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Learning Industry News and Opinion

Study: Long-held view of 'bell curve' in performance measurement proven flawed

February 28, 2012 12:45 by Ann Pace

(From Indiana University) -- The dreaded bell curve that has haunted generations of students with seemingly pre-ordained grades has also migrated into business as the standard for assessing employee performance. But it now turns out -- revealed in an expansive, first-of-its-kind study -- that individual performance unfolds not on a bell curve, but on a "power-law" distribution, with a few elite performers driving most output and an equally small group tied to damaging, unethical or criminal activity.

This turns on its head nearly a half-century of plotting performance evaluations on a bell curve, or "normal distribution," in which equal numbers of people fall on either side of the mean. Researchers from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business predict that the findings could force a wholesale re-evaluation of every facet related to recruitment, retention and performance of individual workers, from pre-employment testing to leadership development.

"How organizations hire, maintain and assess their workforce has been built on the idea of normality in performance, which we now know is, in many cases, a complete myth," said author Herman Aguinis, professor of organizational behavior and human resources at Kelley. "If, as our results suggest, a small, elite group is responsible for most of a company's output and success, then it's critical to identify its members early and manage, train and compensate them differently from colleagues. This will require a fundamental shift in mindset and entirely new management tools."

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Delivering performance reviews that work

February 28, 2012 12:30 by Ann Pace

(From HRReporter.com) -- How well does your organization handle performance reviews?

A formal performance evaluation process is quite commonplace these days, especially in larger organizations. But having a process doesn’t mean the approach is firing on all cylinders.

A new study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found the vast majority of organizations surveyed – 98 per cent – report having a formal performance evaluation process.

But the study highlighted many gaps in how organizations manage performance reviews, especially with respect to how they engage people managers in the process.

For example only 46 per cent of respondents said they require people managers to be trained on the company’s performance evaluation process, although 44 per cent provide voluntary training for people managers.

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Facebook Profiles Found to Predict Job Performance

February 21, 2012 15:30 by Ann Pace

(From The Wall Street Journal) -- Could your Facebook profile be a predictor of job performance?

A new study from Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University suggests it can.

In an experiment, three "raters"—comprising one university professor and two students—were presented with the Facebook profiles of 56 college students with jobs.

After spending roughly 10 minutes perusing each profile, including photos, wall posts, comments, education and hobbies, the raters answered a series of personality-related questions, such as "Is this person dependable?" and "How emotionally stable is this person?"

Six months later, the researchers matched the ratings against employee evaluations from each of the students' supervisors. They found a strong correlation between job performance and the Facebook scores for traits such as conscientiousness, agreeability and intellectual curiosity.

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Blog: Employees Who Identify with the Company Boost Financial Performance

December 8, 2011 13:00 by Ann Pace

(From Harvard Business Review) -- Executives spend a lot of time worrying about their companies' products and prices, but they don't spend nearly enough time worrying about corporate character. Why would they? A lot of them don't believe companies even have a character, and others don't see what difference it could possibly make.

But your company's character can earn you — or cost you — real money. Our research on thousands of managers, frontline employees, and customers of a U.S. retailer shows that there are connections between customer spending and what's known as the organizational identification of the people who work at the company. The greater the OI, as researchers like to call it, the greater the spending. And organizational identification is, to a great extent, about company character.

Corporate character is like corporate reputation, but it's a deeper and more nuanced concept. It has little to do with advertising or marketing. Like your own character, it's judged by actions more than words. If your company sticks its neck out for a principle, it will be seen as having integrity, just as you're seen as having integrity when you stand up for the employee who's being scapegoated by some other manager. A long history of admirable moves builds an impression of a solid character. A history of missteps does the opposite. You can probably name companies with solid character as easily as we can: Zappos, Ritz-Carlton, and USAA, to name just a few.

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Blog: The Challenge of the Average Employee

December 6, 2011 11:00 by Ann Pace

(From Harvard Business Review) -- Most businesses have a normal distribution of talent — a limited number, say top 10 percent, of high potential, rock star performers, a bottom decile of underperformers, and a thick middle of 80 percent of folks who get the day-to-day stuff done. In well-managed businesses, there are clear feedback mechanisms to ensure that the bottom of the talent pack gets managed out efficiently and objectively. While at GE, Jack Welch popularized the notion that it was good to fire the "bottom 10" of his managers every year. On the other end of the spectrum, the better companies manage the top-end of their talent pool, providing mentors to groom this group of next-generation of leaders and compensating them differentially in recognition of their superior performance.

The challenge lies in productively managing talent's fat middle. What is the right people strategy for the average employee — the stalwart who is performing well enough, but is not necessarily a standout? Here are a few of the challenges with the middle base of talent:

• Almost by definition, they often get lost in the mix, lacking appropriate guidance and management attention. This creates an issue of not understanding who holds real potential to move up the talent curve with the right nurturing, versus those who have limited upward mobility, versus those who should not be at the company.

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Why “constructive feedback” doesn’t improve employee performance

December 1, 2011 12:30 by Ann Pace

(From The Financial Post) -- In his article in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz, president and chief executive of the Energy Project, and author of Be Excellent At Anything, says that when we hear the phrase from someone, “would you mind if I give you some feedback?” what it actually means to most of us is “would you mind if I gave you some negative feedback,” wrapped up in the guise of constructive criticism, whether or not you want it.

