Laura Petrolino

Performance Metrics: Why Your Team Doesn’t Measure Up

By: Laura Petrolino | May 6, 2015 | 
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Performance Metrics: Why Your Team Doesn't Measure UpBy Laura Petrolino

We talk about the importance of PR and performance metrics a lot here at Spin Sucks.

Choosing the right PR metrics to measure, how to find the ROI of PR, and the importance of bringing it all together so your communications campaigns directly influence business goals.

Today, I’m going to focus on the internal side of performance metrics.

After all, success is a team effort and in order to achieve the aggressive goals we put in place for our clients’ or our own organizations, our team has to be fully engaged.

What causes team members to not be fully on board in achieving the same goals?

It could be the result of several reasons. Some of the most common include:

  1. Conflicting goals;
  2. Risk (cultural, job, future);
  3. Long-term timeframes;
  4. Lack of control; or
  5. Unfocused goals.

I’m going to discuss each of these briefly and review ways to improve what you measure internally, and as a result your team’s effectiveness and success.

Do Your Performance Metrics Reinforce Your Goals?

As your team grows, it becomes more difficult to translate the long-term organization vision to each team member.

Right along with that comes a difficulty in translating organization goals.

We might think all team members understand and are aligned with the overall goals of the organization, but that often isn’t the case.

Not only does this result from a breakdown in the communications pipeline, but also because the performance metrics set for team members don’t reinforce those organizational goals or vision.

In fact, frequently the performance metrics set for the team actually contradict the goals of the organization.

You see this often when a company prides itself on customer service—even uses it as a key point of differentiation from it’s competitors—but the performance metrics set for team members who serve as the front line for customer service are more focused on numbers instead of customer experience.

Just as you create short- and long-term goals when you build a communications strategy, when you set team performance metrics, you should also look at the big picture. Ask yourself, “What type of situation will a particular metric create?”

You must balance the operational side with the service side, not just “in theory,” but in measurement as well.

Can Your Team See the Big Picture?

Right along with this, it is easy to set team performance metrics that get stuck in the weeds, and set team members up to be focused on goals that are so distant from the long-term goal they are unable to see the point of their role.

They feel unfocused and disconnected from the end goal and what the organization is doing.

While each position plays a role, and some might serve as larger or smaller parts of the whole, every part in a clock is required for it to work and it is crucial team members of all levels understand:

  • How their role fits into the overall strategy;
  • Why it is crucial for achieving larger goals; and
  • How each performance metric they are measured against helps move the larger goals forward.

Make sure there is a clear relationship between these things, and make sure you can and do explain it to team members.

What’s the Risk?

Everything has risk, but if your team feels performance metrics are too high, or they lack control in really being able to achieve laid out metrics, they will disengage.

Perceived risk could take many forms:

  • Job risk: The most obvious one. Will their job, promotion, or future be at risk if they fail?
  • Cultural risk: Is it a safe place to succeed, or take risks, in general? Is the culture one that encourages success and proactivity—along with some of the mistakes that might come with those things? Or does it expect perfection or nothing at all?
  • Peer risk: Is hitting performance metrics and succeeding accepted and applauded within each individual peer group? Or will the employee risk being the outcast for being a high performer?

As a leader, it is important to make sure the culture of the organization is one that allows team members to aggressively work to reach goals in an environment that supports the risks which come with proactivity and growth.

Motivation and Rewards: Do Yours Measure Up?

Do the rewards you provide for achieving laid-out performance goals matter to employees?

This goes back to communicating their role in the overall operation, but it also means that while long-term results (as far as success of the project), should be rewarded, so should milestones on shorter timeframes.

Team members at lower levels especially need to be able to see rewards at shorter intervals.

Unlike executive team members, they might not necessarily feel as invested or care about long-term growth of the organization.

They might be in a different position, or with an entirely different organization five years, two years, or even six months down the line. So motivation to continue to excel—and possibly even encourage to engage at a deeper level and stay with the organization long-term—needs to be built upon both long- and short-term successes.

Keep employees at all levels motivated by providing reward, praise, and continued motivation (even if just as simple as acknowledgement) throughout all stages of projects.

Communication is Key In Setting and Achieving Performance Metrics

So how do we pull this all together?

