If you achieved a 6/10 on your performance appraisal at work would you be happy? Would others view your mark as a sign of success? Would you declare what you did during the year to be an amazing achievement?
I doubt that 60% would send you to lofty heights emotionally. Rather it would probably suggest that you are buried somewhere in the pack of averageness and that you are under performing.
That’s a shame.
Why is it that we view incredibility as a 9 or 10 and not a 6?
Many performance appraisal systems are loosey-goosey
We’ve all been victims of a soft loosy-goosey performance evaluation system that quite frankly exists in most organizations.
These systems are based on theoretical notions like:
- performance goals need to be “realistic “.
- really tough objectives will demotivate individuals and they will shut down.
- the objective of any performance management process should be to get a normal distribution of evaluations around the mean; there should be as many above-mean ratings as there are below-mean ones.
The truth is that in most performance management systems, goals are set at too low a level and performance ratings are inflated; it is relatively easy to achieve a 7/10 or higher in most organizations — this means that rather than results being evenly distributed around the mean performance rating, they are skewed to the right.
So, when someone gets a 6, they certainly don’t view themselves as over achieving, yet their performance could be above average or better if the performance system were not dysfunctional. Furthermore people who find themselves in this situation become demotivated and unsatisfied with their job.
And, if you’re a 9 in a system where everyone knows the success criteria for exceeding and excelling performers is watered down, your achievement is met with ‘ho-hum’ rather than excitement and celebration. Again, a demotivating event when it should be one of ebullience.
If the challenge is tough, a 6 should be accepted as reflecting a worthwhile achievement; it should be cherished.
I recall a situation in my company where the CEO declared that there were too many exceeding and exceptional performers as judged by the HR performance evaluation process.
“How can we have so many apparent stars when our corporate performance is below our expectations?” he asked.
His view was that there was a disconnect between how we judged people and the performance in the company that was achieved.
Group assessment is a great equalizer
He changed the system. He stated that there would be no more than 10% of managers/leaders who could be in the exceeding/excelling category and that there would be peer group assessment of the proposed ratings for every manager.
The way it worked was that every manager would present the performance ratings for each of their direct reports to a group of peers, where they would have to defend why they were giving a particular rating knowing that only 10% of the overall group of direct reports could be rated as exceeding or excelling.
So if I proposed to rate one of my direct reports exceeding job expectations at an 8 rating, I had to give evidence that supported my view.
My peers then had the opportunity to challenge my rating based on how they saw my direct report and how they viewed my report in comparison to their own.
Debates raged on and the process eventually resulted in the desired distribution of performance ratings. In fact we were instructed to continue with these group evaluations until the CEO’s objective was achieved.
Managers who were initially rated an 8 or 9 were lowered to a 6, 7 or lower and some were actually raised from the meeting job expectations level to exceeding performance.
What happened then was truly remarkable although it took time to achieve.
After a few years of going through the peer group evaluation process, people began to look at 6’s — or 5’s for that matter — differently.
They began to be (correctly) viewed as worthy measures of challenging performance. It took some doing to get a 6 was a familiar topic of conversation around performance evaluation time.
A ‘6’ became a ‘9’
A 6 became a worthy achievement because goals were set to be challenging to achieve, and overrating of performance was all but extinguished.
So if you’re in HR, encourage management to set challenging, unreasonable objectives for their people and introduce a peer ratings adjudication process to ensure that ratings better reflect performance.
If you’re stuck in an organization where the culture is such that 6’s are disparaged, it’s a sure sign that performance evaluations are overly inflated and people are over rated for the work they’re doing.
Find a culture where 6’s are cherished and you’ll know that leadership sets tough challenging goals and expects overachieving performance as the norm.