So the management team, has decided that in order to tackle down performance issues, they will implement a competency based evaluation system plus training. The old evaluation system really doesn’t discriminate good performers (everyone is average and above).

They are very enthusiastic with these ideas, and they delegate in HR the execution. Immediately HR begin to work on the project. In order to build a great tool, they perform job analysis, coordinate focus group to define core competencies, design a comprehensive process with self evaluation included, and implement training program at all levels. Everything seems to be well planned.

Then all managers submit their evaluation, and HR analyze the results. Surprisingly, nothing changed. All employees are in average categories and above. Not even the new scale nor the new definitions for the categories have seem to help.

What went wrong? HR did everything by the book and all managers attended training sessions. The answer is that no matter how good is the tool, it all will depend finally on the users.  Here some tips to avoid excellent HR tools fails:

 1. Ownership Feeling

The most sophisticated system will be irrelevant if managers don’t feel at least a little of ownership on the initiative. That’s why is so important to include the employees on the construction of the system as well. Even when HR are the expert, employees need to feel that they participate in the creation of the tool.  This will facilitate immensely the implement process.

2.  Let some space for using their criteria


Every manager seems to know something about HR, and will want to give his opinion. If the performance tool try to detail every little behavior and explain how to rank it, not only new behaviors will appear but managers will find a way to skip the indications. And is completely understandable. If you are a manager, you want to demonstrate that you know your team and how to evaluate them.

A good performance tool need to define guidelines and principles to evaluate, not every single indicator. Consequently,  if new behaviors are added they will be evaluated by those criteria. Is better to have well thought and easy to understand guideline than  a 100 pages competencies dictionary. I worked myself many times in those dictionaries that finally nobody really use.

3.  Keep it simple

I remembered a very well design performance system with a manual of 120 pages. The process was so intricate that nobody could follow. The system incorporates the participation of upper level on the evaluations of two levels below them, also includes self evaluation and an instance to appeal for the evaluated. It was well intended, but fail on the “keep it simple” rule and that could cost a fine implementation of the tool.

4. Don’t expect immediate change

Behavioral change takes time. Incorporate new practices in an organization is a gradual process, and it has to be improved on the way. Probably first year of  a new performance system, will be a pilot, managers will adjust to the new definitions and process. HR need to support them on this process, and make corrections based on the feedback of the users.

5. Be open minded

Ok. Maybe you have the atomic equation for performance management, but that doesn’t necessary mean that will work in your company in this moment. To be open minded, and receptive to continuous improvement, not only will position HR as partner, but also as a real expert in front the line. A common pitfall of HR department, is to impose the expertise (with all the good intentions) to the organization.

6. Don’t forget to celebrate

Changing the way an organization manage their performance is a huge process and is tiresome. Without celebrating the accomplishment of milestones on the way, the entire project looks like Everest or a marathon.


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