I’m an 80% kind of guy. There, I said it. Let the chips fall where they may. Do you think a person’s performance can be quantified? Do you think you can predict a person’s performance on the job using a formula?
I don’t have the answers; but I find the question very interesting. Anyone who’s seen my desk has seen this formula, I believe that it represents human nature – as abstract as that may be. Let’s break down the primary formula:
Performance is a function of a person’s aptitude, motivation & opportunity
Aptitude: what is aptitude? I define aptitude as a mix of a person’s aptitude, or their natural ability; their knowledge about the job and their skill set as it relates to the job. I believe these three things can be mapped, and quite efficiently too.
Motivation: What motivates a person to do their job? I believe motivation is a mix of personality and a person’s attitude. We all know that one person who is always super cheerful first thing in the morning and can’t wait to jump head first into their daily assignments. At my work, his name is Fred. There are mornings when I just want to shoot Fred (just kidding!). Needless to say, I am not that happy morning person, I have to “warm up” to the day. A good attitude at work, and a personality to fit the work environment makes for strong motivation – sometimes we need those negative motivations. For example, if the IRS didn’t levy us with fines, how many of us would be jumping at the bit to pay our taxes?
Opportunity: I define opportunity as mix of the willingness to perform a task (job), the person’s capability to perform said task, and the opportunity to perform the work. An example of this would be a person that really, R-E-A-L-L-Y wants to be on the track team in college. Unfortunately, they have a broken leg. So even though their willingness is strong, they do not have the capability (broken leg), which may in turn, prevent them the opportunity of being asked to join the track team. I have a friend (no not my cat, my other friend) who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. While I used to shrug it off, I’m beginning to pay more attention, perhaps its not coincidence?
With our three primary factors in mind; we can now values and multipliers – if we think one area should be heavily weighted over another. With no further ado, let’s look our person’s aptitude first. Each attribute should be scored using a range from 1 (weakest) to 10 (strongest):
- A person’s natural ability to perform the job, i.e. a person’s way of thinking, feeling and behaving that they can productively apply with the most ease and enjoyment to their work. I would be interested to hear from some HR folks, or others that interview potential candidates on how they try and uncover a person’s natural ability.
- A person’s knowledge to perform the work. As a person’s knowledge of the work, and it’s associated tasks grow, their knowledge base grows exponentially. I’ve witnessed (mainly from the interviewee’s side) that many employers feel the candidate should be fully trained and ready to go from day one, a “full up round” if you will. I think that is pretty asinine. I would feel more comfortable working with someone who had a general feel for the work and was open to suggestions vice someone who already had all the answers. I learn something everyday about my job from my co-workers. I think that is one thing I find interesting and enjoyable.
- A person’s skill sets can be found easily on their resume. Although I think most people will embellish a little bit. Asking some questions will dig the truth up there. A co-worker of mine was assigned to work with a young lad a couple of years ago who was hired – based upon his skill sets as a DBA and their VBA skills. It was a disaster. The person that was hired failed on the job. While the young lad had the basic skills, he didn’t possess the motivation, nor the willingness to learn the required skill sets. Within a couple of years, they had gained enough critical knowledge to move on to another position, in another company. I hope they are doing better there.
- A skill set is more than having the hard skills of education, they include the soft skills of working with others – being creative and supportive in a team environment.
Our second group is motivation. A person’s motivation is important. It’s motivation that gets people through the tough periods. This is not the motivation that you normally think of. This is the mojo that makes each of us, tick.
- Personality (Latin – persona). Personality is the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that make a person unique. A person’s personality is the one characteristic in our formula which will show the least variation over time. Personality consists of a person’s temperament (traits formed in early childhood and are biologically based) and their moral “character.” A person’s character are those attributes of moral conduct, self-mastery, will-power (or won’t power if you’re dieting), and his or her integrity. Unfortunately for our formula, short of a personality test, we’ll never know whether the person is an ENTJ, ESFJ, ENFJ, or an ISTP.
- Attitude. A person’s attitude is defined as the way a person responds to his or her environment. This can be good, or bad. Remember Fred? For as much as I want to shoot that SOB some mornings; his positive energy in the morning can really get me and the others going and lift our spirits. That is the power of attitude! My cat had a buddy that he worked with; and his co-cat was very forceful. He thrived on argument, and the conflict that resulted from it – at times this had a very negative impact on the team.
A person’s motivation can be a strong factor, and the person’s motivation factor will receive a high multiplier in my formula. Let’s move on to our final factor: opportunity.
- A willingness to perform the work. I think can be measured effectively by simply talking to the person.
- Capability to perform the work. I think most people under rate their capability to perform. Of course there is a learning curve – that’s just part of life, and to me – it’s a fun part. Sure, I may have more “Duh” moments; but if they take place during the learning curve – it’s okay. By the same token, it’s important to note that we do not all have the same capabilities: you would be a fool if you asked me to perform brain surgery on you.
- Opportunity to perform. Notice I didn’t add “the work” here. The opportunity may not show itself at work, it may be somewhere else that you “fall into it.” The point is, if you possess the aptitude, motivation, the willingness and the capability to perform – who cares if it is at your work. Showcase your skills at a local hospital as a volunteer.
Finally we get to the original question: Are you an 80% kind of guy, or a 99% kind of guy (or girl). For me, it depends on the work being performed. For the kind of work that I do, 80% is great. There is still lots of room for others to be creative and yet produce a good, quality product. If you’re in bomb disposal, I think 99% would be much more applicable. I look forward to your feedback. How would you go about measuring the various aspects of this little formula? What factors would you give more weight to? Have I oversimplified? Do tell.