True measure



President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) is reflective of his first year of tenure, which is characterized by various issues, intrigues, praise, and everything in between.

What do the numbers say? Some view the investments and loans promised by China and Russia as good indicators. Those concerned about the economy cite sustained GDP growth, stock exchange figures, and employment rates as positive indicators, as well.

On the other side of the fence, we find those that highlight the deaths of victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs). Others interpret the inability of the President to crush the Marawi siege after more than a couple of months as an indicator that he is not up to the job.

What then best measures the performance of a president? Why do people have various views of measuring one’s performance? For those managing one’s health, people are looking at the numbers lost in waistline, pounds and fat percentage. Others claim that the overall health and wellness of a person is more important, regardless of one’s size and shape. You are healthy if you do not get sick, can live an active lifestyle and do not smoke nor drink.

It is worth noting that in organizations and firms, people look at performance measurement using various lenses. This article is not a political one, nor is it a health-tips corner. The examples I cited are just meant to point out that people have different ways of measuring specific performances, which is true in various organizations of which I had been a part. Performance management is, indeed, not an easy task, particularly if one is not familiar with the tools.

The article “Reinventing Performance Management,” which was published in the April 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review, speaks of the challenge the global company Deloitte has to go through in undertaking its performance management. We’re looking at 65,000 employees all over the globe, thus while using their old system in conducting performance management, managers spend 2 million of work hours just discussing their ratings with the employees, along with their discussions with their fellow managers.

To rectify the situation, the company came up with four simple questions: (1) If the compensation is coming from the rater’s pocket, do they deserve it given the performance they recently did? (2) Will I want to keep him in my team? (3) Is the person at risk of low performance? (4) Is the person a good candidate for promotion today?

From this simplified set of questions, they utilized technology to show the power rankings of their people and the outliers, and each dot in the graph represents an individual whose profile comes up at a click. Looks impressive. Did it cut the time spent? Yes. Was it easier for the rater? Yes. But why bother?

The article further argued that raters go through the “idiosyncratic rater effect,” which, according to an article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in year 2000, speaks of the variance between two supervisors, two peers and two individuals having different views on performance. This is not to be mistaken with what HR literature speaks of as the “angels” and “horns” effect, where the good deeds are highlighted while doing performance management or where the “grave offense” overshadows the stellar performance achieved during the past months.

Just imagine the 2 million company hours spent on doing performance appraisal, along with these idiosyncrasies in evaluating their people! How can such a global organization sustain its talent if its employees’ performance is measured incorrectly?

That is why going back to my premises above, debates in political circles are on-going because what really determines whether a president is good or bad are not just the economic numbers. “Good” is indeed relative to one’s values and principles. What might be good in the eyes of an economist has no value to human rights advocates, and vice versa.

Alvin Neil Gutierrez is an assistant professor at the Marketing and Advertising Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University, where he teaches Personal Selling and Sales Force Management, Marketing Management and Strategic Human Resource. He took up his Masters in Human Resource Management as an AUSAID scholar at the University of Sydney Business School, and is currently a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) student at DLSU. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.


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