Employee Ranking Systems LO16754

Ben Compton (BCompton@dws.net)
Thu, 29 Jan 1998 08:56:25 -0500

Replying to LO16705 --


I'd be happy to answer your questions.

"I think compensation has more to do with leveraging risk, skills
marketability, expected return on investment in the human resource (and
probably several other components that don't occur to me right now). "

That is part of determining the initial value of an employee. When you
hire someone you make a number of critical decisions: Will this person be
a profitable employee? Will they be productive? Will they work well with
others or will they not? I would agree that hiring an employee involves

Once the employee has been hired, and is working, it is easier to measure
their value; to determine if the risk taken was beneficial. There will
always be differences in performance and competence. No two people will
ever be the same. One may be more competent but less productive, or vice
versa. One may be less productive, comptent, but have a vision that
enables the team, departments, division, etc. to explore the future in a
useful manner. This is where it is important to have clearly defined
values, against which the value of an employee can be measured. Values
exist in a hierarchy. This needs to be understood by those who will
evaluate the employees, because it would be unethical for them to keep an
employee they liked but who had lesser value than to keep one they didn't
like but who had more value. It is exactly this scenario that makes
managing my emotion or subjective criteria dangerous. Whenever we trade a
lower value for a higher value, we place ourselves in jeopardy, assuming,
of course, that our values are structured in a logical and reasonable

Once the values of the company are defined, then the expectations of the
employee should be documented. I would call these job responsibilities.
With responsibilities defined, then you need to define concrete measures
that allow management to determine if each employee is performing those
duties. That leads to three questions: How well does each employee do at
performing their duties? How well do they do relative to each other? Is
this job maximizing the skills of the employees currently doing the work?

The answer to these questions allow managers to rank employees based on
objective criteria, and make personel changes according to what is really
going on not what the managers think is going on or hope is going on.

"Referees are not as well compensated as most professional basketball
players, I'm told. Are they less valuable? Sure couldn't have a game
without them (despite most peoples' thoughts to the contrary)."

A referee is less valuable to the people paying to watch the basketball
game. Simply put, people don't pay to watch the referees, they pay to
watch the atheletes. Their value is determined by those who pay to watch
the activity. How could it be otherwise?

"According to many diversity surveys, women and other ethnic/racial
minorities tend to end up in the lower-compensation rungs (in the US) than
their white, male counterparts. Where does value ring in here?"

In a rational society, that would never be the case. The value of a person
would be determined by their competence, performance, and subsequent
productivity. The fact that there is disparity is an indictment on the
irrationality of our society. All I know to do is live my life as
rationally as possible, and hope that others make a commitment to do the
same. I can't help but feel that other factors get involved in this, such
as religious beliefs, social theory, and personal prejudices learned in
the home.

For instance, I used to be a Mormon. The leader of the Mormon church, back
in 1986 or 1987, gave a speech in which he said it was essentially wrong
for mothers to work. He even went so far to say that it was bad for the
economy to have mothers work. There was a lot of debate created in the
local congregations over this talk. Some mothers quit their jobs, came
home, and became a homemaker. Others rebelled, and kept their jobs. Both
groups denied their anger, and sacrificed what they wanted and desired for
someone else - - namely the leader of the church. I know other Christians
who have been told essentially the same thing by their church leaders,
(not to mention the Bible which says women are to be subject to their
husbands). These are powerful forces that play into our work lives.

Another example is racism. I was raised in South Carolina. My parents
moved to Utah because they couldn't stand the idea of desegregation. In my
home, I was raised to think of blacks as less than human. A black person,
I thought, should never be able to use the same bathroom as a white
person. I also thought that black people were lazy and unproductive, and
lived off the hard work of the white men. Then I grew up, left home, and
moved far away. I had been on my own less than 48 hours when I made the
acquiantance of a black man. He was one of the most intelligent people
I've ever known. He was also one of the hardest workers I've ever known.
It confused the hell out of me. He was kind and patient enough to help me
explore my racist attitudes, and get them corrected. He has become a dear
friend. I'm now horrified by my family's racist attitudes. A persons value
isn't determined by his race, but by his competence and productivity.
Nonetheless it takes a lot to tear down the walls of bigotry.

As far as I can see, reason is man's only hope of ever overcoming these
problems. But people are so attached to their emotions, their prejudices,
and their fears, that they leave little room for reason. That's a great

"I am also curious, Ben, how much of the values that you are sharing with
us here reflect your experiences with Novell, which you've shared with us
so well. Are these the values that they espoused in their assessment of
employee value, the need to artificially generate competition and
otherwise (no other word for it, Ben) dehumanize the organizational

Novell dehumanized the workplace by rewarding mediocrity. The top
performers were never rewarded accordingly. The high performers were never
recognized nor rewarded according to their work. And so they left the
company, went to work for Microsoft, and left those of us who believed we
could make a difference to fight the battle alone.

Those who managed my division were terrified of competition. They wanted
everyone to feel good about their work. That is an impossible dream. To
make the low performers feel good, you have to piss off the top
performers. To settle on the middle ground is to piss off both the top and
the bottom performers. Novell did a terrible job at choosing who they
would piss off, so they ended up pissing everyone off - - both their
employees and their customers. This is a critical element, here, because
Novell gave equal value to all their customers. That has cost them a lot
of money, and frustrated a lot of their most valuable customers. There
were a couple of us who said, "If you're going to be in business you'd
better be ready to decide, up front, you you're going to make angry. You
can't satisfy everyone. If you try, you'll end up dead." Our warnings were
left unheeded. And it's a sad thing to watch that company, and especially
my old division, continue to strangle themselves.

No I didn't get my current thinking from Novell. If anything I was
influenced to think the way I do in opposition to what I knew at Novell.

Did I answer your questions?

Benjamin Compton
DWS Computer Consultants
"The GroupWise Integration Experts"
E-Mail: bcompton@emailsolutions.com

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