When businesses look to improve their performance, they usually look at profit margins, growth rates and measures like these. One very important factor that is often overlooked is performance.When performance isn’t effectively measured, it is difficult to improve. Many organizations endure mediocre performance while having a preponderance of employees who are rate “above average” and “excellent”.Omar Khan and Alan Weiss, both world-recognized consultants, provide, in Who’s Got Your Back, the pragmatics for why measurement is important, what should be measured and how to do it accurately.Their concept is “Who’s Got Your Back”. This concept, in their words: “The people you monitor, develop, and coach protect you and the company through their skills. People who are committed, don’t hide, don’t shun responsibility, and who can be relied upon in good times and bad. We need to measure their work, observe their behavior, and reward them accordingly”The objective of the exercise is business growth. A collateral benefit is happier employees and a more engaging, congenial working environment.
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About the Author
Omar Khan is arguably one of the most global consultants and speakers in the world. He was the winner of "Top 25 Consultants in the World Award" from Consulting Magazine (first time in a decade the award was given to a Partner of a Boutique Consulting firm). Born in Egypt, the son of Pakistani diplomats, Omar has lived in Germany, the US, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, England, Japan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Dubai and Singapore. Omar studied at University College Oxford (BA and MPhil), and also wrote a thesis on Moral Responsibility and Kant's Noumenal Self. While there, he helped run the Oxford Crisis Counseling Center, Nightline, before proceeding to Stanford Law School.
Alan Weiss is one of those rare people who can say he is a consultant, speaker and author and mean it. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc. has attracted clients such as Merck, Hewlett-Packard, GE, Mercedes-Benz, State Street Corporation, Times Mirror Group, The Federal Reserve, The New York Times.
He is an inductee into the Professional Speaking Hall of Fame® and the concurrent recipient of the National Speakers Association Council of Peers Award of Excellence, representing the top 1% of professional speakers in the world. He has been named a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, one of only two people in history holding both those designations.
His prolific publishing includes over 500 articles and 40 books, including his best-seller, Million Dollar Consulting (from McGraw-Hill). His newest is Million Dollar Coaching (McGraw-Hill), and his next is The Consulting Bible (Wiley). His books have been on the curricula at Villanova, Temple University, and the Wharton School of Business, and have been translated into German, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Chinese.
Read an Excerpt
Who's Got Your Back?
How to Design, Implement, Evaluate and Improve Your Business Through Measuring and Engaging Human Performance
By Alan Weiss, Omar Khan
Global Professional Publishing LtdCopyright © 2013 Alan Weiss & Omar Khan
All rights reserved.
Whose Yardstick Shall We Use?
The evolution and applicability
Human performance once would have been a redundant phrase. The sole performance anyone cared about was their own and perhaps their communal friends'. The performance of nature or animals wasn't an issue.
However, rivers were harnessed for power, oxen drew ploughs, and horses carried people, and the interest in all types of performance became important. How accurate was the rifle? How many horsepower in the car? How strong was the wrench?
Yet behind all of the non-human performance was, inevitably, the human. We designed, directed, and determined how we would use these aids. (And we are not alone. There are many animals which have been observed to systematically use tools, choosing twigs or rocks best suited for the job at hand, to enhance performance.)
We thought it was time to focus on what we're doing with what we have, and to help you make the best of it.
The human performance component of business performance
Just like that bird sticking a twig in a hole to root out insects for lunch, we need to have the right tools wielded by the right performers. Since our performers often have an influence in the design or adaptation of these tools, they are the key components in performance quality and volume.
For example, just about everyone has a keyboard these days for some aspect of their work. We see them in taxis, restaurants, banks, and offices. They are omnipresent.
During my last airplane trip, I watched a gate agent laboriously type in information using two fingers. With multiple entries required to change a seating assignment or input a frequent flyer number, this took quite some time. Yet I had just come from an air club where the hostess used ten fingers, "touch typing", to reroute some passengers very quickly. I'm typing this chapter in that fashion, at the rate of about 80 words per minute.
