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Meritocracy, not Idiocracy – a guide to performance management

22/02/18

Performance management meritocracy

The 2006 film Idiocracy takes a satirical look at what the world might be like if it were governed by, well... idiots. Needless to say, and hopefully without providing spoilers, it's not the ideal way to run a planet. Or a country. Or a business.

When it comes to improvements in performance management, what business owners and their HR teams should be striving for is the opposite - meritocracy. This is pretty much just what it sounds like; the best people for the job should be doing the job. Here at Pivot, we've learned that the principle of meritocracy is essential for organisations that are investing in improvements.

In a meritocracy, employees feel they are promoted, recognised and rewarded on merit. They'll be motivated to strengthen the link between reward (including pay and promotions) and performance, coupled with practices perceived by staff as fair and transparent. Our newly updated eBook, Pursuing the perfect performance? Best practices for making your performance management sing, not sting (link to landing page)argues the case for performance management practices that have merit, i.e. that create a ‘meritocracy’ and work for both your employees and your organisation’s ends.

The eBook outlines the 10 peak practices that create meritocracies. Some of them, such as regular feedback between employees and their managers, are no-brainers (but very important). Others, such as supporting a culture the business intends to develop, can often be overlooked. The most capable organisations keep investing in increasing their capability further and to align with and reinforce organisational change. Businesses that are experiencing performance problems are often those who’ve left their operational capacity to stagnate, while still pushing for increased growth.

A key consideration when it comes to performance management is that skills aren’t necessarily the same as performance. Pivot’s experience of best practice in performance management suggests connecting pay with performance is the most effective approach. In other words, a business might hire someone based on their skill set, but if they’re not being utilised properly, that’s where performance comes in.

In the Idiocracy film, principles have gone out the door along with intelligence. People don’t know that you can’t water crops with a sports drink, but they also don’t care. A business that not only fails to recognise merit, but is also lacking in principles is not going to see an improvement in how their staff are performing. A meritocracy focuses on what principles will underpin the design of your performance management framework. This is something that everyone on your team needs to be on board with, including transparency with decision-making and recognition of high performance. The 10 peak practices section in the eBook will help identify these principles.

When it comes to improving performance management by creating a meritocracy, transparency really is at the heart of the process. The clearer HR and management are in their communication and decision-making, the better their staff engagement is going to be. Most employees want a clear indication of how they’re performing, rather than being presented with feedback that’s heavy on fluff and buzzwords.

A business with HR staff that are focused on creating a true meritocracy will find that when they’re focusing on performance management, their approach will ‘sing’ rather than ‘sting’.

We’ve refreshed and updated our popular performance management eBook, Pursuing the perfect performance?, which expands on the ideas in this blog, including outlining the role of technology in strengthening your performance management. 

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