraisals, even as there is currently a movement within the business community to get rid of them.Facetime For PC

But, what about objectively measuring performance (for every new account opened you get $X)?  If the Wells Fargo imbroglio tells us anything, it’s that hard measures of performance that are incented can run amok.  Also, while they are objective, single objective measures (sales, piece work manufacturing, etc.) rarely reflect the entirety of performance.  Lastly, for jobs where people work interdependently it can be very difficult to determine exactly who did what well, even if you wanted to.

So, what’s one to do?

  • Establish multiple measures of performance. For instance, call centers can measure productivity (average call time) and quality (number of people who have to call back a second time).  Don’t rely on just one number.
  • Even when a final product is the result of a group effort, each individual is still responsible for some pieces of it. If you focus on key parts of the process, you can find those touch points which are indicative of individual performance.  Again, look for quality (was there any rework done?) and productivity (were deadlines met?) measures.
  • Objective performance measures do not have to have the same frequency as piece work or rely on one “ta-da” measure at the end. Think of meeting deadlines, whether additional resources were required to complete the work, etc.
  • Don’t get bogged down in whether or not a small percentage of people can game the system with objective measures. We seem OK with rampant errors in supervisory judgment, but then get all excited because 1 out of 100 people can make his productivity seem higher than it is.  If you dig into the data you are likely to be able to spot when this happens.

When I hear people say that you cannot measure individual performance well, I cringe.  Of course you can.  You just need to know where to look and focus on what is important.



What Does Local Government Value in HR?

As of this writing it is a bad time to write about government productivity given the current shutdown in Washington.  But, in many places local government is one of the largest employers and their HR policies (and how they are managed) have a big impact.

In Los Angeles, where I live, we have new mayor, Eric Garcetti.  One of his goals for this term is to measure the effectiveness of the city’s government.  He has been going through a process of interviewing the department heads (whom he can hire and fire by city charter) and one of the things he is asking them is how they feel about having their department’s performance tracked and put on the web.  Those who are not wild about the idea get to look for a new job (now THAT is the way you start to change a culture!).

Mr. Garcetti has help up the websites of Minneapolis and Boston as examples of how this should be done.  It got me thinking: What is it that these cities value in HR?

In Boston, their HR metrics are very compliance oriented.  They measure speed of workers’ comp claims processed, reducing their costs, and hitting diversity targets.  Interestingly, the HR page says that their major initiative is in health and wellness (smoking cessation, etc), but that is not one of their metrics.  Nothing like keeping those goals and measures aligned.  Also, for being such a high tech area, they haven’t gotten around to updating their measurements since March of this year (perhaps speed up updating metrics should be a measure of their IT department).

In Minneapolis, they at least keep things up-to-date (see the October 2013 report here).  Their measures also focuses on some compliance issues, but it digs deeper.  For instance, the city tracks diversity targets, but not just in the final hires—it also shows the diversity of the applicant pool, test groups and interview groups.  The measures include business oriented metrics (calendar days to fill vacant positions), why those metrics are important (faster filling reduces overtime costs), and what steps are being taken to reduce the time (get a faster background check vendor!).  Most importantly, the results take a deep dive into hiring, retention, where successful candidates come from, etc.  Unlike the Boston site, this has some pretty useful information.  It also exposes a bit more detail than I’m sure some people were happy with, especially regarding their selection processes.

In some ways, the comparison between these two is not that different from HR departments in the private sector.  Some of them are focused on checking off boxes and ensuring compliance and others look for ways to be business partners and improve the operations of the organization.  Boston is interested in their lawsuit costs while Minneapolis is interested in those things, but not as much as operating efficiently.  This is likely to speak of the culture in the rest of each organization as well.

I hope that Mr. Garcetti continues his efforts to measure all facets of LA’s government and make the data widely available (I applaud both Minneapolis and Boston for doing so).  If this comes to fruition, I’ll be curious as to what the HR department (and Mr. Garcetti, by extension) feels are the important measures.  I hope they choose to emphasize how to make the workforce of the city more productive rather than just keeping the attorneys happy.

What are the HR metrics you want to see your city/town publish?

For more information on pre-employment testing, employee engagement, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

Tying it All Together

No good HR process occurs in a vacuum.  For instance, valid selection techniques impact recruitment strategy (are we bringing in the people who can do the job?) and training (what are the skills and abilities we’ll hire for and which ones will we develop?).  The common thread of all effective HR initiatives is a solid analysis of the job.  Whether it’s developing a competency model or conducting a job analysis, identifying the knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics is the key first step.  This information feeds into your recruiting, selection, training, development, compensation, and performance management programs.

It’s no surprise that this kind of analysis is not done enough before new initiatives are rolled out (since job analysis is so important to legal selection systems, it’s an exception).  When you do analyse jobs, be sure to keep your eye on how the data will impact the other HR areas.  Doing JBL Flip 3 Review so will lead to a more thorough analysis and keep you from having to do it twice.

In the next post, I’ll talk about linking strategy to the job analysis process to ensure even greater value.

For more information on pre-employment testing, skills assessment, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

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