How To Survive Meaningless Metrics

We all take part in a form of employee monitoring, as we have experienced the dawn of the digital age. Whether you are recording keystrokes, reviewing chat records, monitoring calls or reviewing conversion rates, you’ve derived meaning and based decisions on data points. You’ve likely constructed a quantifiable assessment of your personnel, but could your metrics be meaningless? Are your metrics ever misleading?

We are now more than a week deep into Q3, which for most organizations means significant change. People will be reassigned and/or rewarded. Others will be fired.

There’s a new pressure presenting this time of year and it begins to weigh heavily on the upper echelons of management, just as the pressure begins to subside for everyone else in the organisation. The cycle has begun again and they must face evaluating performance, analysing revenue attribution and shuffling the deck, (so to speak).

More often than not people are reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. Performance metrics come in all shapes and sizes, but ultimately employees can become nothing more than a two or three digit condensation of the previous three months of work. Depending upon your numbers, you are either an asset or an expense.

What will people be basing their decision to keep or quit their employees on specifically? What quantifiable indications of dutiful employment play a part in determining whether or not someone retains their position at an organization?

Let’s take a look at basic entry and exit metrics that timestamp your team, like alarm access, tracking devices on company cars & Key FOB’s:

I drive a company car. Is there a tracking device on it? Probably. Is that a problem? No. It isn’t my car, I have nothing to hide and I get my job done. Most employees will trust that if they are transparent they will be treated with reason; a logical human will be at the other end of their records applying some sort of rational thought before jumping to conclusions.

However, on the management end of things it’s often presumed that a review of an employee’s key FOB or alarm access will give you a clear indication of what time they begin and end their workday. We can review things like the length of a lunch break, the average time spent in the loo or the average number of hours actually worked in a week. This data is assumed to be an accurate reflection of the coming and goings of the individual to which the key itself is assigned.

But what might we miss? What else must we factor in when reviewing entry and exit time-stamps?

  1. Meetings: Every once in a while there will be a meeting offsite at the office of a partner, prospect etcetera, causing the attending employee to be late on paper. The perception is that they have been tardy despite the fact that they have been working hard within the restraints of their time requirements, (with express permission). This happens often in the new construction industry with employees who are expected to be on site at model homes. Oftentimes buyers will request a viewing of the lots or homes under construction prior to the opening time of the model complex. While agents are dutifully on site selling, they may or may not have deactivated the alarm which in essence time-stamps the start of their workday.
  2. Courteous people: On occasion you will find that you have employed courteous people who hold the doors open for each other on the way in or out and in extreme cases, both even. This is a catastrophe. Let’s say someone holds the door open for me on my way to and from the restroom, on paper if I haven’t needed my key until after lunch, it may seem as though I haven’t started my workday until after lunch. Allowing someone to hold the door open or not can become quite the conundrum for the people you employ.
  3. Employee sharing: The reality of having a gated doorway is that even the most responsible people will forget their key FOB on occasion. If this occurs, they might borrow the key FOB of a colleague near them, borrow from a colleague who keeps their keys in a visible location, (with or without their knowledge), or even borrow from whomever sits nearest to the door as a time saving technique. Employee sharing leaves the individual kind enough to pass the key at risk of looking incredibly lazy and absent from their duties.
  4. Desk Duty: Typing/sitting at a desk doesn’t always mean an employee is working, they could very well be on chat discussing how silly your tie looks today. Sitting at a desk or standing in a designated work area does not equate to staying on task, so before you assume you know what’s going on be mindful of this.

I can’t confidently assess performance on the basis of recorded time-stamps. To me key FOB’s and alarm access are security measures, not performance metrics that have any bearing on an employee’s ability to make me money. I genuinely don’t care about time cards. What weight do you give to in/out metrics?

Whilst I do adore detailed spreadsheets, after considering the above, I started to wonder what else I might be missing in evaluating performance metrics like call logs. The purpose of sales and sales support is securing the meeting, building a connection and closing a deal. Does high call volume and long talk time always correlate with high conversion rates/high close volume? The answer is no.

While closers often do have high call volumes, they don’t ALWAYS. Today’s sales team should be approaching their targets in a plethora of ways via mobile tools, texting, social media messaging and so forth. Can I track how much of an effort has been made on their personal mobile phones or from their personal profiles within sites like LinkedIn? No. I can’t.

So, I urge you to use common sense when monitoring and measuring. Don’t forget about the things you can’t compute like interpersonal skills, the ability to build trust, human connections and self-sourced opportunity investments.

Company-wide meetings, stat boards and so forth get mixed reviews. Sometimes it’s nice to see how you stack up against the competition, but to the people at the bottom it could feel like public shaming. As companies we should be conscious of the part we play in ensuring our team stays motivated to meet the requirements of their individual positions. When metrics aren’t met, try to ask yourself:

  1. What obstacles personal and professional may have hindered my employee from achieving their goals?
  2. Was I clear and concise in conveying my expectations and outlining how to achieve them?
  3. Did I provide an open door for questions and concerns?
  4. Did I provide the appropriate tools and training?
  5. Have I considered the individual strengths of this employee and other positions within the organization that may be a better fit?

Counterbalance your data points on things that can be taught or refined with an analysis of the qualities that can’t be taught like optimism, tenacity and honesty. This means that you will need to converse regularly with your personnel post interview. Talking to your team in a candid manner about the ways you do and do not succeed as their leader can provide you with opportunities for improvement. It also protects you against potential losses.

Remember that your employee retention rates are not just a reflection of the complexity of the position you’re filling, but also a reflection of the job you as a company and an individual leader are doing to satisfy the needs of the people that serve your customer base. You can’t become so caught up in monitoring others that you forget to monitor yourself. Don’t expect your team to stay strong and achieve success in the wake of your own shortcomings. If you can’t keep your workforce happy, why should anyone believe you can keep your clients happy?

How can we help ourselves when we are at the mercy of metrics? When being evaluated, remember that communication is the key to keeping yourself safe at work. Sometimes people don’t know what you do with your time unless you tell them. Present a list or a power point every once in a while to remind everyone what you’ve built, where you’ve been and what you plan to conquer in the coming quarter.

Staying alive after the recession means staying lean as a company. And, as employees are we spoiled? Sometimes we forget that at the end of the day we are the only people personally responsible for our own success.

Who should be tasked with making sure you have a skill-set that survives an aggressive career chase against an eager generation of college educated all stars? That’s you of course. Research, take responsibility and contribute to your own advancement. No one should make a bigger investment in you than you do.

Nothing is owed to us. Your performance needs to support the organization, its end goals, its culture and its methods of achievement. It’s OK for either party to say when a position is not a good fit for various reasons. We have to stop expecting others to see the genius hidden inside us. Put it on the whiteboard, post it in an email, present it in a company-wide meeting… share who you are and what you know, if you want to be noticed.

Stop staying in places that string you along and won’t provide you with well warranted opportunities. My generation is guilty of anticipating rewards for being average. Stop accepting your own excuses. Strive to build your career to a point where despite whatever metrics may be created, missed or met, your worth can never be questioned.

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