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Performance Management: HR’s Rubik’s Cube

Companies tend to face four internal paradoxes that harm their HR performance management

RubikCubeThe Rubik’s cube recently celebrated its 40th birthday—a challenging puzzle where every time you move colored pieces to one side, other sides of the puzzle, where colors were beginning to coalesce, dismantle.

HR has its own pressing, and much more modern moving target. More than ever, CEOs and CHROs are looking for breakthrough performance. In fact, members tell us they need, on average, a 27% increase in employee performance across the next 12 months to achieve business goals. More and more time is being spent developing organizational performance management methods.

At the same time, everyone nods in agreement that performance management as we know it isn’t getting results. (We talked about this recently on the Diane Rehm show). Additionally the new work environment—with its required interconnection, interdependence and collaboration— makes the solution more complex. We’ve heard over and over again, clear objectives and manager training aren’t going to cut it.

In response, we introduced the concept of enterprise contributors. These employees connect, contribute, and consume ideas and input focused not just on their objectives, but also of improving the performance of their networks along the way. Organizations need to manage their performance management system, recruit and train for enterprise contribution.

How To Encourage Enterprise Contribution: Avoid Four Paradoxes

First, recognize that people want to collaborate – more than 80% of employees say they want this to be part of their job. In a TED Radio Hour, speakers including Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia talked though what makes all of us want collaborate. Their conclusion is that it’s innate.

Nonetheless, organizations often make it hard for employees to contribute (see chart 1), and so HR teams must work hard to overcome four paradoxes that are built in to most organizations.

  1. The Competition Paradox : Organizations want performance systems that encourage team-based outcomes and differentiate individual performance.  In most situations, systems that differentiate individual performance reduce, rather than improve team performance.

  2. The Empowerment Paradox: Organizations try to create work environments that create more employee autonomy but also provide more direction about what employees do and work on.  In most situations, more direction reduces rather than increases autonomy.

  3. The Collaboration Paradox: Organizations want their employees to collaborate more but also get work done quickly.  In most situations more time spent collaborating slows work processes.

  4. The Motivation Paradox: Organizations want to financially reward employees for their performance.  However, financial rewards improve individual task performance, but crowd out network performance.

Four performance management paradoxes that exist at most organizations

Chart 1: Four HR-related paradoxes that exist at most organizations  Source: CEB analysis

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