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Podcast | Performance Measurement: Are We Getting It All Wrong?

Whether it’s measuring outcomes without understanding how we got there or shoehorning people into old-school performance models, there are plenty of pitfalls.

In this episode, Ron Stock helped us unpick the old ways and build something for the modern world.

Expect to learn how to measure skills effectively, the fundamentals of modern performance management, why it’s crucial to understand how we arrived at an outcome, and much more.

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Running order

0:00 Intro to the show
2:17 What happens when you get it wrong?
4:08 The building blocks
8:31 Four measurement areas for ‘The What’.
12:30 ‘The How’ and its three components.
19.25 Skills economies and career mobility
32:05 Audience question: Where do you start?
38:20 Dealing with pushback.
39:45 Why Bell Curves don’t work.
45:45 Audience question: Decoupling performance and reward.
49:00 Quick Wins For Performance Measurement

Lessons on building a better performance measurement approach

We spend too much time focusing on the what and not enough on the how

“And when we speak about the what, we’re really talking about setting targets and setting goals… but there isn’t enough focus on how we got there.” – Ron Stock.

Ron gave a great example of a company who set these gargantuan targets for the next three months, even though it’ll quadruple their employees’ workload. Now, by some miracle, they manage it.

Cause for celebration, right? Not necessarily, because there’s another side to the story…

Bridges might have been burned by strained relationships, stress might be up, morale might be down – and all because we pushed people too hard and didn’t bake in that assessment of how we got there as a measurement of success.

And that is a company that hits short-term goals but will struggle in the long term because it doesn’t have the foundations to reach future objectives.

It’s not growth at all costs, it’s growth responsibly.

Getting the what right: Once employees are settled, let them lead the goal-setting process

“Now they’ve shown they have the skills to execute this role and deserve to be here, you flick the switch… The employee needs to lead this and it’s something many companies get wrong today, they’re not allowing employees to lead the goal-setting process… but that gets maximum buy-in.” – Ron Stock

The goal is for the manager to be there to provide guidance, connect us to the company goals and push back where we’re not.

And that’s a good reminder that we should ensure our company goals are clear and clearly communicated. Otherwise, we’re not creating the environment for people to move the performance needle.

Getting the how right: The Skills Proficiency 

“We need to be measuring skills as a form of currency and ability to do a task… When you go online and look at skills, you get loads of words coming up: capability, skills, competency.

“So I sat down and thought, where do we need to focus and make this ultra-simple? We know that if we can simplify a complex topic, our audience will engage better, and our managers will play ball.” – Ron Stock

And Ron believes there are three categories of skills you need to know and build out for each role to measure performance:

1. Technical skills: Occupation-specific skills that enable and qualify you to be here. And you can break these out into general or niche, depending on how deep you want to go.

2. Personal skills: This is about working independently and contributing, translating to skills like problem-solving or critical thinking.

3. Social skills: How well do we work with others, from communication to relationship building, empathy and beyond. 

You’ll notice that Ron has essentially broken down what we might call soft skills into two parts, and the reason is that it allows us to be specific! Someone might have great people skills but lack strong social skills. 

The better we understand the particularities of someone’s skills, the easier it is to build them.

We need a proficiency scale for every skill

“Start with four or five, start as simple as possible. Starting from training required to you’re a trainer – you can coach other people on this skill.” – Ron Stock.

This helps you build a skills economy, where you understand the skills and proficiency in your company. This creates better hiring, L&D, people enablement, and therefore improved performance. 

And when we measure skills and performance, we can build better talent mobility programs by connecting people to work related to skills.

Dealing with pushback in measuring skills

“When the partnerships with managers are happening, we really need buy-in… but for them to do that process is time-consuming.” – Ron Stock

On top of time being a barrier, we’ve also got the challenge of knowledge. Do our managers know how to measure and write up these proficiencies and profiles when it comes to skills? If not, how do we enable them to do it?

Managers might have different opinions on capabilities and skills based on their experience, it’s important to set clear expectations and guidelines so we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.