Performance scorecards can be a fantastic way to deliver feedback and allocate reinforcement using objective data on behavior and performance outputs. However, many organizations dive into the idea without ensuring that the groundwork has been laid that will ensure this strategy will be effective and sustain over time. So… countless hours and resources are put into the project, and a few months (at best!) later, the systems are already not being utilized or are rendered ineffective or detrimental. In this blog, I’m going to highlight five of the (MANY) common issues that I have seen in companies that are opting to develop scorecard systems, and how you can prevent your organization from falling into these same “traps”.
- Using scorecards as a solution to performance problems.
The first question I always ask when someone brings scorecards to the table is “Why?”. Often, the response from senior leaders is that employees are not performing to the standards they want, and that scorecards will help them resolve the performance problem. This is usually a red flag for me, and I will always follow up and ask if they’ve actually determined the functional cause of the performance deficit.
Performance diagnostics and functional assessment are an essential component of the performance management process. It’s true: a scorecard system has the potential to address many components of performance diagnostics, including providing feedback, goals, potentially reinforcement, etc. But there are also aspects that scorecards will not address, like equipment and process issues and skills and knowledge deficits, for example.
Scorecard implementation and maintenance is often resource intensive, and without doing the appropriate diagnostic, you will be wasting those time and resources without the empirical foundation to justify implementation as a solution.
- No measurement systems in place, from top to bottom.
Now, assuming you’ve done your due diligence and determined that scorecards are a functionally appropriate solution, do you have measurement systems in place? And I’m not talking about just at the performer level. Do you have the data available to determine how the organization is doing? Can you link those data to the measures tied to outputs of departmental processes? And can you, then, link the employee’s behavior to the output of the process?
Without clear measures from top to bottom, and the systems in place to retrieve the data, you’re asking for trouble when implementing the scorecard system. By ensuring these links are clear, you’re able to show that the employee performance of interest is important and significant to the business. If you cannot make this link… why is this performance important to measure (and hold them accountable for it) in the first place?
- Constant change “initiatives” are being implemented.
With the appropriate diagnostics and ensuring the systems are in place for measurement, you’re getting closer to checking all the foundation boxes for scorecard implementation. But I implore you to slow down for a moment and think… “How many other interventions and change initiatives have we done in the last year? The last MONTH?” The more “flavor-of-the-week” interventions that have been put in place recently, the more likely the employees will not buy-in to the new process that you are proposing.
Those other initiatives, too, will likely impact and confound the new process that you’re putting in place. Many organizations will throw everything they can at a problem, but by not systematically evaluating the interventions in place, how do you know what is working, and what can be phased out? Take the time to either, a. let those other interventions play out to determine if they are effective, or b. stop those other interventions as best you can (i.e., return to a stable baseline for my ABA friends), so you can truly evaluate the impact of this intervention. Again, these systems are resource intensive, so you’ll want to know if you’re “getting what you paid for”, so-to-speak.
- No resources available, including people, time, and money.
I don’t know if I’ve stressed this enough, but scorecard systems are NOT simple processes. But the most effective performance management systems are not “set-and-forget”: you need to be consistently monitoring, graphing, collecting and providing feedback, revising, revisiting, goal-setting, delivering feedback, and so much more. If you aren’t willing to allocate resources to implementing the system, you’re only going to be overloading the individuals responsible for actually doing the hard work.
Ensure that the individuals responsible for retrieving and compiling the data into the scorecards have sufficient time to dedicate to performing these tasks. Be prepared to not only provide reinforcement to the primary performers who are being measured for achieving their goals, but also to provide reinforcement to the folks who are working to make the scorecard process successful. Have the money or other resources on hand for reinforcement, and make sure the reinforcers are replicable and catered to the individual’s preferences. This is just a taste of the resources needed to develop a scorecard system that is going to sustain over time.
- Employee satisfaction and/or retention are low.
Finally, social validity is CRUCIAL to developing a lasting scorecard system. And if you already have problems with retaining employees and ensuring they are engaged and happy, be prepared for a scorecard system (in all likelihood) to potentially drive them further away. From a social validity standpoint, I’ve seen reports from employees that indicate they don’t like the idea of receiving a “report card” and being “graded” on their work as adults. Some employees may have even had poor experiences with systems like these in the past, either being used as a means of punishment or being poorly implemented with little support.
Particularly, in the ABA world, the market is in the employees’ favor. If you have employees that are on the edge of resigning, a system like this might be the last straw. The number of human service organizations have grown exponentially in the last 5 years, and many organizations do not have accountability systems like this in place. Unless you are willing to part with these employees and watch them head to an organization that won’t hold them accountable like this, I would advise you address the engagement/retention issue FAR in advance of implementing a scorecard system.
On another note of social validity, get the employees involved early and often in the development of the system itself. Educate them on what scorecards are, and the purpose of their use. After you select the measures, have them help point out potential barriers to achieving the measures BEFORE IMPLEMENTING. Pilot with a group of employees that will provide candid feedback, and most importantly LISTEN AND ACT UPON their feedback. Then, during launch of the system, continue to reassess their satisfaction with the system and make continuous improvements to ensure they are engaged and happy. And don’t forget the people who are actually doing the work to make the scorecard system a success! Ask them how it’s going, if the process is feasible or if it’s overly time-consuming. Remove barriers for their performance as the “doers” in the implementation process.
These factors are all essential to sustaining a performance scorecarding system (or, really, any performance management system). If you push too fast, without the right people and processes in place, you’re going to be investing in a system that will fall to the wayside at best, or a system that will drive employees away at worst. And, on a final note, understand that the launch of the performance scorecard system is the beginning of the process, NOT the end!
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