Performance Indicators

Results Are What Count

The most important key performance indicator is, of course, the candidate’s ability to produce results on the job.

What do you really want to know about a candidate before you hire them?

  • