How to Create Role Scorecards

How to Create Role Scorecards.

Looking back over my management career to date the worst experiences have been, without a doubt, having to deal with poorly performing or badly behaving staff members. I remember the stress, anguish, not to mention the loss of sleep thinking about the tough conversations I needed to have. Here’s an article on what I have learned about the importance of giving corrective feedback.

I’ve learned many painful lessons along the way, but one of the most important was the realization that I can make things a lot easier on myself and achieve far better results if I hire the right person in the first place.

That’s where the Topgrading methodology made a huge difference for me. Studies referenced in the book claim that the way most hiring managers conduct their recruiting, they will only successfully hire an A-Player 25% of the time. I define success as meaning one year from now, the person you hired is still employed with you and consistently performing at an A-Player standard.

What is an A-Player?

I define an A-Player as a person who consistently:

  1. achieves the agreed standard for RESULTS in their role, and
  2. demonstrates BEHAVIORS aligned to the Core Values.

In essence, there are 2 dimensions to an employee’s performance. RESULTS + BEHAVIORS. Both requirements must be met consistently to be considered an A-Player.

Hiring is too important to get wrong!

The Topgrading authors estimate the cost of making a hiring mistake can be 5 to 15 times the person’s salary in direct and indirect costs. Here are just a few costs I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Cost & time of remedial coaching for the poor performer
  • Cost & time of firing the poor performer in accordance with HR law
  • Cost & time to hire a new person and train them to become fully productive
  • Opportunity cost (missed opportunities / lost productivity )
  • Negative impact on productivity and morale of the team

The authors claim that if you follow their disciplined hiring methodology you can increase your A-Player hiring success rate to 90%. Yes, it requires more patience and discipline to follow such a methodology. But if you want less stress, more sleep, and better business execution, taking the time to “do it right the first time” when it comes to hiring makes a lot of sense to me.

I’ve also learned the hard way that you take hiring shortcuts at your peril. Any time a new hire has not worked out I can always trace it back to the hiring manager not following this process properly.

To be fair, the Topgrading methodology was designed for large corporate entities like General Electric and can be very complex. So what I have done over the years is to adapt and simplify the process to make it more suitable for the Small-Medium Business (SMB) entrepreneurial growth firms that I typically work with.

Create a scorecard for each role

The hiring process starts with creating a “scorecard” for each role. The Role Scorecard is more than just a job description. The Role Scorecard is the checklist against which everything must be ticked before you make a hiring decision and it forms the basis for conducting performance appraisals.

Here are the 6 key components of the Role Scorecards I create:

1. Purpose of the role.

In one sentence, state in plain language why the role exists.

2. Metrics (Key Performance Indicators).

Ideally, every role should have performance quantified on an ongoing daily/weekly/monthly basis with 1 or more Metrics (where possible). The person hired for the role must be willing to will be held firmly accountable for consistently achieving the “green” standard of performance for these Metrics.

The “green” target defines a solidly good level of performance that a person who is a good fit for the role, doing a good job, should be able to attain most of the time (e.g. 90% of the time). For more information on the right way to set performance thresholds for Metrics/KPIs, see this article on the traffic light concept.

Performance thresholds may change based on current trends, or perhaps seasonal factors. These should be reviewed every quarter to ensure they are achievable and relevant to what is currently happening in your environment.

Some thought leaders say, “Every role should have a Metric”. In general, I agree with this principle, but in my work with hundreds of client firms, I find it easier said than done. This issue occurs most often with creative roles or roles that are predominantly Project-based or Task-based. I see some companies try to dogmatically apply the “Every role should have a Metric” principle and end up creating nonsense measures for staff in administrative and creative roles that don’t drive better results and end up disengaging their people.

For roles that are hard to quantify, you may need to focus on closely managing the person’s Projects and Tasks instead.

3. Key Duties and Percentage Time Allocation.

Here you specify how the person will be spending their time so the applicant is very clear on what the role entails and can see very quickly whether it would be a good fit for them.

List the most important duties (“actions”) the person in the role is expected to perform ranked in descending order of importance and specify the percentage of their time that should be allocated to each activity. Describe any performance standards (“outcomes”) where applicable.

For example, if you expect a salesperson to spend 25% of their time making phone calls to leads on your database every week, and to book a minimum of 10 sales appointments every week, make this expectation very explicit.

Communicate “what” needs to be done, and give them the context for “why” it is important, but where possible give people the freedom and autonomy to figure out “how”. (An exception to this would be where a “how-to” process checklist must be followed in order to meet certain standards that are mission-critical or where safety is a factor.)

4. Core Values.

List your Core Values. For any role in your company, the applicant must be able to show that they are aligned with, and have demonstrated these types of behaviors in their previous roles. Otherwise, they are the wrong fit for your culture – period.

5. Behavioral Competencies.

What specific competencies “must” the applicant have demonstrated in previous jobs, in order to be highly likely to deliver an A-Player level of performance for you in this role?

Be very specific about the behaviors you are looking for. When you specify these, it is possible to construct an interview questioning process that performs “due diligence” on each of these competencies. I create a picklist to make this step easy when creating the Role Scorecard and use a specially designed interview form to ask questions about these specific competencies.

6. Previous Experience, Qualifications, Skills.

Most companies only recruit for these factors, but they are just table stakes in my opinion.

Using Role Scorecards.

Use the Role Scorecard as the basis from which you construct your job posting for each role. When jobs are posted with this level of specificity it will deter many unsuitable applicants from applying right from the start, which is a good thing. You only want A-Player candidates applying. 

Role Scorecards should be updated every quarter to ensure they remain relevant to the duties the person is expected to be performing now. For some roles, the key duties may be constant every quarter, but if your role is anything like mine, what I do now is very different from what I was doing 1 year ago. Also for many seasonal businesses, the performance standards for Metrics need to be adjusted (up or down) each quarter to make sure they are relevant and achievable.

Updating Role Scorecards every quarter enables the manager to have a meaningful 1 on 1 meeting with each of their direct reports to negotiate and agree on new performance expectations. The revised Metrics, Projects and Tasks are entered into your management software to enable all parties to track the person’s progress every step of the way.

Holding people accountable and building a team full of A-Players becomes so much easier when expectations are clearly documented and agreed on upfront, and when you make their performance visible using the concept of Radical transparency to drive better results.

The Role Scorecard is just the starting point for making great hiring decisions. The next step is to use a Career History Form to filter out the tire kickers.

Have you built Role Scorecards for each of the key roles in your company? 

If not, how do people know exactly what is expected of them at work?


Until next time…