Measure Employee Productivity Accurately

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maybe you remember how on Seinfeld

George Costanza would leave his car

parked at the office on purpose so that

his boss would think he was working long

hours that's an attempt to take

advantage of what psychologists called

input bias the tendency to use the signs

of effort to judge outcomes when

actually did you may have little to do

with each other in my research at

Harvard Business School in my book

sidetracked I studied how difficult it

is to accurately measure performance our

own and our employees let's examine the

problem and discuss what you can do

about it

one of the biggest challenges is to stop

confusing effort with outcomes in one

study researchers showed people a short

presentation and then asked them to read

it's quality some were told the

presenter spent eight hours preparing

others were told they spent just 30

minutes not surprisingly people who

thought the speech took eight hours to

prepare gave it higher readings to avoid

getting sidetracked by red herrings like

this when evaluating performance make

sure your metrics are meaningful let me

tell you about another experiment in

this one graduate students grading

papers were asked to count either the

number of papers they completed or the

number of pages which was obviously

bigger even though both groups did the

same amount of work the people counting

pages gave themselves a higher

productivity rating make sure you're

counting something that matters

you should also examine your incentives

for years IBM used to pay programmers

based on the lines of code that they

produced even though programmers are

generally more efficient when using

fewer lines of code even good incentive

systems can have unintended consequences

I once worked with a retailer that tried

to motivate employees with specific

sales targets tied to monthly bonuses

right away performance improved but a

few months later the company realized

that employees were buying extra

merchandise than

Souths in the last week of every month

to hit their target then returning it

the next week this brings me to my last

piece of advice make sure you zoom out

and look at the whole picture once the

retail managers look at monthly and

weekly data

it was obvious what was going on yet you

see the same problem in lots of

companies so before you judge out

productive your people are asked if the

data in front of you tells the whole

story and do not assume the employee

with this car in the parking lot the

longest is the one delivering the best