There are some fundamental problems with negative criticism, regardless of whether we clothe it politely as “constructive.” First, Schwartz contends, criticism “challenges our sense of value. It implies judgment and we all recoil from being judged.” Psychologists including Daniel Goleman, contend that threats to our self-esteem and sense of self-worth in the form of criticism can feel like threats to our survival.

Schwartz identifies three mistakes people make when giving critical feedback:

  1. The belief that our own value or self-esteem is being threatened; so the issue is really about you and not the other person;
  2. The more the other person feels threatened, the less open they are to value or consider your feedback;
  3. It’s about “being right,” and the other person “being wrong,” so you build a case and story that makes your perspective “true” and the other person’s perspective “faulty.”

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Global Employee Satisfaction Continues to Lag in 2011

November 10, 2011 17:00 by Ann Pace

(From PRNewswire) -- Workforces worldwide are reaching their tipping point as employee satisfaction, or engagement, continues to be sluggish and remains at the lowest level since 2008, according to analysis recently released by Aon Hewitt, the global human resource consulting and outsourcing business of Aon Corporation.

At the end of the third quarter, Aon Hewitt analyzed its Employee Engagement Database of more than 5,700 employers, representing five million employees worldwide. The findings reveal an engagement level of 56 percent thus far in 2011, which is the same as 2010, but lower than 2009 (60 percent) and 2008 (57 percent). Traditionally, engagement levels between 65 percent and 100 percent represent a high-performing culture; 45 percent to 65 percent indicate the workforce is indifferent to organizational success or failure; and anything lower than 45 percent represents a serious or destructive range.

According to Aon Hewitt, the largest drop in engagement this year is employees' perception of how companies manage performance. Workers worldwide believe their employers have not provided the appropriate focus or level of management that would lead to increased productivity, nor have they connected individual performance to organizational goals.

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Employee Engagement to What End?

November 3, 2011 15:00 by Ann Pace

(From PRWEB) -- It's hard to justify employee engagement if we confuse the means with the ends. In a recent analysis of survey results from more than 145 organizations and 1.5 million employees conducted by TNS Employee Insights, the end was obvious: the customers. A comparison of High Performing Companies, those who are leaders in their industries and demonstrate sustained financial growth, as compared to other organizations, showed that not only did these organizations tend to have better relationships with their employees, their employees were more focused on customers . The analysis found that a focus on the "ends", or the end user, the customer, went hand in hand with a drive toward constant improvement and innovation.

TNS Employee Insights found the differences between High Performing Companies (HPCs) and other firms is consistent: employees in HPCs are much more dedicated to understanding customer needs and use that understanding to improve how they do their jobs. They are also more likely to say that the firm is making necessary changes to be competitive. Bottom line: employees in HPCs are more market focused - their line of sight is not exclusively internal, but is focused externally on what is happening around them and their company.

In addition, the analysis found that employees in HPCs report a constant drive for improvement, and a focus on future possibilities versus acceptance of what is today. They are far more likely to look for new and better ways to do things, strive to improve performance, and feel the company as a whole has a vision for the future that is inspiring. There is an energy that is tangibly different than non-HPCs.

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New Leadership Communication Study Shows 44% of Business Leaders Are Unhappy with Their Employee Performance

November 1, 2011 14:00 by Ann Pace

(From PRNewswire) -- "Forty-four percent of business leaders reported they are unhappy with the performance of their employees and 70% of those struggling business leaders believe they need to adjust their approach to how they are communicating so they can better motivate their teams to get the results they desire," said Leadership and Workplace Communication Expert Skip Weisman, President of Weisman Success Resources.

These are among the key findings of a survey of approximately 200 business leaders that subscribe to the Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert Blog published by Weisman.

In the study, these business leaders ranging from C-Level executives at large corporations to small business owners were asked to evaluate their skills, comfort level and results achieved through their application of the three different levels of leadership communication:

  1. Their own self-communication
  2. Communicating in front of a group setting
  3. Communicating individually one-on-one with their team members.

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Creating a Culture of Empowerment and Success in a Virtual Environment

October 27, 2011 12:30 by Ann Pace

(From tmcnet.com) -- “Any company trying to compete must figure out a way to engage the mind of nearly every employee.” --Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric

With these words, Welch associates corporate success not with employee satisfaction as usually discussed, but rather with “employee engagement,” a more pro-active approach with proven links to bottom line performance.  The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) defines employee engagement as, “a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its values. An engaged employee works with colleagues to improve job performance for the benefit of the organization.” According to the IES, the strongest driver for creating an engaged workforce is a sense of feeling valued and involved. How to foster this type of workforce within a virtual environment is the last topic in our series on of creating and maintaining an effective at-home team.

Proven Link Between Employee Engagement and Financial Success

In 1927, researchers F.J. Roethlisberger and W.J. Dickson published one of the earliest studies showing a correlation between employees’ feelings of being valued at work and job performance. Their research, published in the book Management and the Worker, showed that when managers paid attention to their workers, asked for their ideas and encouraged social interactions, their job performance improved. Since then, researchers and businesses have continued to prove that employee performance is undeniably linked not to physical work conditions, but rather to the emotional environment of the workplace. This is an especially important finding for customer service organizations because a direct correlation also exists between engaged employees and engaged customers. 

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