How Gaming Could Help Workplace Performance Managment

Whilst out jogging this morning, I had a random thought on how workplace performance management could be improved using ideas from gaming.

Where I work staff have a performance management report (PMR) which measures performance across the year (start of April to end of March) and is reviewed midway. At the end of March staff get a performance marking of either Excellent, Good or Must Improve. Those who get Excellent get rewarded, those who get Good don’t get anything and anyone who Must Improve gets put on an improvement plan.

One problem with this system is that there is a guided distribution so the top 10% get Excellent, the bottom 10% Must Improve with the rest getting a Good. Theres no difference between a bad Good or a good Good which leads to the good Good people resenting the bad Good people who get the same marking for being worse at their job. The other problem is that this is all determined by their line managers who at the end of the year need to provide evidence of the marks they give and any Excellent reports need validated by higher management. This leaves alot of it open to interpretation, favouritism, manager competency and inconsistencies. If the manager is bad at keeping evidence then the staff might not get what they deserve.

The guided distribution system also rates people against their peers and this can lead to inconsistencies across different departments and work areas as you can’t effectively compare someone’s work in a target driven operations department against someone in a department doing bespoke ad-hoc type of work.

So how can gaming help?

I was thinking that there could be a ladder system like in League of Legends where people are put into tiers. The bottom 10% are in bronze and the top 10% are in Diamond with the Good people spread out in several tiers in between separating bad Good and good Good performers.

Now to make it more like gaming and to try and remove some inconsistencies each person will get a rating like a hidden MMR and a point system to move between tiers.

For this to work there would need to be a computer system built to record all staff ratings and rank them and allowing evidence to be recorded. 

At the start of the year everyone starts with a rating of 1000 in the middle tier. Each day they gain 5 points so long as they do what is expected of them so just doing your job accumulates points and increases your rating. 

Throughout the year managers can then either award or deduct points from their staffs rating so long as they have a valid reason. This reason must be recorded on the points computer system in case of disputes and will provide any required evidence, attachments could also be attached to the points gain or lost as further evidence.

There would be a set number of reasons for point awards or deductions so people can’t just be given points or have them taken for no reason. For example exceeding targets for the day might add 5 extra points or being under target deducts 5 points. Completing a project a week early gives 20 points, 2 weeks early gives 50 but the equivalent is deducted for late completion.

The points gained/lost would need to be consistent across departments so while a target driven department might reward 5 extra points a day to someone exceeding targets for 25 points a week, a non target driven department might reward 25 points for an excellent piece of work carried out. It would need to be balanced so the work in one department does not award or deduct more than the equivalent work in another.

This would allow a consistent evidence based points rating to more accurately rate staff performance. It would be in line with the guided distribution set up as people would automatically be ranked against their peers each day.

It could be also be used on a small scale with each department ranked separately if the work varies too much or on a large scale where the whole company could be ranked together.

The rankings could be split by grade but also all grades could be ranked together so long as the reasons for gaining or losing points are consistent across the grades. So managers could be ranked alongside their staff as the points they have relate to their individual work whereas the rank is based on the number of points.

It would also bring out the competitive side of people who would want to do better and move up the ladder into a higher tier. I know from my experience in gaming I am determined to better my competitive rankings and if it was implemented at work I would be aiming to get into the top tier.

At the end of the year people will be in the tier based on how they have consistently performed across the year rather than getting a marking which may be biased or based on a few good bits of rememerable work while unmemorable bad bits of work may have been forgotten. It’s also easier for management to identify the top and bottom 10% of their workforce.

Staff should be able to see at any time which tier they are in so they can react and work harder if need be. You could even provide weekly updates on how many points have been gained or lost so they can see which direction they are heading in. Monthly feedback could be given on why points have been added or removed and as every reason is recorded it will make giving feedback easier, it can also identify which areas people gain or lose the most points in to help in identifying strengths and weaknesses.

Of course I’m sure there will be negatives too and some people may feel under pressure to perform or get stressed if they are rated low but that happens in all systems where people’s performance is reported against. 

I’ve not thought about the fine details as it was just what popped into my head while jogging but I think a gaming type PMR system could be looked into and in theory has the potential to improve workplace performance management.

– Sparko Marco 

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