I am not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, it became acceptable to be less than excellent at a job. Traditional rating scales – Outstanding, Excellent, Average, Fair, Poor – seem to indicate that average is acceptable, and only “below average” performers need work. These scales give lots of information with little practical use. For instance, what exactly is the difference between a Customer Service Rep who is “Outstanding” at answering phones by the third ring, and one who is only “Excellent” at it? (And by the way, is “outstanding” better than “excellent” or is it the other way around?)
My opinion? We want to know that the Customer Service Representative is reliable at answering the phone by the third ring. Reliability is the rating; third ring is the standard.
Here is my suggested rating scale:
Reliably: Able to be counted on to meet the standard.
Usually: Meets the standard more often than not.
Seldom: Infrequently meets this standard.
Anything less than reliable is unacceptable and the performance standard is written to reflect that.
It ends up looking like this:
Department Goal: Pay all bills on time to support timely delivery of supplies to stores.
Accounts Payable Clerk Performance Standard: Initiates payments to all suppliers within 7 to 10 days prior to due date.
Reliably? Usually? Seldom?
Note that the performance standard is not “pays bills on time.” The standard is more descriptive as the level of performance that necessitates success in this job. It is objective, specific, measurable, and includes time constraints. This activity must reliably be performed as stated for the Payables Department to meet its goal. It is one of many standards to be met.
It’s pretty clear that if you were the Payables Department Manager, you would want your clerk to perform this task reliably. If I was the Payables Department Manager, I would want my clerk to be so reliable that I never had to think about suppliers getting paid. To me, that is the ultimate in employee, and team-member, performance.