How do you measure success? – A tip for your objectives in 2014

Posted on by Nancy Slessenger This entry was posted in Leaderhip skills, SMART Objectives and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


The sale of Royal Mail

Evan Davis, presenter on the Today Program, BBC Radio 4, interviewed Michael Fallon,

Selling Royal Mail

Selling Royal Mail

Minister for Business and Enterprise about the recent sale of Royal Mail. Evan was concerned about the fact that the share price as gone up from £3.30/share to £5.61 in the three months since the floatation, possibly indicating that the shares were somewhat undervalued and the sale has cost the Exchequer about £1.4bn.



Evan asks Michael Fallon for his assessment of the sale, 3 months on:


“What’s your conclusion as you look back?”


Here’s Michael Fallon’s response:


“Well, it was a successful sale. You expect successful IPOs to go to a premium after they’ve been launched and that’s been no surprise throughout most of last year that shares that were launched on the stock exchange did go up in value, nobody’s lost anything here, on the contrary; we’ve gained.”


Evan was clearly completely perplexed at this point:


“What, what, what, what, what?”


Then he asked almost in tones of disbelief:


“You think it was a successful sale?”



Of course it turned out that Fallon’s definition of ‘success’ was the fact that they had managed to sell it at all.




This is often a problem with goals and objectives


Your idea of what success means is different to that of your manager.




Another poor sales example


It reminded me of a situation I witnessed during my first year in a real job. The company I worked for was part of a large group and we desperately needed to hit our sales target. There were just four weeks to go. Our sales team went all out selling everything they could. The good news was they had a record month.


The bad news was that it was achieved by selling everything at a loss.



What was the objective?


I wonder if we will ever know what the true objective of the sale of the Royal Mail was. It would seem that it wasn’t to get a good price for it. Sadly, I also suspect it wasn’t to ensure that we here in the UK all have a reliable postal service that meets our requirements.




The real objective


The trouble is, when you don’t know what the real objective was, you can’t help but get a little suspicious. And if you don’t know how to measure the success of your own objectives, how can you make sure you will be successful.




Ask this question


Here’s a great question you can use either as a manager or employee:


If you are the manager, ask your team member:


How will you know you have been successful in achieving this objective?


If you are the team member ask your manager:


How will you know I have been successful in this objective?




My suggestion is that you get that agreed right at the beginning and write it down. It will make things so much easier at the end of the year.


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2 Responses to “How do you measure success? – A tip for your objectives in 2014”

  1. January 21, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I purchased your booklets last year and they have been a help. I have a question that isn’t addressed in your materials and could be a help to other HR professionals as well.

    The owners and I are trying to create a metric to build my goal from that has to do with time to fill as well as hiring high quality candidates. Time to fill on its own is a meaningless metric since you could hire someone quickly but they wouldn’t make for a good employee. Then there’s the question of how you determine if you’ve hired a high quality employee. It could take several years to monitor the performance appraisal ratings to maybe get an indication.

    Do you have any suggestions for these types of metrics that you see a lot of HR professionals being rated against?

    • Nancy Slessenger
      January 22, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Pauline

      This is an excellent question – and an issue that is a problem for many others, so thanks for bringing it up.

      In my view, the key measure on recruitment is:

      Do the new hires achieve their objectives to the standards required and in line with your values and behaviours?

      Time to fill is a difficult one, for the reasons you identify. I suggest instead it’s time to get employees up and running in the role.

      Also I’d be inclined to measure turnover too, say within the first year. So have an objective like this:

      100% retention of new staff in the first year as long as they are meeting our standards (as outlined above).

      With our recruitment process, we guarantee our hires for 1 year. We believe this encourages us to find the right people rather than hire for speed. However, we also help our clients to get the new candidates up and running. This is because I know that, sometimes new recruits don’t perform well simply because they have not got off to a very good start, had no induction or minor issues have not been dealt with properly.

      I realise a year is a long time. I think you should be able to judge much of most new hire’s performance within the first month. Even if it’s a job with goals that are a year or so off, because you should be able to see evidence of planning etc.
      The key is to have the objectives of the new hire clear and measurable, and monitor them right from the start. I would recommend ensuring that the objectives have milestones with at least one per month for the first six months. If managers do that, you should be able to have some reasonable indications within a month.

      So you could then have an objective like this:

      All new hires achieving their objectives and meeting the standards required over the first six months.

      Our hiring process involves workout out the candidate’s objectives right at the beginning for exactly this reason. Then it becomes clear very early on if you have the right person and what, if any, action you need to take.

      I hope this helps.

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