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Posts tagged ‘Performance Management’

Organizational Psychology – Performance Management

Answers the Question

What is meant by job performance and what are the core elements of performance management?

How it Began

Organization Psychology focuses on assessing individual differences and developing a deeper understanding of the person, as opposed to simply the context within which an individual is operating.   Various topics that are examined in performance management are the individual skills required for a particular job and how individual differences influence an individual’s work performance. A goal of performance management is to improve organizational performance by placing the right people in the right jobs, thus enhancing the fit between the individual and the organization.  Performance Management covers such topics as selection, training, performance measurement, and evaluation.Performance management is more than an annual performance review meeting between a supervisor and employee, instead it includes ongoing coaching, feedback, and support from the supervisor.

Performance Management

Key Terminology

Performance Management – A continuous process of identifying, measuring, and developing the performance of individuals and teams and aligning performance with the strategic goals of the organization.

Job Performance – Something that People actually do and can be observed including those actions or behaviours that are relevant to the organization’s goals and that can be measured in terms of each person’s proficiency

Contextual Performance – Organizational Citizenship behaviours includes personal support, organizational support and conscientious initiative.

Task Performance – Goal-directed activities that are under that individual’s control.

Grit – a positive, non-cognitive trait, based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve the objective.

In Brief

A central premise of performance management systems is that individual (and team) goals need to be closely aligned with higher level organizational goals.  At an individual level, goal setting is also an important element of effective performance management..  Perhaps the most central tenet of goal setting theory, illustrated in hundreds of studies, is that specific, difficult goals lead to higher performance than “do your best” goals.

There has been a paradigm shift from thinking of performance appraisal as a discrete event to a continuous process of performance management in which coaching is inherent in the process.  This draws away from the traditional appraisal research focused on measurement issues towards examining how job performance can be enhanced.

The management of performance is now being related to key issues such as the physical and mental well-being of employees. A meta-analysis of selection methods found that general mental ability was the best overall predictor of job performance and training performance.

But intelligence isn’t everything.  Motivation is another key component of job performance. Achievement motivation refers to a person’s drive to accomplish, to learn skills and concepts, to be in charge, and for quickly reaching a top standard (Murray, 1938). Those who are highly motivated to achieve more are more likely to be successful in realising their goals.

Discipline and talent are important. Simon (1998) coined the concept of “The 10-year rule”—the notion that those who are top in their fields spend 10 years of full-time, highly invested practice. Top scholars, students, and athletes have all been found to be talented, but also incredibly self-disciplined (Bloom, 1985).  Research is finding that self-discipline matters more than intelligence (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005, 2006).  In a longitudinal study of eighth-grade students, self-discipline measured in the fall accounted for more than twice as much variance as IQ in final grades, high school selection, school attendance, hours spent doing homework, hours spent watching television (inversely), and the time of day students began their homework. The effect of self-discipline on final grades held even when controlling for first-marking-period grades, achievement-test scores, and measured IQ. These findings suggest a major reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005, 2006).

Duckworth & Seligman further contend that equally talented people are separated by their grit, and the fervour and dedication they have for a long-term goal.  An individuals’ perseverance of effort develops the fortitude required to overcome obstacles or challenges that lay within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realisation.

Commonly associated concepts include “perseverance,” “hardiness,” “resilience,”ambition,” and “need for achievement.” These constructs can be conceptualized as individual differences and have been studied in psychology since 1907, when William James challenged the field to further investigate how certain individuals are capable of accessing richer trait reservoirs, enabling them to accomplish more than the average person. Duckworth and colleagues (2007) believe this dual-component of grit to be a crucial differentiator from similar constructs. Grit is conceptualized as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback. Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods of time despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment toward the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to “stay the course” amid challenges and setbacks. Essentially, the grittier person has the fortitude for winning the marathon, not the sprint.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Effective performance management systems offer many potential advantages.  These include: greater clarity about organizational goals, as well as the behaviours and results required for successful employees’ understanding of their strengths and weaknesses (and hence valuable developmental activities); increasing employees’ motivation, competence, and self esteem; better distinguishing between good and poor performers and thereby increasing the fairness of remuneration and reward decisions; protecting the organization from lawsuits; and facilitating organizational change.  Ineffective performance management systems have the potential to waste time and money, damage relationships, decrease motivation and job satisfaction, increase employee turnover, create perceptions of unfairness and thereby increase the risks of litigation.

