Yep… I said it. I love the idea of forced rankings. Made famous by Jack Welch at GE – forced rankings became all the rage a few years back. Everyone wanted to emulate GE – heck they were a powerhouse, and they were making money, taking names and kicking butt. Forced rankings seemed to be the answer. But, I know not everyone agrees with forced rankings. Many managers didn’t like the idea of taking their staff and submitting them to a “rule” rather than the keen insight of a highly trained manager. Not to mention that forced rankings institutionalizes turnover. If you have to get rid of 10% of your staff every year, you’re guaranteed to increase costs right? We all know that replacing an employee can cost upwards of 1.5 times their annual salary.
Every manager thinks they do a great job of hiring. You’re the manager – you don’t make those kinds of mistakes. Forced rankings assume the manager made a mistake and made a poor hire. There’s a lot of bad in forced rankings. But, I love forced rankings.
Forced Rankings Help
Now, before the rotten tomatoes fly – I’m only talking about the process of forced ranking – not the ultimate outcome, such as letting the bottom 10% go. I’m also not suggesting that any outcome, from a forced ranking scenario, be shared with your employees. I’m simply saying that following the process, of identifying your top performers, your middle performers and your lower performers, helps crystallize your decision making for the future. Forced rankings inject a constraint in the decision process – and constraints make you think different.
We all have constraints in business. Budgets are a constraint. The economy is a constraint. Competition is a constraint. All of these constraints make you think differently and change how you make decisions. Going through the process of ranking your employees makes you think about your staff differently and will allow you to look for ways to improve and change. It may very well result in someone leaving the team or the company. But, it may also result in a different training program, a transfer to another department or even highlight someone whom you didn’t realize had a huge impact on your business. You all know there is one person who quietly, behind the scenes, really does all the work but doesn’t get any credit or even seek the limelight.
I realize that forced rankings have their negatives – but I also think that forced rankings are a way to eliminate the biases we have when you have the “good ole” boy/gal that is always fun to be around, but really never get’s anything done.
To me, forced rankings are like going into battle – who do you want next to you, behind you, and who do you want on the enemy’s side? If you have someone you wish was fighting for the enemy – you’ve got real problems.
From a talent management effort, adding constraints to your decision process is a great way to turn the image and get another perspective of your staff. Don’t throw out the idea of forced ranking – or any other way to get you to think differently.
Constraints are good for your brain.
Paul Hebert is Senior Account Executive at WorkStride, Inc, and a writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on helping connect best-in-class incentive technology platform to behaviors you need drive business results through employees, channel partners and consumers.
Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.
Other notable activities:
- Interviewed by the BBC on executive motivation and pay
- Quoted three times in USATODAY as an expert in incentives and channel travel programs
- Published in Loyalty360 magazine
- Writer and founding member of the editorial advisory board at the HRExaminer website
- Contributing author of “Enterprise Engagement: The Textbook: A Roadmap to Achieving Organizational Results Through People”
- Contributing author of 3 books on social media “The Age of Conversation #1, #2, and #3”