Although measuring employees’ performances is seen as a soft skill, there are tools available to human resources practitioners that can remove as much of the subjectivity of the process as possible. Linda Fine, human resources executive for Dimension Data Middle East and Africa, explains the skill of measuring employees’ performance requires a manager to have competencies in a variety of skills, including goal setting, communication, feedback and coaching, among other things.
Dimension Data measures all staff based on a combination of variables, and takes into account aspects such as business performance and individual performance.
This would include aspects such as financial performance as well as deliverables and behaviour, says Fine. She notes each role is measured against certain criteria for that position and “performance promises” are set at the beginning of each year.
Fine explains these promises detail how leaders will meet individual goals, and these targets are then cascaded down through the teams with two-way dialogue between staff and managers being used to ensure there is agreement on the goals. Individual goals relate to day-to-day role expectations, key performance indicators (KPIs), behaviours relating to our values, personal career development and the ongoing learning required to reach these goals, she notes.
Regular progress reviews are encouraged throughout the year so there is on-going alignment to the goals that have been set and to avoid surprise discussions when DiData’s formal annual review takes place, notes Fine. The annual review is a must-do for all staff if they want to be eligible for bonuses, and is done against a rating scale, she adds.
Company leaders are also reviewed through a 360-degree feedback assessment, which focuses purely on the company values, as they are expected to set the tone and lead by example in terms of how they behave. “Measurement is a soft skill in that it develops a willingness to accept feedback in a positive way and use it constructively to enhance effectiveness.”
Although employee measurement — which is seen as vital to human resource practitioners — is a soft skill, there are aspects that are easier to measure and are less subjective, says Fine. She explains financial performance is more measurable than the subjectivity of individual performance and meeting goals. “The trick is to try find the right metric(s) that the employee can have an impact on.”
For example, says Fine, a factory worker could be measured against his or her output, but this is not true of all roles. When it comes to measuring performance, management style also comes into play, as managers are required to provide coaching, robust feedback discussions and career and skill discussions.
Aspects such as leadership, business writing, and measurement may have an element of subjectivity to them, says Fine. Management is subjective in nature, so honing soft skills is vital to bring more science, objectivity and fairness into play.
Natasha Galli, talent acquisition specialist at Hilti South Africa, says measurements that can more easily be measured without subjectivity also include aspects such as direct sales target achievement, days outstanding on payments and other key direct financial levers that impact targets.
Galli explains the company uses a performance management process (PMP) to measure employees, as it is a performance-oriented organisation. She explains that PMP, which differs from the KPI system, is a pillar of the human resources process and is an integral part of its developing and coaching areas.
“PMP is expected to be a living part of our daily coaching and partnering for performance activities, which should be done both ways, from team leader to team member and vice versa.” The PMP system clarifies responsibilities, sets targets and expectation standards, helps to monitor progress, ensures ongoing dialogue, feedback and coaching and focuses on current and future development of both the team member and company.
Galli says that to institutionalise the same PMP standards across the whole organisation and strive for high quality of delivering this process on all levels, Hilti prepared a “cook book” as a support tool for team leaders and members. The company also has a very specific performance bonus structure that is linked to its profitability.
Dimension Data initially has employees do a self-assessment before their managers assess them, says Fine. To eliminate any scores being affected by personality conflicts, Dimension Data continuously does two-way performance discussions so there are no surprises, she says. Occasionally, however, there are disagreements that require mediation and team feedback also ensures a balanced view.
Galli notes that Hilti sets at least three business and two development targets at the beginning of the year. These targets are captured on the PMP system, she says.
The target-setting process requires the employee to sit with their manager at the beginning of the year to establish and agree upon set targets before entering these onto the system, says Galli. All targets need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, measurabable and time bound. All the targets are determined in line with its Champion 2020 strategy.
Galli says Hilti finds the PMP to be the fairest way of measuring performance, as there will not be any disputes in agreements, or previous conversations regarding targets, such as increases not being as good as they should be, accusations of a certain manager of being biased, etcetera.
Hilti monitors career development through its strategic manpower development process, adds Galli. This is a forum where every employee is discussed in terms of talent potential.
A separate development discussion meeting should also happen during this step, notes Galli.
“The discussion is based upon a potential assessment of the team member within the current role, considering their tenure and experience in the position. It allows the team leader to understand the team member’s motivation, future interests, strengths and development opportunities.
“Team members get a chance to vocalise interests and receive constructive feedback based on the potential assessment. Every team member has the right to have a discussion with the team leader annually.”
Hilti also measures aspects like leadership and uses a motivation system to recognise outstanding achievers based on their leadership and other soft skills during its annual awards process. In addition, annual training is done so all staff understand the measurement process.
“Measurement is key to any leadership role as this could make or break you as a leader. Measurement is not only vital in leadership, but will also have an impact on the business if not conducted in the correct manner.”
To measure itself internally, the company also runs an employee satisfaction measure, adds Fine. She says this allows the company to rate employees’ perceptions to ensure they are deriving value from HR, and are satisfied with the people practices.