Performance analysis is an important aspect of managing any business and if done properly can help management teams use data analysis to their advantage to further business growth.
The old adage “what gets measured, gets improved” isn’t quite true. What gets measured simply gives an empirical basis for improvement. I can stand on the scale and measure my weight every day, but if I don’t change my eating habits despite being unhappy with what the scale is reading, that number won’t improve.
Metrics and measurements are valuable, but the ability to glean insights from numbers and implement changes accordingly is the true motivator of improvement. But before we jump into lean implementations of performance analysis, let’s first observe some of its benefits.
Who Benefits From Performance Analysis?
The knee-jerk answer here is that the business or organization benefits, as the ability to hone insights into guided improvements for their members will result in increased productivity and smoother project execution. While this answer is absolutely correct, the truth is that the benefits from performance analysis are far more wide reaching than just an organization’s bottom line.
Employees Grow from Performance Analysis
Quantifiable goals within your workflow allow for members of your team to strive for completion markers. If a copywriter is tasked to “write blogs” — there’s a lot of open-ended, primarily the questions “how many blogs, and how often?”.
When a metric goal is set — in this example, perhaps two blogs a week — not only is there a tangible goal set, but allows for that employee’s time to be adequately budgeted leading up to that goal. Two blogs a week allows the writer to sit back and say “I’d like to have my first draft finished by mid-Tuesday, and in order to do so, I’d like my outline finished by mid-Monday.” By setting a single, measurable end goal, a cascade of planning falls into place.
From here, employees are able to develop time management skills that help them thrive in their role and flourish as individuals. Inversely, failing to meet the goals set for them allows them (as well as managers) to dive into daily workflow habits to see whether it’s the goal or the process that needs adjusting, which leads us to our second benefit.
Performance Analysis Sets Clear Expectations
Quantifiable performance goals with clearly set deadlines means there’s no guesswork as to what’s expected from members of your team, so credit and feedback is distributed fairly and predictably. Performance reviews, workflow adjustments, and promotions are driven by clearly set and managed expectations. By no means is this advocating to replace the human and interpersonal elements of collaboration and employment, but performance metrics creates transparent expectations by which assessment can be derived from, even if the metrics don’t determine all of these decisions within your organization by default.
A Better Process Means Better Results
If the individual goals of employee workflows are clearly set and expertly met by means of employee growth and effectively embracing time management skills, then the sum of these parts on a whole improves as a result. First and foremost, the business succeeds, and you motivated employees can stake out their ownership in the individual initiatives that lends to the greater objective. But let’s take a moment to consider outside of the business.
If your organization is a product company, then effective performance analysis leads to a better product that is able to iterate, adapt, move, and evolve to match your customers’ needs and boost their overall satisfaction. If your team is a service company, then your intimate client relationships will flourish and referrals will come naturally as your projects move at predictably healthy paces.
Either way, project management efforts improve internally, as performance analysis not only boosts employee morale and growth, but helps the business hone workflow processes and establish reasonable expectations within specific roles, meaning future initiatives can be planned with improved resource implementation accuracy and fewer bumps in the road.
Implementing Performance Analysis in your Workflow
Like most types of implementation in business, a gradual, goal-based rollout of performance analysis is often the best approach, as it helps everyone identify what they wish to track and how they wish to track if, not to mention makes introducing the concept to employees slightly more digestible from get-go.
Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
You’ll want to recognize what will be tracked so it can be measured effectively. While the tasks will certainly vary for every role in your organization, how you track it might as well. Our example laid out the KPI of completed tasks, specifically two blogs per week.
Establish a Baseline for Performance Analysis
This phase is focused on creating a reasonable goal for that role as it fits into the context of the company. Your understanding of the role may help with the initial goal for the KPI, but standardizing this amongst the members of your team in this role will assist in finding a number that is productive and inspiring without risking burnout.
Calibrate the Baseline
After a couple weeks to a month of testing the KPI baseline, sit down with the members of your team to review not only their metrics, but the KPIs themselves. You might find that most of your employees in a role can hit a certain number (two blogs) more comfortably than others, but perhaps there’s a slow writer who puts out extremely detailed, quality content. This may be a basis for adjusting that teammate’s personal goal based on how they work and the quality of their output.
If all of your employees are struggling to meet the KPIs, or the one’s that meet them successfully are able to do so by sacrificing quality, then you might use this as an opportunity to adjust the target more broadly.
Celebrate Success and Understand Performance Analysis Shortcomings
The point of analytics is not to reduce employees to a numeric assessment of output, rather to give goals to strive for. Success, whether it be first time or routine, is a reason to celebrate as a positive reinforcement towards a continued commitment of these goals. Celebrations can come in many forms (big or small), but such team-facing acknowledgments help establish visible patterns by which promotions are earned transparently and through indisputable meritocracy.
Similarly, if an employee is coming up shy–especially when they used to hit their baseline routinely–it may be a good time to have a discussion regarding what’s changed in their workflow and why. There’s a possibility that their performance may be currently impacted by forces in their day-to-day life, so this could also be an opportunity to better understand your employees personal plights, or at least gain trust to have a conversation based around the fact that they’re facing challenges, even if they don’t wish to elaborate on what they might be.
Lean Implementation of Performance Analysis
Utilizing an enterprise project management software such as Nifty will help you and your team start off with the meaningful basics of performance analysis. One way to start is perhaps the simplest KPI out there: amount of tasks assigned versus amount of tasks completed.
Assigning tasks with deadlines to members of your team on the project level will let them know what they’re responsible for on a per-project basis. Members of the team will be able to reference all of their assignments from their My Tasks screen to give them extreme actionability without needing to visit every project individually.
As a manager, you can track (and even export reports) for open and completed tasks from Workloads to gauge whether or not members of your team are tackling their weekly assignments, or if the volume of tasks assigned needs to be calibrated.
Resource-Driven Performance Analysis
The lean methodology above is a great way to get a framework in place for setting and measuring expectations, but the Task Volume KPI has a notable blindspot being that two tasks might not require nearly the same amount of work. In this case, the Volume KPI belies the effort it might take for one employee to complete their four rigorous tasks, when another employee has four fairly simple tasks.
To account for this, Nifty offers a resource methodology called Story Points. A single point represents a day of work, and will actually reflect as such on a task’s duration in the Workloads tool. Instead of tracking the volume of tasks, we can now track how many points a member of my team has assigned to them any given week. We might deem a one point task to be high-velocity, whereas a three-point task is more likely to span multiple days. Tracking the amount of points assigned and completed in the Workloads screen and reports now adjusts for the amount of time dedicated to the tasks instead of tracking pure task volume.
Performance analysis isn’t meant to be some organizational boogeyman to reduce employee output into a metric. Instead, this device is meant to give context to employees’ workloads while providing transparency behind promotion decisions and teammate recognition. The more collaborative the KPI setting process is with the members of your team, the more likely they’ll buy into the challenge instead of balking at what could feel like increased oversight.