What is employee performance?

This term usually refers to workers’ efficiency and functionality. In some cases, it is possible to assess the quantitative dimension of work performance, while we always seek to assess the quality of someone’s work.

These are the so-called dimensions of employee performance. There are many employee performance metrics, linked with the aforementioned dimensions.

Why is it important to know the level of effectiveness of your employees? Because your company income practically, and, quite literally, depends on the efficiency of your workers.

We can further divide employee performance indicators:

  1. Subjective metrics (measures of attitudes, questionnaires, feedback, surveys, etc.)
  2. Objective metrics (e.g. number of successful sales, produced good, customer feedback, etc.)

While subjective metrics are linked with self-report measures (questionnaires, surveys, etc.) and usually concern things like job satisfaction and adaptation to the organization’s policies, objective indicators are pretty straightforward- the quantity of produced elements or time spent working. Generally, objective measures allow for much more complex and far-reaching analytics and predictions of behavior. This doesn’t mean that subjective metrics are strictly descriptive- with the help of

It’s important to note that there are no ideal performance metrics- both objective and subjective measures are relevant, while the primacy of one over the other depends on the exact nature of a given workplace. For instance, objective indicators are indispensable when it comes to factory workers- with their help it’s easy to see who produces the most goods and who lags behind. On the other hand, sometimes it’s hard to assess the performance of workers who have more abstract tasks. A typical office worker, for example, works in such an environment that objective metrics, even if at our disposal, cannot be the primary indicator of professional functioning. This is why where subjective measures come into play- things like organizational commitment, job cognitions, and job satisfaction. One thing comes to mind- why should we measure how well one does his job with job satisfaction indicators (questionnaires)?

There’s a simple answer to this question- research has shown that work performance and job satisfaction are two closely related topics- in statistical terms, they correlate. Thus, job satisfaction measures can sometimes be used as fairly reliable indicators of employee’s functionality. Needless to say, job satisfaction cannot be the only performance metric.

Questionnaire To Help You Improve Your Employee Performance Management

We’ll now give you a short questionnaire, developed previously by industrial psychology experts (Williams & Anderson, 1991), that can help you improve your employee performance management. Simply answer with “yes” or “no” to the statements:

  1. I love the fact that my job allows me to do different things.
  2. I have the freedom to use my judgment.
  3. I have a chance to make use of my abilities.
  4. I have good pay and good chances for advancement. 
  5. Since I joined the organization, my values and the organization’s values have become more similar.
  6. The reason I like my workplace is primarily because of organizational values.
  7. I am proud to tell my friends that I am a part of my work collective.
  8. I feel like I am a part of my company and not just an employee.
  9. I go out of my way to help new employees.
  10. I take a personal interest in other employees.
  11. I pass along information to co-workers. 
  12. I give advance notice when I cannot come to work. 

Let’s dissect this questionnaire.

First four items concern motivation (intrinsic versus extrinsic). Intrinsic motivation is most often emphasized as one of the most important predictors of professional success. People who are driven by intrinsic motivation simply love their jobs while other things like workplace conditions and hourly rate are of secondary importance. Intrinsic motivation is always important, but there are some professions in which intrinsic motivation plays (or should play) a major role- scientists, judges, policemen, and nurses, for instance. A good nurse almost always knows how to empathize with her patients, and cares deeply for them.

Four items in the middle are used to measure organizational commitment (adaptation to the organization)- one can adopt the abstract organizational values (progress, technological improvement, equality, etc.); or the organization itself (e.g. being immersed in the organization). While these two types of organizational commitment are similar, we should take care not to confuse them as they are sometimes linked with quite different behaviors. Japanese people have extremely high levels of both types of adaptation to the organizational structures (i.e. they accept both the organizational values, and feel like an indispensable part of their company). This is why Japanese people are extremely loyal workers- most of them seek to find a stable company where they build (and finish) their careers. On the other hand, an employee who doesn’t feel like a part of the group, even though he accepts the company’s values, is much more likely to seek another job.

Last questions are closely related to organizational commitment, but they are also measures of concrete socio-organizational performance.

The Effect of Monitoring

Before we go on to enumerate the possible effects of being monitored, we have to emphasize the distinction between two types of measuring employee performance:

  1. Continuous monitoring
  2. “Sampling”- occasional monitoring

Simply put, you can either monitor your employees constantly, or you can take “samples” of their work behavior and infer conclusions on how they usually behave. Needless to say, some types of metrics (objective) are easy to adapt to the continuous monitoring scheme, while it’s not easy to assess employee’s job satisfaction on a daily basis. In other words, while we can objectively assess how many goods an employee has produced in a day, it’s not that easy to assess the amount of daily job satisfaction of that same employee. The distinction between two types of measuring workers’ performance has to be held in mind when assessing the effect of monitoring on workers. While employees might get used to continuous monitoring, occasional “sampling” of their behavior can significantly alter their responses.

