Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Performance Reviews, 360's, Personality Tests-What Is Really Happening?

Managers in organizations seek out ways to measure and improve the performance of employees and develop "high potential" employees for placement in the company succession plan. You likely have experienced some or several versions of performance reviews, perhaps participated in a 360 Review process or been asked to complete an assessment such as the Myers Brigg Type Indicator (registered trademark) or the Emotional Intelligence/Quotient questionnaire. So what do these have in common, how are they different and how are they intended to be used?

Traditional forms of performance review focus on the past, the manager completes a form that assigns a rating on some type of scale. Most of these reviews have a mid-year assessment and a year end assessment and some will include areas of development for the future. Critics of such reviews point out that regular feedback throughout the year has a greater impact on performance than simply completing a form twice a year  that focusses on events that are too far in the past. Another common complaint about this process is that managers use these forms as the only method of communicating problems with an employees performance, often blindsiding the employee at review time. Organizations will also use the ratings from these forms to determine pay increases where merit increases are in place and in some programs they will also use them to determine year over year performance for promotion or termination purposes.

360 Reviews are best used for development purposes and not intended to be used as performance reviews or for determination of pay or promotion. 360 reviews can provide valuable information to the subject of the review as to how peers, direct reports and their managers view their performance and cultural fit. They are however, subjective reviews and can be affected by recents events around the person being reviewed. Employees that do receive 360 reports should have allocated coaching time to help them determine what to focus on and how to write a development plan for competency areas that will affect their career.

Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) groups respondents into 16 different types (self-report style) which are made up of people's preferences for four mental processes and the tendency to focus more on the outer or inner world. It is important to remember that these types are preferences and do not provide any information regarding ability. The MBTI-Step II includes 40 additional facets which further identify individual preferences. This type of information is very useful for team development purposes, developing interpersonal skills and as one aspect of career planning. The MBTI is not to be used for hiring purposes as it does not provide information about ability but it is useful during employment in helping employees work effectively together. It can be used in career planning as one aspect of helping people identify what they enjoy doing and researching careers that will include those activities.

The Emotional Intelligence report reflects, in simple terms, an individuals self-report on how they manage their own emotions and respond to those around them. This instrument can be a useful starting point for people who would like to improve their relationship building skills and can be valuable in an organizational setting where one will be working with a diverse range of people.

All of the above assess an individual in some way and provide opportunities, if used effectively to improve skills or recognize when it is time to take on a new challenge or consider a change in a career path. Managers in organizations often bring such assessments into the workplace in an effort to improve productivity, reduce turnover, increase their competitive edge-all great goals.

It is important to ensure that you are choosing the right instrument, that you understand that each instrument has limits to what it can accomplish and that any instrument can only accomplish the desired goals if used effectively and if it fits into other initiatives within the organizational strategy.

I will be talking more about some of these instruments over the next few weeks, the good, the bad and the dusty shelf syndrome included.

What experience have you had with any of the above? Please share your anecdotes and what you learned from the experience. I look forward to hearing from you.

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