Using weighting to prioritize competencies and goals

Using weighting to prioritize competencies and goals

One of the most effective ways to communicate the relative importance of competencies and goals to employees is by assigning them weights on your employee evaluation forms. Knowing the relative weights helps employees to prioritize their work and efforts on a day-to-day basis, as well as make decisions when faced with competing demands. It is often used when compensation is tied to performance ratings, and in mature organizations that have established their core values and objectives.

Reflect your organizational values and priorities

When assigning weights to competencies and goals on an employee evaluation form, it's important to ensure that these truly reflect your organizational values and priorities. Getting agreement on weighting can sometimes be a challenge, but the ensuing discussion is always valuable. Be careful though—lack of agreement or buy-in can lead to confusion, frustration and resentment—in short, a disengaged workforce. Make sure that the weighting you've assigned properly reflects organizational priorities, and that everyone involved understands the weighting and will support it.

Assign weights at the appropriate level

There are two levels at which you can assign weights on an employee evaluation form:

  1. You can assign a specific weight to each section on the form. For example, competencies=30 percent, goals=70 percent.
  2. You can assign a specific weight to each item in a section. For example, if your employee evaluation form includes 5 competencies, you could assign each competency a different weight:
    • Leadership   20%
    • Communication   20%
    • Teamwork   15%
    • Innovation   10%
    • Customer focus   35%

Assigning weights to the sections on a form allows you to communicate the relative priority of goals versus competencies, or, if you use them, core competencies versus job specific competencies. It gives managers and employees a high-level sense of the values and priorities of the organization.

Assigning weights to the items in a section allows you to communicate the relative priority of particular goals or of competencies. It can be especially useful when there is a need to place greater importance on a particular goal or competency, but easily loses its value when all items are assigned the same or very similar weight. Assigning weights to items in a section works well when the goals and competencies for a job are standard and apply in the same way to everyone performing that role. It tends to be problematic when each employee has their own particular goals, or when their goals are subject to change during the year.

Different priorities for different roles and individuals

You also need to consider whether weighting can be assigned in a standardized way to all employee review forms, or to everyone in a particular area or role, or if you need to vary the weighting for each department or employee. Weighting tends to work best with job-specific employee review forms, where you can vary the weighting as appropriate for each job type. There are cases though, when you might want to allow managers to assign different weighting for particular employees. As an example, while all employees in a department may share a common goal to achieve a revenue target, that goal may be weighted lower for a new employee who also needs to focus on developing job or product knowledge than it is for an experienced employee who is focused on productivity.

Some common challenges

  • It's easy to make calculation errors and assign weighting that doesn't add up to 100 percent—make sure you check the numbers carefully. Weighting in each section (if used) must add up to 100 percent, and the overall weighting of sections must add up to 100 percent. Or better yet use a system that does this for you.
  • Weighting doesn't replace human communication around priorities and the regular review of goals. Just because you've assigned a weight to a goal or competency, doesn't mean your employees automatically understand its priority or value to the organization. It's still critical to have discussions around organizational priorities and regularly review progress and the priority of goals as part of your performance managementprocess .

Questions to ask yourself

Does my organization want to tie performance to compensation?

What relative weight/importance do I want to give goals vs. competencies? Should this relative weight apply to all departments/divisions and all employees?

How will we get agreement to the weighting from managers across the organization?

Do we want to evaluate and weight all competencies in a single section? Or would it be important to evaluate and weight core and job specific competencies in two separate sections?

Do employee goals typically remain static throughout the year? If they change, how will that affect our weighting?

Should we allow managers to change the weighting of the overall sections for their individual employees?

Should we allow managers to assign weights to the various goals or competencies within a section?

Read how others have used weighting to improve performance management

WHPacific uses weighting to set performance goals in a very individualized way. They are now able to give employees both qualitative and quantitative feedback, and the direction they need to improve the service they provide to clients.

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