We have two different employees engaged in the same basic job taking significantly different amounts of time for the same task. One possesses a performance skill important for the job that the other has not bothered to master and the airline has not demanded they master (and has probably not even offered as part of their development—more about that in the next section).
How important is this? Well, if you typed at only 30 words per minute, you'd take twice as long to complete a manuscript as I would. Think about that --- TWICE as long for the same task because of a small skill differential. You may make the case that you could hire a secretary or use voice recognition software, but neither would be as efficient nor reflect your true "voice" as well as typing directly can.
Our contention is that you have employees who are not performing at anywhere near their optimum capacity because:
* You don't know what that capacity truly is.
* They are often misplaced in jobs where they have relatively poor skill sets, even though they can do the job (two fingers at a time).
* You don't truly know how to measure performance comfortably and accurately.
* You don't have mechanisms in place to measure it well.
* You confuse performance evaluation with incentive income and compensation.
Other than that, I suspect you're doing fine!
Businesses and business performance are the result of the combined efforts of the individual performance therein compiled. Yet this performance is often not supported, and even more often nullified by rewarding dysfunctional behavior, not rewarding positive behavior, and distracting performers with bureaucratic nonsense such as meetings, reports, and politics.
In fact, we often measure too much, thereby obscuring what truly must be measured. We worry about inputs (arrival times) rather than outputs (sales made that day). We confuse kindness (bringing in coffee) with productivity (finishing a project).
You don't create faster boarding by demanding that the gate agent type faster "or else", and you don't improve your margins by assigning additional gate agents when one should be able to handle it. You create faster boarding with the correct technology, training in that technology, selecting the right people, and ensuring they have access to the development of the skills and behaviors they'll need.
This last aspect is vital. Have you dealt with "customer service" people who are snarly and abrupt, or wait staff who get your order wrong and keep you waiting? These people haven't been hired with the right behaviors, haven't been coached, and haven't been moved out! Why? Because they're being measured on how many customers are handled and charges accurately collected. Their tips are their own business.
Hence, you find people in customer service jobs with no interpersonal skills, the equivalent of the two-fingered typist. We shouldn't tolerate that in modern, competitive organizations, yet many of you do, even though you believe you don't.
And that's because you're trusting the wrong people.
The inadequacy of human resources measures
At the risk of irritating a lot of people, we have to speak the truth: HR is the repository for people whom the corporation has no idea what to do with. It is a vestigial organ, playing a less pragmatic role than the appendix.
Transactional human resource needs have long since been largely outsourced: relocation, benefits administration, medical reimbursement and so forth. Transformational needs can no longer be met by resident talent: organization development, redesign, change management, innovation, and so forth. HR is the province of training and the traffic cop of surveys and sanctimony.
We know that's harsh, but ask yourself what strategic role, what innovative role, what leadership role the HR function is leading. The answer for over 90 percent of the time will be "none".
What we have is a subculture of trends, fads, programs du jour, training vendors, coaches.
HR fads anad the failure of HR
The typical repository for measuring performance has been the human resources department. We believe the reason for this is that management would rather not think about it, and it gives HR people something to do. Thus, we have endless surveys, evaluation forms, and what we call "smile sheets" which tell us less than nothing about the only true measure: Has behavior changed so as to improve the performance of the organization?
There is no other measure worth caring about.
A University of Wisconsin professor named Donald Kirkpatrick wrote, over half a century ago, that he believed there were four levels of learning evaluation:
1. Reaction: What participants thought of the learning.
2. Learning: Testing during the training itself.
3. Behavior: Observed improvements post-training.
4. Results: The actual result that accrues.
Not only is this ancient writ (Kirkpatrick was the president of the American Society of Training and Development at one time, formerly the American Society of Training Directors), but it's silly. Yet this is what training departments are still flogging today.
You'll note that ROI has no place in these four levels.
Our estimate (using information from the aforementioned ASTD itself) is that upwards of $140 billion is spent annually in the US alone on employee training at all levels. That is not a typo: $140 billion. That's more than the Gross Domestic Product of New Zealand, for example. Yet there are scant efforts in place to measure ROI in organizations because training is not connected to line outcomes.