If you want to make sure the performance metrics you use to evaluate your team are actually productive in helping you achieve your overall organization goals (or that of your clients), you must:

  1. Be consistent. Look at the long-term effectiveness of performance metrics used. Do they actually correspond with and support overall goals? Are they arbitrary or, even worse, conflicting?
  2. Communicate Context. Make sure all team members understand the importance of their role in context of the larger goals for the organization. And then, within that framework, make sure they understand how the performance metrics they are being evaluated with help move forward those goals.
  3. Be Collaborative. Often managers set goals without really understanding the role the employee plays—a day in the life, so to speak. Thus performance metrics are set without a clear understanding of how challenging they might be to achieve, or if they even make sense. Take the time to discuss performance metrics with your teams. Once they understand their role in context of the bigger picture, they will be able to clearly tell you if the performance metrics being used help or hinder.

Even better if you let your team help decide the performance metrics they are being evaluated against they instantly have a sense of ownership of their own success.

You are what you measure, and so are your team members. Choosing the right performance metrics is key to creating a team that delivers.

photo credit: start here via photopin (license)

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • One thing I feel you didn’t bring up is methodology. Goals should not be dictated from the top down. What I have seen many times is this happening and the employees affected saying ‘Are they smoking crack?’ and then just blowing off the goals because they are unattainable. But instead of explaining to upper management reality….they will just complain to each other in private like when out at lunch. It does no one any good. Especially when compensation is part of it.
    Nothing is funnier (when it isn’t affecting you) to hear ‘I guess they don’t want to pay us because those goals are crazy’ and then management says ‘Wow can’t believe they don’t want us to pay them more money’.

  • Howie Goldfarb This is slightly different BUT ….. in one of the contact centers I worked with, everyone’s metrics were posted for all to see. That has its good and bad points (and as you said if the metrics relate to goals the reps had no hand in developing, that could NEVER be realistically achieved, that’s a different story and problem). But there’s something to be said for knowing exactly where you stand.

  • I love this whole post, and this is something I struggled with as a supervisor, especially since we were a not for profit and goals did not have a DIRECT financial impact. I was almost always the one arguing that we COULD do it, though. Establish some type of baseline at least ….. 

    I was just writing about this when doing a post about the New One Minute Manager — and specifically highlighted the fact that people LOVE it when they know what is expected of them.

  • This fits so well with Jay’s post from yesterday afternoon. Really, whatever you do, you begin with the end in mind. What do I want to achieve with my marketing campaign? OK, here’s how to get there. What do I want my business to achieve? OK, here’s how each team member can help make that happen.

  • danielschiller

    Yes to “Cultural Risk”— do members feel they can safely take risks? Team members should be expected to have some say in their own performance KPI’s. I’d think that’s almost a requirement, right? They should also feel supported in their efforts. But maybe I’ve been inhaling my own fumes too long.

  • Howie Goldfarb It’s always amazing to me how often there are disconnects like that between management and staff. Personally, it irritates me when people fail to communicate with management about stuff like that. Obviously, sometimes they’re not open to feedback, but so many people don’t even try.

  • danielschiller You would think this would be common sense, but it’s not. I’d actually say that organizations where team members can find one or both of these things are the exceptions and not the rule. And then leaders wonder why people are under performing. 

    I’ve seen many organizations where not only do team members have no say, but they don’t really even understand why they are being measured against the metrics they are. There is absolutely no connection.

  • Eleanor Pierce Yep, exactly. And that internal and external piece have to align up!

  • biggreenpen I actually thought of you when I was writing this post! I know this is something we’ve chatted about before. 

    And I can’t wait to see your one minute manager post!

  • Eleanor Pierce Howie Goldfarb Yep, agreed on all counts. And you are exactly right Howie, that’s a problem you see often. And all of it points to a bigger problem– a breakdown in internal communication.  

    And if leadership doesn’t clearly communicate that feedback on these things is ok and welcome it will always just stay at a peer-level, and continue to build and reflect negatively on a large scale across the company (internally and externally). 

    It all starts at the top.

  • biggreenpen Howie Goldfarb We do this. We all have measurable goals and track against them publicly, We review them weekly and where everyone is on our staff meetings.

  • lkpetrolino

    susancellura how’s life lady?

  • susancellura

    lkpetrolino hey! Staying busy! Ramping up the biz, blogging, and motivating E thru 3 more wks of school! U?

  • Pingback: Customer Loyalty in a Changing World by @lkpetrolino Spin Sucks()

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