A more reliable way to evaluate performance is to ask team leaders four simple questions about their employees, designed to focus on what they can and will accomplish, not based on a reviewers' feelings about the employee. "The most reliable way to see the performance of talent is through the eyes of their team leaders. But the caveat is that team leaders aren't reliable raters of anything except their own intentions with regard to the employee -- so that's where we focus," Buckingham says.
Ask and answer
The four questions are the following:
1. Given what I know of this person's performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus. This measures overall performance and unique value to the organization on a five-point scale from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree."
2. Given what I know of this person's performance, I would always want him or her on my team. This measures ability to work well with others on the same five-point scale.
3. This person is at risk for low performance. This question identifies problems that might harm the customer or the rest of the team on a "yes or no" basis.
4. This person is ready for promotion today. This question measures potential on a "yes or no" basis.
"We are asking our team leaders what they would do with each team member rather than what they think of that individual. When we aggregate these data points over a year, weighting each according to the duration of a given project, we produce a rich stream of information for leaders' discussions of what they, in turn, will do -- whether it's a question of succession planning, development paths, or performance-pattern analysis," Buckingham writer in this Harvard Business Review piece, based on his work with Deloitte to overhaul their performance review process.
This data, though simple, is much more reliable, and is an elegant solution to the problem, and is used quarterly to assess specific subsets of employees with an eye toward action. "Who's eligible for a promotion? Who has specific, critical skills we need? Then, we shift from talking about rankings to talking about people and considering how best to capitalize on the strengths you find," Buckingham says.
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