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“Routine” Workers Using Big Five Performance Management

In my travels to evangelize the corporate world on the salvation that Big Five Performance Management can bring (www.bigfiveperformance.com), I am often asked about Big Five for employees who are in very routine functions. After all, how would an Accounts Receivable (AR) Clerk come up with a new list of Priorities and Accomplishments each month? It’s a fair question. If I understand the role correctly, the average AR person tends to perform a series of highly repetitive functions: posting customer payments by recording cash, check and credit card transactions and maintaining records by recording invoices, debits and credits. It would be natural and easy to assume that the greatest accomplishment that could be made in this position is to simply process a larger number of items this month than were processed last month or to process the same amount as last month with fewer errors. That would be a bad assumption.

Every position in every organization is responsible for a few common outcomes, regardless of the routine nature of the role. Every person on the payroll is:

  • Responsible for the production of a product or a service. That product or service is almost always quantifiable. We have already said that the AR Clerk would, at a minimum, have at least two metrics they could track and report to validate their contribution to the organization—number of invoices processed and number of processing errors. I suspect there are others but if only these two items were gathered and reported on Big Five monthly reports, then Big Five has served its purpose as most traditional, annual, employee appraisals do not contain these type of metrics. Big Five improves accountability.
  • Responsible for contributing their ideas for process improvement. Is there a better, faster, smarter way to produce a product or offer better service? We all know that some of the best ideas come from the trenches, not from the corner office. The people who do the function every day are often in a better position to offer better alternatives. Big Five enables process improvement.
  • Probably involved in more than their baseline job description. Most organizations involve employees at all levels in community service, training and development opportunities, staff meetings, cross-training to assist when others are out, and brainstorming when there are challenges. In my experience, even people with the most routine jobs spend at least a part of their day in interaction and discussion with others in the company. Big Five helps us to better identify talent and promote organic, internal growth, boosting employee engagement and corporate traction.

Does the name Colleen Barrett mean anything to you? She was Herb Kelleher’s secretary at his law firm before he started Southwest Airlines. When he left the organization, Colleen took over as chief executive. I know, I know… Southwest is known for being a little whacky and outside-the-box. Still, there are thousands of mailroom-to-boardroom type stories like Colleen’s that, in summary, prove that there really is no such thing as a routine job!

This was proven to me in the very first place that I installed Big Five. When conducting training for the installation of the process, the receptionist raised her hand sheepishly in class and asked the same question posed in the opening paragraph, “I am just the receptionist. I don’t have any accomplishments. What do I write?”

I attempted to frame my answer with the three bullet points from above, doing all I could to be encouraging, not sure that I had totally answered her question. When we completed all of our training sessions that Friday, I was almost out of the building before being tackled by the receptionist who reported, with a very large smile, “I just finished my first Big Five report and it was amazing. I had never really thought about how much I get done around here!”

And that, at the heart of it, is one of the most significant benefits of Big Five. Employees using Big Five are given the opportunity to tell their own story. This forces them to consider their roles in a different way. When employees begin to think about their jobs in terms of monthly Priorities and Accomplishments, they become more engaged and function more consciously. They stop just attempting to slug out the work day and begin to give some thought to their highest and best use, regardless of their relative position in the organizational food chain.

What would it be like to have all of your team members thinking about ways they could maximize their contribution to your organization? You could certainly have worse problems.

Final note: John D. Rockefeller began his career as an Accounts Receivable Clerk. Have a great day and weekend!