This post is a painful one for me to write. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career in marketing research and measurement and I measure everything. Literally everything….from my clients’ financial data and sales and marketing performance, to the number of steps I take every day and the ounces of protein, fat and carbohydrates I eat. I truly suffer from “metric fixation”.
But when does a singular focus on measurement go wrong? When professional judgement is replaced with numerical performance indicators that (incorrectly) assume the best way to motivate employees is to attach rewards or penalties to metrics.
In some cases, metrics can have a positive effect. For instance, many high performing sales leaders thrive on tension and metrics driven goal attainment. However, in many cases, too much focus on metrics can lead to gaming: encouraging staff to maximize metrics in ways that are at odds with the greater goals of the company.
Measuring productivity through performance metrics alone has been shown to discourage employee initiative, innovation and risk-taking, all of which are critical to organic growth.
So how to measure performance while avoiding the pitfalls of that very measurement?
- Ensure what you’re measuring and incentivizing is driving the desired behavior.
- Too much measurement can be onerous and demoralizing. The expenditure of employee time tasked with compiling, recording and analyzing metrics can be considerable but can be reduced significantly through automated reporting solutions. Consider hiring a dedicated analyst if your reporting requirements are extensive.
- Make sure you’re not advancing short-term goals at the expense of long-term organizational objectives.
- Involve your team in goal setting. The work experience can be degraded when employees are not involved in determining the problems to be solved or how to solve them. Remember that not everything can be or needs to be measured.
If you’ve just read my posts on how to create an organic growth mindset and increase team innovation, the last thing you want to do is kill it through metrics overload. As the author says in this article from Fast Company, “the entrepreneurial element of human nature is stifled by metrics fixation”.
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