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Grading on the curveDoes your company evaluate “on the curve”?

It is quite possible they do. You may not even know it if they do.

I’ve long been a fan of Marcus Buckingham’s work going back to Gallup and his groundbreaking work on employee engagement. This is definitely worth reading. It is well paying attention to since there is such a high correlation between employee engagement and customer engagement.

If we are to obsess about the customer experience we have to obsess about the employee experience.

No more curve,” said Lisa Brummel, Microsoft’s EVP of HR.

The world we are leaving behind is unquestionably a deeply unpopular world—not only do most managers dislike their performance management system, but most human resources professionals don’t like theirs, either. One cause of this dissatisfaction is a misunderstanding of motives: managers think that their performance management system is designed to help them accelerate the performance of their people. I would argue that a performance management system should be designed primarily for this purpose, and indeed some purport to be—but scratch the surface and you quickly learn that they aren’t.

Instead the purpose of these systems is twofold: first, to allocate compensation fairly; and second, to align each individual’s goals with the values and strategies of the company. These aren’t nefarious purposes—they are actually rather sensible—but they are clearly secondary or at least tangential to helping employees become more productive. 

Companies could probably alleviate some of the current dissatisfaction by being more straightforward that the performance management system is not for you, the employee; it is instead a company system, designed to ensure a bell curve of compensation, and alignment to company goals. Not a particularly uplifting positioning, I grant you, but at least employees and managers would be able to judge it on its own terms.

Of course, this wouldn’t fix the underlying problem of ratings – which is that, for a variety of reasons, they turn out to be bogus (a topic I will address in a follow-up post). Perhaps most managers have long suspected this. Perhaps their dissatisfaction with performance management systems stems from this suspicion. Either way, Microsoft’s rejection of ratings has done all of us a service. It shines a harsh spotlight on the approach that defines performance management today, and helps others see that it is seriously overrated.

 Trouble with the Curve? Why Microsoft is Ditching Stack Rankings – Marcus Buckingham – Harvard Business Review