Just What Is Job Performance

Like many of the paradigm shifts we are seeing in talent management, the paradigm of what constitutes effective job performance is rapidly evolving. Much of this has been influenced by the research on social networks in organizations and the benefits of aligning organization goals and objectives with employee objectives.

Network analysis has contributed significantly to our understanding of how things get accomplished in an organization–in the white space on the organization chart. A growing body of network analysis research suggests that the quality and type of connections between individuals on a team or in an organization is directly related to performance.

For example, researchers at Penn State and SUNY found that teams with densely configured networks attained their goals better than others. In addition, teams with leaders who were central to their intergroup networks performed better. In a study of 52 bank branches by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that the profitability of a branch could be predicted by characteristics of the social networks at the locations – the greater the “advice seeking” that occurred across employees of different levels, the higher the branch’s profitability.

The science of network analysis is advancing rapidly, but it’s not at the point where we can use it directly to understand the capability of an organization’s talent to achieve its strategy. We can, however, look for examples of network contribution and look beyond basic performance reviews in a talent assessment process. We have revised the performance effectiveness criteria in our talent assessment process to target:

  • How effectively the employee meets expectations over-time and in different roles,
  • How much they actively contribute to the success of others,
  • How well they align their work with others on their team or in their network.

This combination of individual task performance and network contribution has been called “enterprise contribution” by CEB. Their research shows that companies that were able to move more employees to high levels of enterprise performance realized a 10% improvement in profitability compared to 5% for companies that achieved individual performance improvements alone.

There is also ample evidence of the value of aligned employee and organizational goals and objectives. For example, in a comparison of companies with strong financial performance (in terms of return on equity, revenue growth and net income) versus weaker performers, SAP SuccessFactors/Workforce Intelligence Institute found that 44% of the stronger performers were found to have 100% aligned goals at the manager level while none of the weak performers exhibited any alignment.

Overall performance, therefore, is not just related to how well an individual employee does his or her job but how much that individual contributes to the success of others and links what that individual does with others in his or her network.

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