Of increments and evaluations

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workers pleaAdliterate had posted this picture of a note his father was carrying for the past 30 years. Seems like a pretty simple, yet evocative way of laying down expectations of an employer-employee relationship. Which is a timely reminder during ‘that time of the year’ – evaluations & increment time. The practice of getting employees to fill in their Appraisal Forms prior to evaluation and increment is common. In many cases, the process is followed in letter but not in spirit. The primary reason for the process to cause angst is the lack of clear goal-setting. The trouble starts with not laying down clearly what is expected from the employee in specific terms at the beginning of the year. So come March, the employee is evaluating himself on a set of goals that were either unclear or plain non-existent. In every department there would be three basic levels: executional, supervisory and directional. For a combination of reasons, the roles get mingled up; e.g.someone who is supposed to provide Direction, is chasing executional stuff. This could be because of lack of resources or plain incompetence. Some of the people in-charge of executional & supervisory roles seem to be eternally happy doing that and never seem to grow up. In some agencies the hands-on culture is taken so far that even the senior people have no scope to stay out of executional stuff, which may lead to some confusion of roles. Frankly, in our business there is no getting away from ‘operational stuff’ however high you rise to. The scale and scope may differ but rolling up your sleeves and dirtying your hands is a given even at senior levels.Another peculiar thing about Indian advertising is the mandatory promotion every year or two, mainly through a fancier, but often meaningless designation. But we all accept it with glee. I remember my boss telling my client, ‘Please congratulate him, he has been promoted to Sr. AE’ to which the client said, ‘Isn’t he already?’. In the Account Management function alone there could be an AE, Sr.AE, Account Manager, Account Supervisor, Account Group Manager, Account Director and Director-Client Services. Speaking of appraisals, I remember these funny, supposedly ‘actual’ quotes on employee evaluation:

  • This person is not really so much of a has-been, but more definitely a won’t-be
  • He’s so dense, light bends around him
  • This employee should go far — and the sooner he starts, the better
  • Got into the gene pool when the lifeguard wasn’t looking
  • This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot
  • Not the sharpest knife in the draw

In a situation where retaining talent is so difficult, even the mediocre performers would be given a promotion and an increment. From the agency point of view the economic scenario and client performance play an obvious role in the increment percentage. The subject of agency compensation and resultant churn has been debated before. Despite this seemingly chaotic process the hit rate of rewarding the stars is quite high, in my experience. Since not all of us can be stars, the trouble lies in managing the averagely or moderately talented performers.

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