Susan Strayer, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Member

Susan Strayer, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Member

From career coaching to recruiting strategy to social media, Susan has experience with in-house corporate HR and recruiting leadership roles, as a Fortune 500 consultant, and as a career and brand coach. She’s held positions with companies such as Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Arthur Andersen and The Home Depot and has consulted for hundreds of Fortune 500 organizations. Her perspective is unique having worked in all aspects of the organizational life-cycle in start-up ventures, high-growth organizations and mature billion-dollar companies. Full Bio »

Long Term Performance Management

by Susan Strayer

In a market like this one, it’s easy to see why recruiting is easy—or why people think it’s easy. And after all the years, if I were to go back to pure placement recruiting again, I could make it easy. It’s not hard to convince a hiring manager that a candidate’s the right fit. It’s about the spin. That is if you’re a bad recruiter—if you’re all about numbers and closing deals. But I don’t want to perpetuate bad recruiting. Or simple dealmaking. I want people to perform, to have a long-term impact.

So let’s digress for a minute.

For whatever reason, the theme of my latest West Coast trip has been education—from the battle to get into private schools in San Francisco proper, to the role of the Teachers’ Union in California. In one of the ensuing discussions my friend Rebecca, a special education, middle school, science teacher (yes, you read that right) relayed the following story:

“One day, I was running late for a meeting and I needed a Diet Coke like nobody’s business, so I pulled into the closest drive-thru. It happened to be Long John Silver’s (a fast food seafood joint—yes, you read that right too). As I pulled up to get my soda, I realized I knew the cashier. Javier had been my student four years ago. One day I was teaching the kids how to dissect a frog and he stabbed another child in the hand with the scalpel. It was an accident, but the child needed stitches—it was a big ordeal. Now, Ed had learning disabilities and some behavioral issues so this was pretty traumatic for him. But it truly was an accident and we worked on his focus and the importance of focus as a life skill.

As Javier recognized me and handed me my soda, his face broke into a wide grin and he told me how far he’d come with his life. He ended by saying ‘thank you for being my teacher!’ It took him awhile, but he mastered the collection of life skills enough to hold down a part-time job. And for special education students, life skills are absolutely key.”

For Rebecca, it wasn’t about that he made it, it was learning that he did. In many performance situations, you see the effects of your work immediately. That’s why companies do 6-month and 12-month reviews—and why our resumes are full of short- term results. Most teachers experience that too. They see their students matriculate to the next level or achieve a certain score on a standardized test. In fact, a primary factor in how states measure teacher performance (if they’re measuring it at all).

On the other hand, Rebecca recently administered the state reading test to her students and two of them scored a zero. Again.

“It’s really frustrating,” she relayed to me. “Technically I’d be fired over that if test scores were the measure of my performance.”

But what about Javier? Well, California (like many other states) isn’t measuring Rebecca’s performance based on long-term success. Sure, Javier’s success may be the cumulative effect of several teachers. But no one looks at Javier now and his success and attributes it back. Isn’t that the goal?

It’s frustrating to think how shortsighted we all are professionally. We’re evaluating candidates, teams, and ourselves over the last success, the latest win, the six and 12- month metrics. No one ever goes back and looks at the total effect of your work over time. Sure, there are certain companies and industries that reward longevity. But at the last 20-year celebration I attended for a colleague at my last job, no one talked about work from many years ago—no one was able or willing to make that correlation.

And we certainly don’t measure people on that.

What happened to performance over time? I just left a company where I spent five years and was rated highly for my work and performance. Great. But what about the initiatives, the efforts they may have been strong out of the gate and then falter? Or vice versa? I built a great social media strategy, but how will that foundation I crafted contribute to success two, three, 10 years from now?

There’s another comparison to be made here too—what about environmental factors? Rebecca’s only evaluated on what happens in the classroom and how her students fare. Environmental factors don’t play into the measurement. Let’s say Javier’s family situation changed or there was a change in his medical diagnosis before, during or after his time in Rebecca’s classroom. None of these criteria factor into Rebecca’s performance

evaluation as a teacher.

The same can be said in the corporate world. Rarely do we get more credit for succeeding in a more difficult environment or economy. Ever had a boss who said “I’ll give you a better rating because I know how hard I am to work for”? Probably not.

Here’s my challenge for you for the next resume you read or interview you complete.

Whether you’re the hiring manager or the recruiter, take a long-lens focus. Look beyond face value. Don’t just evaluate the last year or two, but look for or ask about cumulative effects over time. What did the candidate do early in his career that bloomed well after his departure or promotion? What in his environment helped or hindered his success? Does that make him a better candidate?

It’s these questions that will really get the attention of the candidate and get you a better perspective. The best candidate is often about the bigger picture.


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