Metrics! What is the right balance?

by Mark Martins

Some companies have no metrics to speak of and use the “gut” or “honor” system to determine productivity, quality and other relevant metrics. Others have metrics measuring everything you can think of and then some more.

Having worked in both environments I can tell you that neither are the answer, too little and you will find it challenging to manage a business with more than 10 people. Too much and your two most valuable assets will suffer, employees and clients.

Many of the metrics exist only for reporting purposes for senior management. While that is sometimes necessary, you need to keep those to a minimum as they add no value from your employees’ point of view. I’ve seen employees focusing so much on productivity that quality goes out the window, or focusing so much on quality that customer satisfaction and productivity suffers because of the additional time the employee will take to ensure the project is perfect. While metrics can be valuable they can also be a huge source of employee dissatisfaction especially if their compensation depends on it.

Any metric that depends on user input is highly questionable and likely not accurate enough to use for decision making purposes. The best approach to handling metrics is to use a workflow tool that doesn’t require user input for data collection. The system can record time stamps, user clicks, number of tasks, quality scores, etc. automatically.

If you do not have a workflow system then keep it simple, quality, productivity and customer satisfaction are a must have. Anything else you need to think really hard about the trade-off between the value the metric will bring to you and the impact on your business.

Having said all of this, employees are not numbers or charts, they are people! Metrics should be only one of the tools you use to measure performance, not “the” tool.


*This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.