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Performance Improvement


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 for promotion

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, Opinions

  • 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.


Help Available
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 analysis.

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:

Hostedware 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 products online.

This article researched and compiled by Loconotion, Inc., a full service interactive agency, specializing in performance marketing, web writing, and web design. Visit (, email, or call 360.221.8939.


Hostedware Corporation is a pioneer in providing online software solutions for research, education and performance improvement. Hosted Survey and Hosted Test are used by human resources professionals, market researchers, education and training organizations and membership associations worldwide.