Typically, the training or human resources (or "learning and development") function either receives a budget which it spends to develop or purchase training, or it receives a request from a line or staff area to provide it with a budget provided by the requesting area. The HR function then either designs a programmatic intervention or purchases one from outside. There are about 6,000 companies in the U.S. which call themselves "training companies" and compete in this highly lucrative market.
Babcock International generated 195 million euros in business in 2011 (Learning and Performance Institute, http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/files/siftmedia- trainingzone/Top%2050%20General%20final%20091111.pdf).
In 2011, 92 of 96 Fortune 500 CEOs surveyed said that they were eager to know the results of training investments, but only 8 percent thought it was happening in their own companies.
Our point is that a huge fortune is being spent on training that is disconnected from actual need, implemented haphazardly by people removed from the point of impact, and virtually unmeasured in terms of actual improved results. So when we talk about "inadequacy of HR measures" we're trying to be nice.
What's actually occurring is malfeasant.
Companies are measuring everything except what matters most, and they are leaving human performance improvement to a staff area that has little clout, little credibility, and little incentive to prove the efficacy of its home-grown or purchased alternatives and solutions.
We've Got Your Back
If you wouldn't trust your strategy or financial results to human resources, why would you trust your human performance results to them?
We've taken this time to try to incite you to appreciate that what many people feel is under control is actually chaos, and what may seem to be obvious is actually being ignored. Our position is that human performance measures are an executive accountability no less than budgetary adherence, product commercialization, or customer retention.
Career development shouldn't be haphazard or opportunistic, but should be connected firmly with organizational strategy, talent needs, and succession planning. Senior managers should be evaluated on how well they are developing their people to meet increasing performance goals, and every investment in human performance improvement should require commensurate metrics for return on that investment.
We'll speak later in this book about a "return on energy" invested in human performance. But for the moment we're talking about a much simpler, much more basic concept: Are you getting your money's worth on your investment in people, or are you merely giving your human resources department something to do or, worse, making some training vendors wealthy?
The four components of human performance
We've observed four pragmatic components to human performance at work, not in theory. We all need to keep this simple, but we can't get it down to three, so we're happy to say we've made it as simple (though not as easy) as it can get.
Component #1: The desire to work
Although Maslow calls it the highest level of need3, self-actualization is actually a basic desire to work. Whether trading stock futures or driving a bus, fighting fires or building medical devices, the ideal worker must take gratification from the work.
Work can't be merely the satisfaction of physical, monetary, and security needs (Maslow's lowest levels). It must provide for the application of one's talents, the gratification of their successful use, and recognition of that success.
Many people don't have the basic desire to work. Sometimes it's pseudo- cultural, where work is considered "beneath" someone. Sometimes it's because the only work to be had with limited skills is unappealing, or unsafe, or unhealthy. Sometimes the boss is a horror show. (People don't leave companies. As a rule, they leave bosses). And sometimes people have an entitlement attitude, which prompts them to believe they are due a paycheck but are not obligated to provide anything in return.
I remember one general manager at a division of Merck telling me that things weren't so good since "Joe retired".
"But Joe is right over there", I pointed out.
"I didn't say he left", said the GM, "I just said he's retired".
Component #2: Adequate skills
A desire to work and gratification from work are insufficient if one lacks the skills necessary to perform. Some are physical, such as keyboard use as in our earlier example. Some are cognitive, such as being able to adapt to change rapidly or write well.
It's always been fascinating to us that most of the dealers in the casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City or anywhere else are not college graduates, yet they can calculate complex odds and payoffs in their heads extremely rapidly to keep the game lively and the bets coming. Watch the staff around a craps table and you'll be highly impressed as they advise the bettors when they can place better odds or are missing a good prospective bet.
These skills are mastered because:
1. They are essential for successful gaming.
2. The casino insists on it.
3. The casino provides training but if you're not good at such calculations you'll be replaced.
Whether driving a bus or performing open-heart surgery, a certain set of skills is essential for success. Sometimes they come with the employee, sometimes they are taught on the job. Skills can also erode and/or become obsolescent. (We no longer need very many typewriter repair people.)
