Employee Ranking Systems LO17539

Brock Vodden (brock.vodden@odyssey.on.ca)
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 02:34:42 -0500

Replying to LO17530 --


I think we agree on every point raised.

I make a distinction between ranking and assessment. Assessment, of
course, is an essential function for individual performers as well as for
working groups, and enterprises. What I find suspect about ranking systems
is that they purport to sum up the performance of a number of individuals
(whose duties, responsibilities, actions, and achievements are often very
complex) over an extended period of time, and distill these down to one
or several ratings which are then treated as absolute and objective
measures of the relative value of these performances. I have yet to
discover a system which is capable of that level of complex measurement.
Little wonder that such systems engender skepticism among employees.

I would like to respond to several of your comments.

>You point out --
>insightfully, I might add -- that when objectives and purpose are unclear,
>assessment systems do not work. I would expand that a bit, and say when
>objectives and purpose are unclear, organizations do not work, whether
>they have assessment systems or not. The critical aspect of successful
>organizations, in other words, is clarity of purpose. Do you agree with
>that, or do you have different experiences?

Totally agreed. I have encountered some organizations which have clear
business purposes, but at the same time have a very regressive performance
appraisal system. These organizations in most instances are involved in
complex industries with very demanding standards of technical performance.
Their human resource practices are naive. They adopt HR practices, such as
performance appraisal, with very little thought. They respond
enthusiastically in most cases when introduced to an analysis of their
practices and some positive alternatives.

>I agree with you that one can create high performing organizations without
>assessment. I too have experienced that. On the other hand, as
>organizations get larger, I am not sure this continues to be possible or
>practical. What do you think?

Not quite what I said. "One can create high performing organizations
without ranking."

I think assessment is essential regardless of size. The key assessor, in
my approach, is the performer himself/herself. The person's manager,
peers, and subordinates can provide invaluable assistance in the
assessment as well.

>I have two aspects of my assessment systems that I think are important.
>One is that we do not intend to be objective. We are clear up front that
>we use subjective judgement, and we are values-driven. Some people are
>uncomfortable with this, but in my experience this is essential. The
>second point, perhaps the most important, is that the prime purpose of the
>assessment system is to learn, not to judge, not to declare someone a
>success or a failure. As a consequence of learning, performance improves.

My approach is in complete agreement with this.

>Personally, I find a well-executed assessment process to be an excellent
>communications tool, an excellent learning tool, and an excellent tool to
>create alignment in the organization. This third becomes important in
>larger organizations.

Completely agree.

Brock Vodden


"Brock Vodden" <brock.vodden@odyssey.on.ca>

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>