The Problem With Employee-Level Performance Reporting

Portrait of Alec Ortega

Alec Ortega

July 20, 2021

The Problem With Employee-Level Performance Reporting

What if a single, great employee is harming the people around them? What if they excel at their job at the expense of their teammates? Many organizations face this problem, and employee-level reporting can't solve it. Instead, choose to focus on your teams' ability to problem solve, build empathy, and innovate as a group. True unicorns grow the knowledge and skills of those around them and create more impact than they could ever contribute alone.

What's wrong with employee-level performance reporting?

Competition becomes the focus instead of collaboration.

It's possible that when management chooses to focus on the performance of an individual employee. It might make them competitive instead of collaborative in their work. This can increase employees' stress levels as they try to keep up with other team members.

A culture of constant comparison

When employees are focused on their performance, it can encourage a culture of constant comparison. This tension can lead to an environment of competition, which detracts from the sense of unity and camaraderie that most organizations strive for.

Increased anxiety

Individual performance reporting can cause people to feel like a single mistake could destroy their entire career. Of course, this isn't true, but it might lead them to believe that they need to be perfect for any of their work not to be considered a waste or deemed unsuccessful.

Focusing on employees rather than customers

Employee-level performance reporting is bad for company culture because it might lead to an overemphasis on how an employee operates rather than the value they deliver to your customers. This can cause a disconnect between customer service efforts that are focused on providing great experiences or solutions, which will, in turn, make your organization less competitive over time.

Inherent bias

Attempting to assign performance metrics to individual employees ignores the reality that all your employees contribute differently to your organization and have different skills that they bring to the table. By measuring an employee's performance with a metric used for comparison, you are only evaluating the ability of that employee to complete a specific task, not their ability to impact your business.

How you measure employee performance at scale

Instead of focusing on an employee's performance, focus on the success of the employee's team as a whole. Team members should be working together to innovate, challenge each other, and deliver value to your customers. One individual may be more logical, hesitant to risk, and only make decisions backed by data. Another may be more empathetic to your customer's needs and may be more willing to take risks with experimentation. Successful teams have these and dozens of other personalities. Attempting to measure different personalities with the same metric is prone to a significant amount of false negatives.

When is employee performance reporting appropriate?

Employee performance reporting is appropriate where the employee's role is inherently tied to the business's bottom line. For example, this is very common in sales and customer service roles.

Positions with quotas

For example, in sales, employees are often held to quotas since their compensation is tied to the commission, and performance is directly linked to the revenue they generate.

Customer-facing roles

In customer service roles, the performance of employees is often measured by a metric such as time-to-resolution. Time to resolution measures the average amount of time it takes to resolve a customer's question or issue. It's an important metric because it shows that you’ve taken care of your customers from the start and minimized any problems down the line.

A high-level view

In general, a macro-level view of employee performance data is great to review. It can highlight broad areas of opportunity and help you identify patterns and trends within your organization.

How can I improve employee performance?

There are a few different approaches that you can take when looking to improve employee performance.

Feedback and radical candor

For individual employees, one of the best ways is to give them feedback. Feedback helps employees know what they're doing well and what needs improvement.

Performance evaluations need to be private or anonymous. The person receiving the feedback can't tell who gave it if they don't want to work with them because of personality conflicts. In addition, employees should provide feedback promptly since responding too quickly means that the input can be forgotten or not taken seriously by the receiver.

There are many types of performance evaluations that both managers and employees can use.

A self-evaluation is an excellent tool for measuring an employee's growth and performance. Reconciling the differences between what a manager sees and what an employee sees in themselves can surface some great talking points. 360-degree reviews are also helpful. This review involves gathering feedback from the employee's peers and distilling it into valuable feedback for the employee.

With any feedback method, it's important to document it in written form so that both the employee and manager can track performance, goals, and expectations over time.

Rewards and recognition

Another way to improve employee performance is by providing rewards and recognition for those who do well. When employees know that they're appreciated and valued for their contributions, they're more likely to stick around and work hard.

Listen to feedback from your teams and employees.

Listening is another vital component to improving employee productivity. The further down your organizational chart, the closer your employees are to the customer.

Quality training

The long-term success of your employees may rely on successful onboarding and training when the employee starts their role.

What employee performance management tools can I use?

Measuring employee performance is one of the most important skills any leader or manager needs to master. However, there is a fine line between understanding the health of your organization and micro-managing. There are many tools to help leaders and managers find ways to improve their organizations, but all of them emphasize aligning the missions of individual teams toward common goals.

Processes and frameworks

Frameworks like Kanban and agile springs are popular tools for organizations looking to improve productivity and efficiency. These frameworks focus on visualizing workflows so that team members, managers, and executives can transparently view work progress at all levels in the organization.

OKR and Alignment software

Another popular way of measuring performance is through goal-setting software and frameworks. These tools help employees set goals and understand how to get there, and promote servant leadership.

Commonality provides software for the OKR framework. OKRs are a great way for organizations to measure the performance of their teams. They also promote transparency about business decisions and the impact that teams are making on the business. They help align the goals of the organization and an individual team to ensure that all teams are working towards shared business objectives.

Commonality also provides alignment software to help organizations visualize the health of their teams and how the missions of individual teams tie back to the C-suite.

Whatever tools you use, it's essential to make sure that you use them consistently to set regular expectations for your teams. Regularly analyzing the health of your organization will also help managers see gaps in performance since the data should be comparable across periods irrespective of who the manager was for each period.

Even if you’ve been tracking your employee-level performance for years, it might be time to reconsider. It’s not fair to an individual or the team as a whole when they are evaluated independently without consideration of others around them. Instead, try focusing on team-level reporting, which considers how each member can help and grow from one another. With Commonality's free OKR and alignment software, you'll have access to all of this data in real-time so that you can make better decisions and grow your business.

First published Jul 20, 2021, 8:17 PM, updated August 8, 2021

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