Component #3: Correct behaviors
As Bob Mager has titled one of his books on performance objectives, You Really Oughta Wanna. Many people have legitimate gratification objectives and adequate skills, but they lack the correct set of behaviors.
For example, an investigative reporter had better be highly assertive, not merely accepting "No" for an answer. A member of the clergy has to be persuasive and approachable. A bank teller has to have great patience for repetition but high attention to detail. An airline pilot must be calm under pressure (hence "The Right Stuff").
Salespeople who are not assertive generally don't do very well. People who must sit in corporate meetings who have low levels of patience will go crazy (or make others crazy). Doctors with low attention to detail tend to make errors (which is why an alarming number of patients are left with foreign, medical objects in their bodies post-surgery).
The behaviors have to match the job results expected. Imagine a therapist who is overly assertive and highly impatient: "Look, I've had it with your whining. Either call your mother or don't, but let's move on!"
Component #4: The right attitudes
If you hire nothing else, hire enthusiasm. Hire energy. Hire excitement. Hire passion. These are not teachable. You can teach people your content (business details) and the skills required, as pointed out above.
But you can't teach them to excite a prospect, or be passionate about your products, or be an object of interest. I don't expect my tax accountant to be someone I'd love to watch football with, but I do expect him to love numbers. If my lawyer's life balance is messed up because he's working 12 hours a day on the law he loves, I'm okay with that, even if his spouse isn't.
As we explore human performance and its measurement more in the following chapters, bear in mind that these four raw materials are vital, and only some of them can be built by the employer, although all of them can be nurtured by the employer.
We've Got Your Back
The best people crave autonomy and empowerment where they are allowed to make decisions which influence the outcome of their work. Wherever possible, allow them to do so.
The three lenses
Organizations tend to measure too much. We all do. It's as if metrics are a security blanket we can tote around to give us comfort in troubling times.
There are ancient bromides such as: "If it's not worth measuring, it's not worth doing". Or this: "If you can't measure it, it's not happening". Well, we tend not to measure kindness, or sympathy, or aesthetics, or support systems, but they certainly are present and make our lives better. Thus, you can try to measure the unmeasurable, and you can also measure that which needs no measures.
In terms of human performance, we now track hundredths of a second in athletic performance, and tiny fractions in leaps and vaults. (Remember when a horse could win "by a nose"?!) When I ran track, the guys at the finish line determined who crossed the tape first—by looking at it. Yet there was rarely a protest, probably because we all realized what the system was and accepted it. "False starts" were called in the dashes by eye; today, they're "called" by electronic sensors. Even in tennis, the fun of the debate over a line call has been diminished by machines making their own "call".
Yet, we wouldn't want the subjectivity of, say, figure skating or platform diving to determine our business results. (The Romanian judge is giving you an ROI of only 2.3 percent for the year.)
So where does that leave us?
We'd like to suggest three "lenses" through which to view performance. We use lenses on cameras to block out unwanted light, or to create special effects, or to examine something in the far distance or right under our noses with greater detail and accuracy. Why not use them for human performance?
Lens 1: The customer
The primary judge of performance has to be the end user—in our case the customer or the client. Whether you are a business-to-business operation or a business-to-consumer firm, you have customers. Peter Drucker claimed that the entire purpose of a business was to have customers, otherwise it couldn't exist.
Excerpted from Who's Got Your Back? by Alan Weiss, Omar Khan. Copyright © 2013 Alan Weiss & Omar Khan. Excerpted by permission of Global Professional Publishing Ltd.
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Table of Contents
Who’s Yardstick Shall We Use? The Evolution and applicabilityIt’s Just Business Why people have to be measuredThe Right Relationships Forming partnerships with “buyers” and stakeholdersGet It In Writing Using documentation and validating what you seeWill You Accept the Facts or Your Lying Eyes? How to observe without being observedRaising the Bar Forensics are not just for CSIGaining Commitment, Not Merely Compliance Painting people into the pictureLike Gum on Your Shoe Making change stickYou Can Compare Apples and Oranges (both fruit, both roundish) Evaluating ROI and further needsCrystal Ball Predictions for people and the world of work