Employee Ranking Systems LO16644

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@compuserve.com)
Thu, 22 Jan 1998 10:04:09 -0500

Replying to LO16613 --

Just a mildly dissenting voice on this issue.

First of all, ranking is not particularly healthy, and should be avoided
whenever possible. Second, though, ranking, whether or not explicit,
literally cannot ever be avoided, so we may as well find some benefits of

Ranking per se, is not bad. How the ranking is used is the crux of the
problem. If I can determine that someone does not perform as well as all
the other people who have essentially the same environment, wouldn't it be
worth my while to determine why? Is there something for that person to
learn? Is there something about how that person intersects with the
organizational culture? Would she be happier in another culture? Is the
culture likely to become more friendly to her style in the near future?
Is there a niche for that person in this culture where she can shine?

The tool is not the problem here, but the user of the tool. If we use a
scalpel as a hammer, we can be assured it won't work. So what's the big
surprise in that?

Learning does not occur by mindlessly treating everyone the same. It
comes about by understanding deeply the differences, and the sources of
the differences. Ranking is a crude tool, but it helps one focus where
there is the most opportunity.

Someone else said management systems are not perfect. Of course not,
neither are any of us. However, management must deal with the imperfect
world that is. Management needs tools to do that. It frequently sounds
as if the HR gurus would have us believe we all exist in an ambiguous
cloud of uncertainty, and therefore, no improvement efforts should be
undertaken until clarity is gained. We can't wait that long.

Among good managers, this is not about competition, it is about learning.
Among bad managers, eliminating ranking will have no effect. So let's
focus on the bad managers, not on the tool.

Someone said,

> It makes as much sense to rank people as it does to rank components of
> your automobile. When you are done identifying the top performing parts,
> are you going to get rid of the under-performers (the wheels aren't doing
> their job, lets 'reassign' them outside' the company)? Are you going to
> turn the under- performers into copies of the top performers (we will be
> better off having two outstanding engine blocks and that poor performing
> exhaust system will no longer be a strain on our management resources)?

This is a faulty analogy. The automobile is a linear, well-understood
machine. Organizations are far more complex, and they depend for forward
movement on emergence of new ideas and processes from engage, energized
employees. Those who are not engaged are not really earning their pay as
effectively as others, and need help to reach that level of performance.
The impact is that others have to pick up the burden of compensating for
those who are not performing. And furthermore, ranking does not at all
imply 'getting rid of under-performers'. What one does with the ranking
is all.

Rol Fessenden

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