So it’s March, and you need to do performance reviews, and your organisation demands ratings. This is a tough one…how are you supposed to have a motivating conversation with a colleague and then sit in judgement over them?
And if those ratings are tied to a financial payment – that’s even harder.
You can support your colleagues through this process by encouraging two core behaviours from everyone. First and foremost, the rating is about performance, not about the person. As far as possible, everyone awarding a performance rating should have some objective evidence to support what will inevitably be a subjective opinion about a colleague’s performance. If the work in your organisation is hard to measure, create some case examples of work at different levels that achieve different ratings. Such case studies will give your managers some perspective, or a yardstick to use when considering performance.
Second, if your organisation expects some sort of normal distribution curve – that is where most people score 3 out of 5 on a 5 point scale – then setting the ‘most people’ measure is a job for HR and senior leaders. Today, the word ‘average’ is often used to mean ‘not very good’, whereas its actual meaning is mathematical, and generally implies an approximate mid-point around which most people cluster. What matters is the group to which each individual is being compared. (For example – the average speed of runners in an Olympic final is much higher than the average speed of runners in a club competition). Make sure your people understand the group within which they are being assessed, and what ‘average’ looks like in this group. Broadly speaking, you wouldn’t expect to see a normal distribution curve in a group of less than 35.