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Performance management should be designed to support these key players
Marcus Buckingham, founder of The Marcus Buckingham Co., speaks to
attendees June 29 at the SHRM 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition.
LAS VEGAS—Nationally renowned human capital expert Marcus Buckingham
believes “radical” shifts are necessary to support team leaders—the most
important drivers of business success—in their efforts to manage
performance and raise engagement in the workforce.
“There is a fundamental and radical shift happening in the
workplace,” the founder of The Marcus Buckingham Co. told attendees June
29, 2015, at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2015
Annual Conference & Exposition.
This shift includes moving focus from the organizational level to
team leaders, moving from a reliance on big data to the effective use of
smart data, and changing the mission of team leaders from providing
feedback to coaching.
When you study performance, it’s important to realize that a range
exists among teams doing the same work in the same company, Buckingham
said. There’s no such thing as a “Google way,” he said, but instead,
“what it’s like to work at Google will vary massively according to the
particular team that you’re on.” Whether it’s measured as productivity,
employee engagement, customer satisfaction or lost workdays, you will
find a significant range in performance metrics.
HR’s role is to find out what the high-performing teams are doing
that the lower-performing teams are not. “If you want to build a great
organization, you can’t build it from the center. You have to build it
from lots and lots of teams, team leader by team leader. They make the
difference,” Buckingham said.
The problem is that “we don’t build tools and systems for team
leaders.” Instead, learning and performance management systems are built
for the organization. “We’ve built an entire system to disempower the
very people who can drive engagement.”
Anyone who runs a team needs to be able to answer three questions:
Every week, a team leader should conduct a performance
snapshot—regular check-ins with each team member about near-term work,
Buckingham said. “These brief conversations allow leaders to set
expectations for the upcoming week, review priorities and provide
coaching. The best team leaders know that the goals put into the
performance management system at the beginning of the year are
irrelevant by the third week of the year,” he said.
One thing to avoid in these “light touch” meetings is feedback,
according to Buckingham. “No one wants feedback. We want attention, and
particularly coaching attention. Don’t tell me where I stand; help me
get better,” he said.
Team leaders need tools that will give them real-time, reliable data
that can be presented to the CEO to move the business forward,
Buckingham said. “We have to move away from tools that we have to coerce
team leaders into using, and more into tools that team leaders will
thank you for.” A lot of the people data being relied on right now is
“garbage,” he said. The worst culprit: performance ratings data, which
is premised on the logic that “we can train one human being to be a
reliable rater of another human being.”
As objective as the rater may try to be in evaluating someone on
strategic thinking for example, “it turns out that how much strategic
thinking I do, or how valuable I think strategic thinking is, or how
tough a rater I am, significantly affects my assessment of your
strategic thinking,” he said.
He cited research which found that 61 percent of variance in ratings
could be accounted for by individual raters’ perceptions. Actual
performance accounted for only 21 percent of the variance. “Ratings
reveal more about the rater than they do about the ratee,” he said. How
then can employers capture a team leader’s view of individual employees’
performance without running into what the researchers termed
“idiosyncratic rater effects”?
Buckingham said his company’s Performance Pulse tool strives to
measure how each team leader plans to guide each team member. “It turns
out we are all reliable raters of our own intentions and feelings,” he
said. The tool is just a short survey that asks team leaders at least
four times a year a few questions about what they intend to do with each
of their team members: do they deserve a promotion, or need more
training or corrective action? By aggregating the data from these
questions, the organization will see, quarter by quarter, what it should
do with each team member, based on the judgment of the team leader.
“We’re all in the human nature business, the business of helping
people discover what they can become,” Buckingham concluded. “The power
of human nature is that each person’s nature is unique. The challenge
for HR is to take what is unique in people and help them turn it into
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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