The belief that behaviour must be understood from the point of view of the individual and the context within which the individual is behaving. Kurt Lewin’s famous statement that behaviour is a function of the person and the environment is the foundation on which OD operates.

Instead of focusing solely on the individual, OD emphasises the impact that social forces have on performance and the factors that result in similar individual behaviour across situations. A goal of OD is to ultimately improve organizational performance through the creation of a suitable social environment by focusing on such topics as motivation, rewards and recognition, leadership, group processes, conflict resolution, organizational culture, organizational change, and organizational performance.

In addition to analysing behaviour from the point of view of both the individual and the environment, it is important to utilise more than one perspective when completing an OD diagnostic of an organization.  It is important that an OD consultant examines organizational issues at the individual, the group, and the organizational levels. At the individual level the diagnosis might cover such areas as individual differences, motivation, and diversity. The group level might emphasises groups and teams and the dynamics involved and the organizational level might examine elements such as leadership, organizational culture, organizational change, and organizational effectiveness.  Each of these three levels must be taken into consideration when examining an organizational problem or issue so that it is possible to plan and intervention at the level(s) which is/are the most relevant to improving the overall performance of the organization.


Organizational Psychology – Individual Differences: Challenging our Assumptions

Answers the Question

How do mistaken assumptions affect conclusions regarding the explanations and predictions regarding individual differences of performance?

How it Began

Individual differences contribute collectively to performance. Ackerman and Humphreys (1992) developed the  theory of individual differences offering “objective quantification” of individual differences. Different individual differences have been offered by several researchers: mental ability, temperament, and motivation (Ackerman & Humphreys, 1992), cognitive ability, personality orientation (values and interests) and affective dispositions (Murphy, 1996), cognitive ability, personality, interests and physical ability (Schmitt & Chan, 1998).

Individual Differences

Ackerman and Humphreys offered three types of individual differences: inter-individual differences, and two types of intraindividual differences.  For interindividual differences to be effective, diversity in the applicant population or the assessment of general abilities is required. Or rather, individual difference measures of a particular characteristic within a population may not assist in determining the best applicant. A more diverse population or general characteristic possessing greater variance may be required.

Intraindividual differences change over time. For example, technology has changed our differences in competency with the advent of personal computers. Tasks formally performed on typewriters, machines in which people were competent, changed to personal computers beginning with zero-competency, but changing to the competency level equal or beyond that of the typewriter. Differences between attributes of an individual could include differences in verbal and analytical skills. Individual differences also encompass knowledge, skills, abilities and other orientations (KSAOs).

Key Terminology

Individual differences – classification of the characteristics of people for purposes of selection, training, placement, and evaluation in the workplace.

Interindividual differences – differences between individuals.

Intraindividual differences – differences experienced over time, and “differences between attributes of an individual”

Knowledge – declarative and procedural knowledge, which serves as the basis to build abilities and skills are built.

Skills – psychomotor skills and abilities to cognition or cognitive ability.

Other orientations – personality and motivation characteristics important for the performance of more contextual tasks (Schmitt & Chan, 1998).

In Brief

The organizational environment is changing at a rapid pace, including technological advances, outsourcing, use of temporary or part-time workers, downsizing, globalization and the privatization of government activities. These changes indicate that changes in the way organizations conduct business will lead to changes in the requirements of employees by more closely focusing on individual differences that could critical to how business operates (e.g. teams) and organizational success.

