I worry about kids today – not in the sense we see most often in media (“These Millenialls, they’re so entitled,” which is a sentiment I don’t agree with anyway), but because test results seem to drive the very measure of self-worth and achievement. But tests of academics alone cannot reflect the full picture of a child and his or her abilities. And yet, it’s these test results that determine a child’s academic progression, college selection, even future career.
I fear we are perpetuating this myth in the workplace. New entrants into the work world find the familiar test, this time in the form of the annual performance review. Like those school-based test, the annual review cannot and does not reflect the full picture of the employee’s accomplishments, contributions and achievements in the workplace.
What brings this up? One primary school in the UK is sending this letter (courtesy of the Huffington Post) to students along with their annual test results:
Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test results. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.
However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you- the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.
They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.
They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school.
They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends.
They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best… the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.
So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.
Think about your company’s performance review. What is measured? What is discussed? Does it focus primarily on results achieved? If so, what message could that be sending? In a worst-case scenario, it could encourage results above all else (and we’ve seen enough companies flounder, fail, or hurt the economy as a whole when that’s the primary measure of success).
We need to break the cycle we’ve trained our employees to expect from the time they were very young. There’s more to success than getting the single “right” answer on the major “annual” exam. As the teacher in the letter above said, “The scores will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.” It’s time to supplement the annual performance review given from the single point of view of the manager with a frequent, timely feedback given throughout the year from the entire community of colleagues who can see far more than any one person. Combined, both measures give a more complete picture.
How does your organization measure individual employee success? Is it accurate? How could it be improved?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin, Montreal and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.