Folks, I seek help in achieving staff rankings in a professional manner.

My management peer group and I get together once a month to rank our staff. The idea is, when we get to the end of year salary awards we already know who the top and bottom 5% are.

We grade on 2 factors; achievement and behaviour. We have an identified set of "core leadership values" to help. All our ratings have to be backed up with a written statement explaining them.

Here is what happens -
Our rankings are subjective. Each manager performs a different job function so it is difficult to compare like for like. Some rank all their guys highly every week, others slowly increase the ratings through the year claiming they have "developed their staff".

In reality the ratings are inflated, because the actual objective is to make sure your guys don’t end up in the bottom 5%.

Each meeting tends to be a series of heated debates. The debates are about who performs worse than who. Our senior manager eventually has to decide. It gets worse the closer we get to the end of year. From October time all our low performers suddenly rank the same as high performers - purely to make sure they don't come bottom of the pile.

Consequently, at the end of each year we tear up the rating scale and try something different the following year. Lo-and-behold if those high scoring improvers at the end of last year aren't underperforming again at the beginning of the new year.

A good idea, with the right intentions seems to always end up as an embarrassing and downright unprofessional in-fight where everyone feels awkward, and no-one wins.

The question is - how can we make this a win-win scenario and get everyone ranked according to their actual performance?

As an aside;
The fact that I have been running 1:1's each week with my guys means I can support these reviews with 4 weeks of gathered data. I have a much better idea of what my team have been doing, so I don't get into the fights my peers do. Good for my guys, they don't come in the bottom 5%. It would be nice if we can run a fairer system next year though.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

You can't.

Ranking everyone against their "actual performance" implies that you can get there with different folks in different jobs, and it won't happen precisely.

The kind of horse trading you are doing is inevitable at some level unless HR says (and at some places they do) that EACH MANAGER must conform to a distribution.

There is no such thing as an objective ranking of another human being. It's impossible, even against "objective standards".

The way to make it a win-win is to stop changing standards - none are inherenly better or worse, probably - and to start developing tighther relationships with those with whom you are horse-trading, and understand that the last 5% of the decision is probably going to painful.

That's how it works.


akinsgre's picture

How much is Ranking used. I encountered my first working at Sony. Is it used more frequently at larger companies?

What is the impression, here, of how well it works?

SHowell's picture

Thanks for that Mark,

I am interesed in the idea of each manager having to apply a distribution. That might help a bit.

I guess the argument would then be about how we group the best and worst and wether one manager's second best is better than another's number 1.

Still going to be a lot of fun though!