Traditionally ability has been an important factor in performance. Changing organizational environments will not only sustain but also increase the importance of ability as organizational requirements continue to change. Personality also has been an important focus of individual differences that will become more important in the future as organizations focus more on contextual performance. Together personality and ability and applicable knowledge and skills become the critical individual differences that need to be measured in the rapidly evolving organizational environments (Motowidlo, Borman & Schmit, 1997; Motowidlo & Schmit, 1999).

Theory of Individual Differences

What does this mean for Organization Development

Proficient task performance is essential to organizational performance, thus, success. It is also important that to recognize the importance of contextual performance. Both Task and Contextual performance contribute to organizational effectiveness;  Task performance, based on some prescribed role or function that is guided by particular knowledge, skills, abilities and other orientations (KSAOs), contributes directly to the core business of the organization, whether it be producing a product or delivery of a service.

Contextual performance, indicates the extra initiative and/or effort that an organization member is willing to provide and supports the core business by contributing to the environmental concerns whether it is organizational, social, or psychological. By not being guided by requirements contained in job description or other job requirements, members who engage in contextual performance do so because they have chosen to do so on the organization’s behalf. Unlike task performance, contextual performance does not necessarily vary with the different jobs.

While proficient task performance remains important in selection, development, succession planning and performance, it is important for organizations to consider the benefits of including contextual performance when considering employee performance and people development.

Contextual dimensions in a work environment will set the tone for task performance in the organizational environment and

jobs will change through job enrichment (Schultz & Schultz, 1998). Based on the need for team-based environment, jobs will change by learning additional tasks that cross traditional boundaries. The team approach provides the organization with the tools through which to respond to dynamic environments by having team members versatile in a variety of tasks.

Contextual task ability includes:

1. Helping and cooperating with others

  • Working as a team member: good interpersonal and conflict resolution skills
  • Emphasis on customer service: internally and externally versus merely product or service delivery

2. Endorsing, supporting and defending organizational objectives

  • Essential for decision-making reflecting endorsement and support of organizational objectives.

3. Motivation to perform outside of job requirements

  • Initiative and willingness to take on more responsibilities

4. Self-development and flexibility

  • Adaptability, flexibility and openness to different methods of operating and willingness to learn new skills

The role of performance evaluation can serve several purposes not the least of which is to provide feedback on performance to individual employees. However, a performance evaluation system can also indicate changes that are needed in the form of additional declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and skill, and motivation.  Employee performance measure should include both task elements and contextual elements for example;

  • Job-specific task proficiency
  • Non-job-specific task proficiency
  • Written and oral communication task proficiency
  • Demonstrating effort
  • Maintaining personal discipline
  • Facilitating peer and team performance
  • Supervision/leadership
  • Management/administration


  • Ackerman, P. L., & Humphreys, L. G. (1990). Individual differences theory in industrial and organizational psychology. In. M. D. Dunnette, & L. M. Hough (Eds.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology, vol. 1 (pp. 223-282). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  • Borman, W., & Motowidlo, S. (1993). Expanding the criterion domain to include elements of contextual performance. In N. Schmitt, & W. Borman (Eds.), Personnel Selection in Organizations (pp. 71-98). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Campbell, J., et al. (1993). A theory of performance. In N.Schmitt, & W. Borman (Eds.), Personnel Selection in Organization (pp.35-70). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
  • Motowidlo, S. J., Borman, W. C. & Schmit, M. J. (1997). A theory of individual differences in task and contextual performance. Human Performance, 10 (2), pp. 71-83.
  • Motowidlo, S., & Schmitt, M. (1999). Performance assessment in unique jobs. In D. Ilgen & E. Pulakos (Eds.), The changing nature of performance (pp. 56-86). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass (1999).
  • Murphy, K. R. (Ed.). (1996). Individual differences and behavior in organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Schmitt, N., & Chan, D. (1998). Personnel Selection: A theoretical approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.
  • Schultz, D. & Schultz, S. E. (1998). Psychology & work today: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology. (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Whatley, S. L and Lee, C. Linking individual differences with performance improvement  The Ohio State University