How to link employee performance to organizational goals

An emerging management methodology could help agencies do a better job of linking the performance of individual employees to organizational goals.

The methodology, known as cascading, focuses on translating organizational goals into performance measures at every level of an organization, from senior leaders on down.

Establishing a clear link between the organization’s goals and their own performance metrics can help employees better understand how their work contributes to the organization and encourage them to do their best, said Scott Cameron, a senior vice president at R3 Government Solutions. He led an educational session titled "Cascading Excellence" at the FOSE Conference and Exposition sponsored by 1105 Media in Washington, D.C.

One of the keys is to measure outcomes — that is, improvements to the ability of agencies to carry out their missions — rather than outputs, he said.

"The typical parent of a sixth-grader doesn't care what the budget of the school is, but 'is my kid reading at a sixth-grade level?'” he said. “It's easy to measure outputs — yeah, there's data in the system — but the outcome is ideally what you get to."

Federal agencies could adopt that approach to improve compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act of 2010, said Cameron, former deputy assistant secretary for performance, accountability and human resources at the Interior Department.

They could begin by linking the modernization act’s goals to the performance measurement requirements for the Senior Executive Service, then cascading those goals down to their subordinates and on down the chain one layer at a time.

That approach creates lines of sight between employees and the organization’s larger goals, Cameron said.

"For people to feel that their job is worth putting extra effort into, they have to understand how it contributes something valuable to the organization, how it contributes something valuable to the world," he said.

But the approach can quickly grow unwieldy, so Cameron urged managers to incorporate only the organization's top priorities into standards for SES employees.

Cascading can trigger personal land mines, too, if employees believe they're being judged too harshly. Remind them that their reputation and expertise aren't dependent on their performance scores in a given time period, he said, adding that even Nobel laureates aren't at peak performance every day.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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