Using Surveys and Assessments to Guide Performance Improvement
Christine James of Loconotion, Inc., for Hostedware Corporation
The balance of the current labor market is currently tipped
in favor of the corporate and industrial world. In March 2003,
the Bureau of Labor Statistics (1) announced that there were
8.4 million unemployed people in the USA - a rate of 5.8%.
There is a good deal of qualified personnel available.
However, whether or not personnel is in plentiful supply,
productivity suffers when businesses are unaware of their
staff's needs and capabilities. For example, creating a department
head who isn't a natural leader, or training a person in a
job for which he is unsuited is not only a waste of time,
it is a waste of money both directly (training costs) and
indirectly (loss of productivity/sales).
One way to avoid these situations is to have in place projects
designed to improve performance.
What Are Performance Improvement Projects?
Performance Improvement Projects are programs that enable
employees to function productively and happily within a position
that suits both personality and skill-level. This is important
in any job market situation. Companies that become complacent,
leaving staff to just "get on with" the job, could soon suffer
from a reduction in productivity and a negative atmosphere
within the company.
A well-balanced Performance Improvement Project will:
- Ensure that the right person is in the right job
- Assist employees to be proficient their jobs
- Encourage employees to develop within their own jobs
- Assist employees to understand where their particular
tasks fit into the bigger picture
- Help plan certification training that will develop suitability
According to Jim Fuller, author of "Managing Performance
Improvement Projects", many performance improvement projects
have demonstrated payback of greater than 10:1.
Where to Start?
Before a performance improvement project is put into place
a range of data about company personnel needs to be collected.
Any project that is not supported by accurate data will fail.
A suggestion of a good base on which to build this knowledge
base is to discover:
- Capabilities: The importance of knowing the capabilities
of your employees seems to be a fairly obvious requirement.
However, bear in mind that one function within a company
is different to a similar function in another company. Also,
in a progressive company, functions are flexible there is
a natural growth and changing of shape. Knowing personnel's
capabilities both appropriate to and beyond the scope of
their functions is vital to facilitate this growth.
- Improvement: People are different. One employee may function
within a job very efficiently, but is unwilling to upgrade
his/her skills. Another may constantly be pushing boundaries
and improving skills. While the second example sounds more
desirable, both types of employee are necessary and valuable.
It is extremely important to be aware of the willingness
or reluctance of employees to develop their skills.
- Initiative: There are people who are willing to take
initiative in improving and streamlining their job functions,
and people who are happy to continue as they always have.
Again, both types may be important to the company, but it
is of prime importance to place these people within a function
where they will thrive.
- Leadership: It's important to know which employees are
"leaders" and which are "followers",
and to ensure they are positioned correctly within the company.
- Teamwork: Teamwork is more important in some positions
than in others, and employees not skilled in teamwork should
be placed carefully.
Information Gathering and Involvement
The only way to gather meaningful data is to involve every
single staff member in the process of information gathering.
This is achieved through a three-phase process of using surveys,
assessments and evaluation. As simple as this may sound, it's
important to construct this process correctly. Not doing so
can cause resentment and resistance from personnel.
Surveys: The "CEO" Approach - Clarity, Empowerment,
- Be clear about the purpose of the survey. In the current
economy, people are nervous about the possibility of losing
their jobs. Explain that the purpose of your survey is to
reinforce your staff members - not get rid of them.
- Ask the right questions in the right way. Do not ask questions
in a way that could be considered threatening. Make your
questions empowering, and be clear about the fact that there
are no "wrong answers."
- Ask for suggestions within the survey. If employees can
see that their opinions are valued and acted upon, they
will be less likely to see their relationship with management
as a "we and they" situation.
Assessment: An Ongoing Check System
Continual assessment of staff serves to correct any inaccuracies
in the results of surveys, showing:
- If employees are performing at an optimum level
- Dissatisfaction or frustration
- Readiness for promotion
- Use of ingenuity and inventiveness
- Suitability for position
Naturally, the first two steps in the information gathering
process are useless unless an accurate and ongoing evaluation
of the results takes place. It is essential for management
to know, at any given time, the mood and capabilities of employees.
Good management will use this information to make changes
within the infrastructure of the company, as well as the employee
structure. Correct analysis of the data collected points the
way to effective training and certification programs, as well
as improved inter-personnel relationships.
The construction of an effective three-step information gathering
process is a balancing act that requires enormous skill and
sophisticated tools. "Successful and efficient information
gathering depends on proven survey and testing methodology
that is tailored for the unique needs of the project, together
with cost effective software solutions that have the flexibility,
reliability and features developed specifically for this purpose"
according to Dennis Frayne, Founder and CEO of Hostedware
Corporation, one of the leading software developers of these
specialty online tools. Using a knowledge base gathered from
previous customers, surveys and assessments are compiled with
a high degree of accuracy and relevance. The entire process
is web-enabled, making it more desirable to participants,
more convenient to management, and more accurate as regards
A Tale of Two Companies
These times could be considered as the best of times and the
worst of times in the labor market, so let's consider the
tale of two companies. The first moved personnel around the
company at will, regardless of their skills and training.
The other listened to their staff, assessed their capabilities
and made sure they were placed in the correct positions.
Guess which company has a happier and more productive staff?
(1) This information can be found at the Bureau of Labor
Statistics website: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
Corporation , in existence since the late 90s, is the
original and leading provider of fully hosted, online web
survey software, online testing software, and related data
entry and custom reporting services. Its custom services are
designed to support customers in using their web-based survey
This article researched and compiled by Loconotion, Inc.,
a full service interactive agency, specializing in performance
marketing, web writing, and web design. Visit (www.loconotion.com),
or call 360.221.8939.
Corporation is a pioneer in providing online software
solutions for research, education and performance improvement.
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