While employee performance tracking has many benefits, there are also some downsides to it. First of all, monitoring employee performance can actually change worker’s performance- simply put, people behave differently when they know they are being monitored and evaluated.

Furthermore, it’s not easy to predict how employees would react to being evaluated by managers. For instance, a highly competitive worker will probably be even more motivated to “up his game” while being monitored. On the other hand, an anxious individual will probably react much more negatively to such a situation.

These variables need to be taken into consideration, as they affect the way people perceive others’ observation of them:

  1. Justification– this simply means that the purpose of monitoring should be explained to employees.
  2. Monitored performance consequences– whether monitoring will entail punitive, disciplinary, or remedial (additional training) outcome.
  3. Workgroup cohesion- the extent to which individuals are allowed to interact and identify with coworkers who are also monitored. Being able to assess the efficiency of coworkers and comparing it with one’s own performance is an important factor in how workers react to being watched and scrutinized.

There are, of course, other factors that also come to mind when contemplating this issue. One factor, however, stands out- Neuroticism. Psychologists have long ago proven that this trait exists and that we all exhibit to some extent, behavior that might be labeled as “neurotic”. This term stands for negative affectivity- being overly anxious, sullen, irritable, impulsive, and easily frustrated. It’s not hard to see why people high on Neuroticism will react much more adversely to being monitored. A good employee performance evaluation system has to consider personality traits like these, and not simply resort to equating one’s performance with one’s skills and knowledge. Neurotics, for instance, while often possessing sufficient abilities, underperform even when under slightest stress (e.g. being watched and evaluated). On the other hand, in everyday situations (e.g. when not scrutinized and evaluated) Neurotics are much more likely to show their full potential.

Measuring Work Quality

It’s safe to say that every industry has a special standard of quality, and this is true, to some extent, for specific companies too. Quality of work can be assessed by the durability of the goods that are produced, which is a common standard in technological industries. On the other hand, the service industry has special service standards, which includes the training of employees, their politeness and professionalism. The fast food industry, on the other hand, has to meet rigorous quality standards regarding food safety, food quality, and, as mentioned before, quality of service.

So far we’ve only mentioned a few industries but immediately it becomes obvious just how heterogeneous are indicators of quality strictly within these industries. For instance, the quality of service is usually assessed via anonymous customer satisfaction questionnaires. Furthermore, surveys used to measure the quality of service vary in their complexity and length. Some simply ask you to rate the quality of service, while others include numerous aspects like politeness, professionalism, and warmth of employees.

Needless to say, the quality of fast food products is assessed much differently- experts are usually hired, who then taste the product and rate it.

When it comes to more “abstract” professions (managers, lawyers, scientists, artists), it becomes extremely hard to assess the quality of work using the aforementioned methods simply because these professions are not linked to any kind of production. This is why qualitative studies are essential for these professions. HR workers are usually able to organize an in-depth qualitative study of an employee- while this takes time and money, it is practically the only way to account for all aspects of these professions.

Measuring Work Quantity

This is perhaps the most straightforward part of this text- assessing the quantity of production is generally easy and useful at the same time. Measuring quantitative aspect of work performance becomes a bit trickier when we have to deal with professions like- scientists, lawyers, and programmers. While it’s possible to quantify some aspects of these professions (e.g. the number of articles for scientists, number of cases won for lawyers), we cannot confine our work performance analysis strictly to quantitative factors. In these professions, it is the quality of work that’s the most important, while quantity is secondary.

It’s also rather tricky to quantify professional performance in the managerial sector. More specifically, being a good manager isn’t only about making the most money or improving the company’s productivity (which are all quantifiable). It’s also about making a good work environment and building a strong group. This is why quality management is all about individual qualities of managers- their personal traits like neuroticism, antagonism (more generally, psychopathy), cooperativeness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extroversion.

Measuring Work Efficiency

When possible, it is possible to divide the number of products manufactured in a given time span and the amount of time needed for the production. This ratio will enable us to compare workers concerning their efficiency and track their performance in real-time. Moreover, this type of metric also helps us evaluate our attempts to improve employee performance and compare different types of trainings.

In Conclusion

The most important thing to remember is that evaluation workers’ performance is extremely complex and that you should always use several types of metrics.

In most branches of industry and business, it is possible the assess worker’s performance by evaluating their levels of job satisfaction- as it’s been shown that these two variables correlate. This is especially relevant for service industries and professions that don’t involve direct production of any type of goods.

By paying attention to employee performance you will make sure that your company is heading in the right direction- the attainment of objectives, improving initiative, and building strong teams.