Performance MetricsWe talk about the importance of measurement and 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 real 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 with a shared vision.

Why Team Members Fall Short

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 or understanding of goals;
  2. Bad organizational culture
  3. Fear of risk (often due to organizational culture issues, job risk, future risk);
  4. Long-term timeframes;
  5. Lack of control over future or choices;
  6. Unfocused vision;
  7. Bad fit (either in position or culture).

Not surprisingly most of these factors influence, support, or amplify each other. iew 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 often becomes more difficult to translate the long-term organization vision and goals 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 when 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, but don’t seem to actually be able to deliver the service environment they pride themselves on.

Contradictory Performance Metrics and Goals


The performance metrics set for team members who serve as the front line for customer service do not align with goals which actually support customer service.

So for example, a customer service call center associate might be measured by how many calls they get through or how long they are on a call with a customer (shorter time preferred). But do those goals align with an ideal customer service environment?

Operationally focused performance metrics often don’t translate effectively into relationship goals. And so for these poor employees, the “theoretical goal” of superior customer service requires different actions than the goals they are actually measured on.

Guess which one will take priority in their actions?

Always ask yourself when you set a performance metric:

“What type of result will a particular metric create?”

“What actions does it reward?”

Can Your Team See The Long-Term Vision?

Right along with this, it is easy to set team performance metrics that get stuck in the “tactics weeds.” And without goals or proper context to leverage, team members are unable to see the point of their role.

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

They lack a sense of purpose.

And while we can rant about needed the team to feel a sense of ownership, as leaders it is also our responsibility to help them understand how they have it.

Each position in a team plays a role an important role. While some might serve as larger or smaller parts of the whole, every part in a clock is required for it to work.

It is crucial for 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.

And if you struggle to see the role any team member plays in the goals of the organization, then you need to reevaluate the need for that role.

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.

A 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. It also means that while long-term results (as far as the 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 the 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 the 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 rewards, praise, and continued motivation (even if just as simple as an acknowledgment) 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 can tell you if the performance metrics used help or hinder.

Even better: let your team help decide the performance metrics they are evaluated against. This instantly develops a sense of ownership in their own success.

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

photo credit: start here via photopin (license)

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino