Differences in Performance Perceptions

As the recession pushed organizations to practice care in spending while attempting to hang on to their highest value talent, pay for performance experienced a renewal. Faced with limited resources and increased demand for efficiency, leaders appealed to their higher level performers to do more with less based on the assumption that a targeted approach would be less costly and would make sure the money benefited those most valuable to the organization.

Now, as the economy improves, organizations seem to be questioning if pay for performance actually worked. Meaning, did it actually help to retain and reward the best talent in the organization? Similarly, if they failed to implement it during the downturn, many are asking if it is too late to join those already providing performance-based rewards in order to increase competitiveness in the future.

In all fairness, the recession did not spawn pay for performance and the mixed results of its use predates this decade. However, like other crises, leaders tended to risk change when experiencing sudden or dramatic uncertainty.

Over the last several months, I have been examining some of the experiences of those that implemented pay for performance during the downturn. Although the research did not explore every facet of these programs, a simple, yet central question kept reoccurring: do leaders and employees have the same perceptions of the pay for performance programs? Based on a sample of six major organizations that completed at least three rounds of reviews in the last five years, leaders, supervisors, and employees were asked a series of questions on their perceptions of the program’s effectiveness. A few of the major findings related to the mission, understanding, and results of the program appear below:

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Approximately 75 percent of leaders felt the program accomplished its stated mission. In most cases, the stated mission involved recognizing and rewarding high performers. Slightly less supervisors agreed with the question, while a little less than a third of employees agreed. These results would not be atypical of other leadership initiatives that come from the top down. Most pay for performance programs experience a communication as well as execution gap between levels.

The next two questions focus on the communication and understanding elements of the program. Not surprisingly, leaders possessed a high level of confidence that employees understood the system, while supervisors were less confident at approximately 56 percent.

On average, about 38 percent of employees agreed that they understood the tool and how compensation related to it. Similarly, leaders and supervisors felt confident that employees not only understood the program’s tools, but also know what actions and behaviors result in a higher score and more compensation. Supervisors appear the most confident. Given their role in ensuring that employees know how to improve, this result is not surprising.

The last question addresses the outcome of the program from a process standpoint: did the right people receive the reward? Similar to the other three questions, employees feel that the intent did not match the outcome. Roughly 31 percent of employees indicated that the reward went to the biggest contributors.

Some might argue that the results point to the inadequacy or even inappropriateness of pay for performance as a method of recognition and reward. Although it could be an element in that debate, I would argue that the results point more to a lack of appropriate appreciation of the complexity of managing human performance. Like most elements of management, ensuring that results reach potential is not easy. In the next posting, I will explore some of the actions of those that were more successful with their programs.

Going Together: Engagement and Performance

performanceMost accept that engagement provides a critical precursor to optimal productivity and performance in any organization. Today, most organizations not only monitor engagement, but also evaluate managers on the engagement of their workforce along with other performance-based outcomes. Yet, we all know that keeping employees engaged takes a considerable amount of time and effort on the part of managers and leaders. As leaders work through the practicality of ensuring high levels of engagement, a common concern arises related to how to balance engagement and discipline. Assuming that employees who possess higher levels of engagement do a better job completing their tasks, are less likely to make mistakes, and are more motivated to perform, what happens when the performance still falls short? Or, what happens to engagement when you need to discipline?
A 2013 study by Leadership IQ joined group performance and engagement data to assess the viability of the linkage. After examining the results for 207 companies, a startling result surfaced: in 42% of the companies, the most engaged employees produced the least. Similarly, in those same companies, the least engaged were providing the majority of the productivity. A closer examination revealed that the most common reason for disengagement among those performing well pertained to the absence of accountability in the form of communicating clear performance expectations, recognizing contribution, and addressing poor performance. Disengagement among high performers occurred from a lack of actual management, which created a dysfunctional environment. Those still performing simply ignored the dysfunction while those engaged, but not performing failed to understand their own shortcomings. It makes more sense when you think of those organizations where a small cadre of high performers complains that the rest of the employees do not even realize they are failing to perform.

So, how would these results assist us in answering our question of the interaction between engagement and discipline? In macro sense, discipline is key to ensuring higher levels of engagement if it is part of the overall effort to support accountability through communicating performance expectations and results. An organization that does not address performance shortcomings will erode overall engagement, especially among those performing. Although this makes sense at the macro level, when confronting an individual, the linkage works differently depending on the nature of the feedback. Except when with the most mature recipients and the best communicators, negative feedback creates distance between the employee and the supervisor or even the organization. This distance erodes engagement as the level of trust and affinity for the supervisor decreases.
Consequently, for engagement to remain at similar levels, other factors with greater weight in the calculus of engagement should be emphasized, concurrently. Research shows that two elements influence the level of engagement more than communication on performance: communication on strategy and direction as well as understanding of business goals for the team and organization. In the most simple sense, a supervisor might reinforce the importance of the person to the organization, reconnect the employee to the overall direction of the organization, and emphasize the critical nature of the associated tasks to reaching business objectives.

Changing Competence

competency_solutions_2008001How many times have you been asked if a candidate or employee is competent?  Every time we hire, promote, or assign projects, we have to ask others and ourselves if we think the person possesses what it takes to be successful in the new role.  In the simplest sense, competence or possessing competency relates to the ability of an employee to do his or her job at the desired level of efficiency and effectiveness.  Although there is not a single, comprehensive definition, most human resource professionals consider the attainment of competence as being a desired combination of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that positively influence performance.

What are the real underpinnings of this idea?

Competence assumes it takes time to reach the desired level of performance. 

Most work on competency, categorizes development as a long period, such as 30 years.  It is assumed that an individual passes through general stages before become a master at their profession: novice, beginner, competent, proficient and expert.  At each stage, an employee should be able to perform a specific set of tasks.  In each successive stage, the employee should be able to perform the same tasks in a more effective manner as well as add new tasks.  By design, the idea of incremental development draws heavily on a manufacturing-based environment.  In a post-industrial economy, most of us would agree an employee should reach full competence more quickly than in the past.  However, no single convention governs expectations.  Some argue that five years is sufficient, while others place the time closer to seven or ten years.  One core trend is that the time to competence continues to be shorter with improvements in education and technology.

Competence is necessary, but not sufficient.

Although competence contributes a necessary component to success, motivation provides one of the other critical ingredients.  Most of us have encountered a talented employee who decides not to perform at expected levels due to low morale, poor leadership, or personality issues.  This disconnect between ability and results creates a dilemma in almost every workplace.  Keep in mind that competence ensures that an employee possesses the necessary capabilities, while motivation ensures that it is utilized.

Competences are multidimensional.

Most would agree that competencies pertain to various capabilities in an employee.  The most basic competencies relate to human interaction: listening, communication, decision-making, reliability, empathy, exhibiting ethical behavior, self-esteem, and other interpersonal skills.  These competencies are necessary to be successful in any group of people.  Next, a slight different set of competencies are necessary to be successful in a complex organization: teamwork, learning, good organization skills, commitment to customer service, planning, accountability, conflict resolution, and acceptance of change.  Most modern work places require behavior competencies as well that relate to analysis, customer orientation, flexibility, problem solving, and urgency.  The last level is job specific.  In order to utilize competencies successfully for talent management or planning, each level must be employed.

Competency-based systems provide a robust and expansive tool for human resource professionals to balance capability with performance.  If you thinking about using a competency approach make sure you can answer the following to the affirmative:

  • ·         Does performance potential grow with time?
  • ·         Will a competency system help with motivation?
  • ·         Do we have the resources to collect, maintain, and utilize competencies?

 

Counseling Results

Figure 1: Results of Counseling
Figure 1: Results of Counseling

Counseling a direct report creates a lot of anxiety as well as the potential for undesired outcomes.  Some would rather put up with the lack of productivity or bad behavior, then deal with the tension that accompanies a face-to-face meeting on performance.  I have worked with organizations that very gregarious leaders became unable to finish a sentence when confronted with giving employees negative feedback.  Nevertheless, the tension that accompanies the actual meeting holds only a portion of the potential “fallout.”

Similar to the typical human cycle when dealing with anything that does not coincide with our internal view of reality, most employees move through four phases when presented with negative feedback: shock, sadness, anger, and blame.  I recently spoke with a leader that had given a direct report constructive feedback on a variety of performance issues.  The direct report was a weak manager and needed guidance to improve his individual as well as his team’s performance.  As the leader attempted to address the issue, the manager became angrier and more creative in his excuses.  After considerable effort on the part of the leader, the manager resolved to blame the leader of favoritism.  He simply equated his lack of performance on the fact that someone else was the leader’s favorite.

Although we all recognize that feedback is critical to performance, employee engagement, and leading a team, the results will not always be as we hope.  For example, a recent survey by HCS asked 150 managers in various industries about the results of their counseling efforts.  Figure 1 captures  how managers viewed the outcome of their efforts.  The most common occurrence was a lack of improvement and disengagement (32 percent) followed by actual improvement, but only over a short time period (24 percent).  The middle response, no improvement and no change in behavior resulted almost 20 percent of the time.  No improvement with hostility and improvement over the long term occupy roughly the same likelihood (12 percent).  These results may seem grim, but resemble the findings of other research on the ease of rehabilitation of poor performing employees.

What can we do to improve this percentage?

  • Schedule a conference with the employee and identify specific differences between the desired and actual performance.
  • Provide specific actions the employee should take to correct the problem and give reasonable timelines for the employee to demonstrate improvement.
  • Listen to the employee and consider the barriers identified by the employee that impedes performance.
  • Consider that some compromise may be necessary from a process, but not a outcome standpoint.
  • Make sure he or she can verbalize what needs to be done back to you.
  • Ensure that the employee understands that his or her success links to the organizational success.
  • Be supportive and make sure that the employee knows you are willing to talk about his or her ideas for success again.

What Are They Saying?

organizationsWorking with organizations typically requires going to their primary location or locations to interact with their employees.  Reality takes on a completely new shape when you observe the inter-workings of an organization instead of just looking at a two dimensional summary on paper.  This week I visited with three organizations in three different cities before heading home.  As a result, a key part of my week was waiting.  Today, almost every facet of the travel experience requires some form of waiting: checking a bag, passing through security, boarding, delays on the ground, queuing for take-off, actually flying, taxing to the gate, leaving the aircraft, recollecting your bag, and waiting on the rental car.  Most of the time, I tune out the noise around me as I work on other things.

However, there are times that the conversations around you, especially when it is as busy as things are the week before the holidays prevents a person from blocking it all out.  Out of curiosity, I paid a little more attention to the type of things that fellow business travelers were talking about with each other or on their phones.  Yes, I admit it, I ease dropped some for amusement while waiting on the next exciting, travel-related wait.  The conversations varied between panic over incomplete gift shopping, anticipated sales, frustrated spouses, deviant children, and work deadlines.  What proved more interesting was that most people said the same thing about their organizations: “they do not get it.”

As I listened to different conversations in three different airports, I repeatedly heard these three comments as part of the explanation of why their organizations are failing them:

“Our organization is so messed up and nothing is being done”

It is a fact that every organization possesses the potential to improve.  No one works for a perfect organization and none of us ever will.  Nevertheless, the degree to which an organization attempts to do something about improvement varies.  Just as we assume that an employee that does not attempt to improve will stagnate and regress, employees assume the same about their organizations. An organization not moving forward inevitably moves backwards.  As leaders, we should continually assess where we are, how we can improve, and what our next step will be.

“I don’t think he cares about any of us, especially me”

Considerable research as well as conventional wisdom attests to the fact that people leave supervisors, not organizations.  The relationship and interaction we have with our direct supervisor plays a monumental role in our satisfaction, engagement, and productive outcomes.  In the absence of a fulfilling relationship, it becomes easy to visualize another reality.  I listened to one fellow traveler tell his coworker in detail how the boss takes little interest in anything he says or does.  No matter the circumstances, the boss minimizes the value and input of the employee.  After relaying several examples to his coworker, he concluded that the boss must not like him and he should probably look for another job.  If the supervisor does not show a sufficient amount of interest, then employees will feel compelled to find a place where they are appreciated.  Make sure your supervisors develop the kind of relationships that bring the best out in people.

“You are doing the work, so you should have the pay”

Who would disagree that pay should match the work performed?  Since the downturn, most employees have increased their duties and efforts without a change in pay.  Reductions in force, stretch opportunities, and the absence of resources all created opportunities for team member to take on more duties, volume, or both.  Most organizations need to revisit compensation and classification to reconcile these changes in a more formal sense as the economy recovers.  Employees do not necessarily have to be retroactively rewarded, but organizations need to bring current work into alignment with their systems and structures.

The question I asked myself as I boarded the last plane was “what would our employees say about our organization?”

Something in Between

motivationMost of us played a game when we were young that involved selecting a favorite thing between two options.  In elementary school, the game involves receiving two things that are equally pleasing, such as ice cream and cake.  By middle school, the options become a little darker.  The game typically involves two rather terrible options, like being bitten by an alligator and falling off a cliff.  The player selects the less horrendous of the options as his or her peers laugh.   As the haze of the teenage years moves away, we return to the better of two options game.  It might be as simple as where would you rather vacation: the beach or mountains?

When someone answers that they would like to vacation at the beach and the mountains, most of us would agree with the answer even if we felt that “both” is not one of the options.   Who would not want to visit both? Similarly, even the most fashion conscious person will enjoy old jeans and a tee shirt some days for a change.  Emotions and feelings play an important role in this duality, but in most cases, we should accept that we are multi-dimensional beings that can hold competing ideas and desires.

How does this human trait influence us in the workplace? Although preference by definition pertains to a specific option possessing higher utility for an individual, most of us operate with mixed preferences.   Who has not wanted to be the office superstar and parent of the year?   However, even as these feelings occupy us each day, as leaders we assume that people work from a single and primary dimension.  Most workplaces have stereotypical categories to capture a person’s individual emphasis:  family man or woman, work to play, climber, shark, or time doer.  Once granted, these images follow us for long periods of our work careers.

When something outside of the norm occurs, how do we explain when someone exceeds expectations, develops a great plan that really works, makes a big sale, or excels in a new area?  Our first inclination might be to assume a cosmic accident occurred.  Although chance affects us all, a better explanation arises from mixed preferences.  In other words, actions and events unlocked the person’s potential.  Most people want to succeed and by removing barriers we increase the chance of collective success.

A key part of being a great leader starts with understanding our employees work with multiple dimensions and finding the “code” to unlocking their potential by moving the continuum the right direction.    What can we do today to unlock potential?

  • expose employees to new things;
  • take the time and really listen to what they are saying;
  • care about  your employees as much as you want them to care about your team and organization; and
  • find out what motivates them and customize the work experience for each employee.

I Need a Coach

Figure 1: Reasons for Coaching

Most of have counseled an employee at one time or another.  In the industrial workplace, a person being counseled or coached typically failed to meet expectations and received specific guidance on what needed to be improved.  Most employees wanted to keep the interaction a secret from his or her peers and just hoped to retain his or her current job.  Today, coaching is a positive interaction and continues to be one of the preferred methods of employee growth and leadership development.

A recent survey by HCS found that more than 70 percent of firms that rate themselves as “successful” utilize coaching as a key method of employee management and development.  More than 50 percent offered coaching at all levels in their organization while approximately 90 percent provided coaches to managers and leaders.  Among those assigned a coach, the top reason was professional growth followed by general or specific career guidance and then remediation (see Figure 1).  When respondents commented on the reason for the coaching, the majority (72 percent) indicated that the interaction pertained to helping the employee improve instead of addressing an issue.  Moreover, over 82 percent of participants scored their perceptions of their experience as being satisfied or very satisfied.

What is the best way to implement or maximize the use of coaching in your organization?

Analyze – determine what your organizational needs are based on your mission, strategy, capabilities, performance, and outcomes.

Identify – assess which employees will be included in your coaching initiative and who will serve as coaches (supervisors, managers, and/or executives).

Evaluate – work with individual employees to identify strengths, weaknesses, goals, and opportunities.

Plan – develop a coaching plan that includes the current status, desired goals, and action plans to be monitored.

Interact – coaching is as much about the relationship as the communication, so make sure the interaction is productive and beneficial.

Assess – determine how successful the interaction is and make adjustments to improve coaching.

Change Is Coming Again

Figure 1: Acceptance of Change

As human resource professionals we deal with change all of the time.  We add and lose employees, change the assignment of duties, assist with altering the strategic direction of the organization, as well as deal with daily challenges.  The ability to plan for change, manage change, and get the most out of change has become key competencies for human resource professionals over the last few decades.  The current economic challenges have required considerable change in most organizations.

Recently, there has been considerable formal and informal discussion among employees and leaders alike on what human resource changes are next.  A recent survey by the HR Leadership Council identified three key changes in the near term:

  • 25 percent of high performers plan to leave in the next year;
  • 75 percent of organizations plan to restructure in the next six months; and
  • 75 percent of companies plan to reduce costs in the next year.

Each of these changes will alter the composition and morale of the workforce.  The combination of high performers leaving, restructuring of current duties again in a short period of time, and efforts to revisit the reduction of costs will cause another wave of change in most organizations.  How will employees respond to more change?

Figure 2: Impact of Change

A 2012 HCS survey examined where the average employee is on a spectrum of acceptance of additional change.  Almost 80 percent of respondents have a low acceptance of new changes (see Figure 1).  Although most employees do not readily embrace change, this is higher than the average benchmark of 55 percent from the 2002-2008 time period.  In other words, employees are fatigued from recent changes and are not looking forward to more uncertainty, instability, and change.  What has been the legacy of change since 2008? The same group of 1,200 employees was asked about how change had impacted them individually and as a team.  The responses appear in Figure 2.  Almost 80 percent indicated that morale is lower than before while more than 70 percent felt that resources had decreased.  Reduced productivity is a close third at 68 percent.   Customer service and commitment scored the lowest

overall, but still was impacted in approximately 40 percent of organizations.

In most organizations, there is a fatigue from near constant change during the economic downturn. As new changes near, it will be harder to deal with the personal and professional cost of transition.  The best thing for us to do is to:

  • Understand the type and nature of changes;
  • Plan for the change; and
  • Communicate at all levels about the change.

I Might Lead

Most grade school kids dream of jobs that entail great mental or physical ability. The typical jobs most cited by elementary school children include firefighter, police officer, ballerina, doctor, sports star, astronaut, rock star, and business person.  When children are asked about who are some business people they would like to be, they select household names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  When kids are asked why, the primary reasons include leading their own company, creating innovative products, and making an impact on society.

Obviously, not every child wants to be leader.  However, among those desiring a business vocation, there is a strong interest in being more than a rank and file employee.  However, somewhere between grade school and employment that level of interest diminishes.  How do we go from dreaming of being Bill Gates to just hoping to get through the day?  Obviously, capability or aptitude impacts who succeeds at becoming a leader and who does not.  Potentially, there are three other major forces that can impact this transformation from hoping to be a leader and becoming one as we mature:

  • Opportunity to Gain Experience
  • Commitment of Organizations
  • Competing Alternatives

Opportunity to Gain Experience

There are numerous opportunities to practice leadership in a person’s youth.  Between student government, organizing games, or being the captain of a sports team, there a number of activities that impart leadership experience.  However, only a few go on to build on those skills and utilize them during high school and beyond.  We have all known those rare adolescents that are student body president, a leader in other school organizations, and a team captain who progress to being a leader in college and later their respective career.  The more typical path is that a person will have limited experience in their youth and only begin to assume a leadership role more out of necessity as they mature.  After gaining higher education, job progression creates more opportunities to hold more responsible positions.  How many times have you seen an accomplished employee be promoted to a leadership position simply because they are the best performer at their current job?   Typically, those individuals are not overly successful since they lack the experience necessary and shy away from future opportunities.

Commitment of Organizations

Most organizations talk about leadership development, but fail to invest enough financial and non-financial resources in creating future leaders, especially during times of economic downturns.  On average, organizations spend less than 30 percent of their training budget on leadership development overall.  The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) conducted a leadership education survey at their 2011 conference with 85 attendees.  The results found that 42% of attendees plan to increase their budgets while 39% planned to keep it same from 2010 to 2011 (http://www1.astd.org/Blog/post/4225-of-Leadership-Development-Professionals-Saw-Budget-Increases-in-2011.aspx).  The Wall Street Journal ran an article summarizing Bersin and Associates, LLC survey that indicated that employers cut spending on training by 11% in both 2009 and 2008, but a slight upturn has occurred in 2010 and 2011 (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703314904575399260976490670.html) Both support the idea that organizations are starting to realize that the downturn will end and more leadership resources are needed for the future.  Yet, this “yo-yo” approach to providing necessary training creates gaps in different cohorts of future leaders.  Outside of financial resources, time utilization for mentoring and coaching makes a big difference in identifying, training, and placing leaders.  In environments of uncertainty, most current leaders commit to making the best of the areas that they are directly responsible for and not looking to increase responsibilities.  Nevertheless, this mindset reduces opportunities for growing new leaders.

Competing Alternatives

There is more competition from alternative responsibilities as we mature.  Marriage, children, community involvement, and other activities become part of the work-life balance that we attempt to maintain on a regular basis.  Most employees perceive that their leaders do less work than they do, but perceive that taking a leadership position would be more time demanding than their current position.  As mentioned in the last post, the number one reason for a reduced interest in leadership responsibility was a perceived poor cost to benefit trade off.  Although not identified in that research, it might be assumed that work life balance played a key role in each person’s internal calculations.

Clearly, these are not the only reasons that a childhood desire for leadership is not realized.  Capability is one of the most important determinants.  However, experience, organizational resource commitment, and competing alternatives are all things that play into determining the size of the pipeline of new leaders in our organizations.

What can we do to counteract these factors? There are four core actions that we take that will encourage employees to grow as leaders:

  • Place an emphasis on leadership by making it part of the organization’s strategic focus;
  • Hire employees that have leadership capability;
  • Commit the financial and non-financial resources to create leadership growth opportunities; and
  • Monitor our organization’s progress to ensure that you are maximizing the tools and resources available.

Performance Curve: What About Consistency?

I have worked with several organizations over the last few years which on paper looked to be phenomenal, but ended up with less than consistent results.  Most possessed a very talented staff, good leaders, solid customer service, and a demanded for their product; yet, there was never more a year or so of individual performance consistency.  The variation in individual and team productivity looked like a small sailboat being tossed about in a big storm.  There would be a period of brilliance where the organization provided that it had what it took to be an industry leader to only be followed by chaos and anxiety.  In each case, individual performance variations were the root cause of the larger, organizational inconsistency in outcomes.  Although these cases were extreme, it is likely we have all supervised an employee who possessed considerable potential and moments of real capability, yet demonstrated poor consistency in performance.

Most of us consider past performance to be the best predictor of future performance.  Although the predictive power of the recent past may not precisely predict the near future, it is one of the better indicators in most things. Individual work performance functions in a similar manner.  Whatever specific performance I was at last year, I should be minor percentage above or below this year.  There are exceptions, but they tend to relate to major events resulting in change.

HCS in 2010 conducted a survey of the performance of information technology professionals to examine the change in performance from one year to the next and the reason for change.  The sample included performance results for 400 professionals at different points in their careers observed over a twenty year period.  The results varied within a very small increment around the initial performance level.  Some employees increased while other decreased.  If there was a sudden, large increase or decrease, then typically the results returned to the previous trend.  In other words, most people stayed on the same trajectory throughout their career or resembled the sloping graph from the last post.

Figure 1: Positive and Negative Performance Factors

Although the sample is relatively small and confined to a single industry, some interesting findings appear in Figure 1.

Explanations of variation in performance arise from two core areas: personal or professional.   The most reoccurring positive personal factors include personality (especially a clear understanding of self, organizational ability, commitment to personal success, and ability to work with others), ability to learn new things, and energy level.  Not surprisingly, the most important professional factors include capabilities or skills necessary to be successful, relevant experience, and engagement.

Personal reasons that reduce performance include anything in one’s personal life that draws their attention away from work and diminishes their overall performance.  A multitude of personal issues can impact work performance: failed relationships, poor mental health, personal health issues, sick children, aging parents, or just an over commitment in one’s personal life.  Professional challenges that reduce performance pertain poor past experiences, lack of capability to meet job demands, and a lack engagement.  The factors most linked to a lack of engagement relate primarily to stress, frustration, burnout from the work assigned or a change in leadership.

Figure 2: Performance Factors by Career Phase

In the simplest sense, there are three basic phases that would be of interest when determining how performance changes: initial, middle, and end of career.  Positive and negative factors were examined for each phase.  The impact of positive factors varied over the course of a person’s career while the negative factors were more random.  Specific events, assignments, or changes seemed to prompt a negative reaction more than simply a phase of one’s career.  Figure 2 illustrates the positive factors that are most important by phase.  In the beginning of one’s career, personality, capabilities, and experiences all significantly impact performance.  This coincides well with the idea that hiring is one of the most important performance decisions that an organization can make.  During the broad, middle years, energy, aptitude to learn, and engagement become more critical.  If energy wanes or there is an inability to keep pace with the industry, the level of performance will decrease.  In the last phase before retirement, personality becomes less important as we reach the highest level of professional socialization, while energy, aptitude to learn, and engagement remain significant.

Given these results, it is important we all ask ourselves the following questions about our organizations:

  • What characteristics lead to an employee reaching high performance as soon as possible?
  • What characteristics lead to an employee sustaining high performance levels for a long period of time?
  • What can an organization do to return a high performer to high performance?