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How Do We Determine Employees Who Exceed Expectations? (Revised January 15, 2013)

What are ways that we can determine who our company's top performers are? —Taking Stock, wholesale trade, Seattle
December 3, 2012
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Related Topics: Recognition, Employee Engagement, Job Descriptions, Motivating Employees, Dear Workforce
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Dear Taking Stock:

Typically, only a small percentage of employees are top performers. To overlook even one star, or to lavish time and money on someone who comes across as a star but really isn't could be a critical mistake.

Identifying your top performers involves a blend of well-written job descriptions, a commitment to ongoing performance management, and a talent-overview process that gives insight into candidates whose potential deserves future development.

Job Descriptions

You can't determine a star performer until you clearly define your expectations. The best job description details the specific tasks to be performed, how long each should take and the measurements used to help the employee and supervisor gauge true accomplishment.

Performance Management

Performance management flows from good job description—measurements are compiled and discussed with employees, their successes and developmental needs are noted, and future plans are made. The best method is to instruct managers to keep a record of day-to-day performance.

Have managers keep a simple "plus and minus" sheet on each employee. Each day, the manager will take five minutes to record the plus (above expectations) or minus (below expectations) performance of each employee. (This is not five minutes per employee, but five minutes a day.) Normally, there are only a few notes that need to be made each day in work groups of 10 or fewer.

These contemporaneous notes help ground performance management in fact. Many of the errors normally found in performance management are avoided; evaluations are more objective, more compliant with applicable law and more effective in communicating actual performance results.

Talent Overview Program

Even with good job descriptions and evaluations, stars may still be overlooked. Some managers are better promoters of their employees than others. Some locations or departments may be less in the spotlight than others.

Unless there is a coordinated process that shares performance information companywide, there is a chance some star performers will go unrecognized. Create a talent overview in which your HR function dedicates staff to compile performance information about all employees. This information is used to develop performance profiles on top performers in each area of the business, including an inventory of their skills and professional interests.

Your senior management should review this information as part of its planning for business development and succession. Each candidate should be discussed, including avenues for future assignment and career growth.

Your organization's available talent becomes a known quantity as a result of these processes. Existing resources are used wisely, with talent shortages noted and efforts launched to fill them.

One final word: In your push to seek out high performers, don't neglect average employees who may benefit from additional training and performance feedback. You just might discover an unexpected diamond in the rough.

SOURCE: Rick Galbreath, Performance Growth Partners Inc., Bloomington, Illinois

LEARN MORE: Despite their widespread uses, job descriptions are not always helpful.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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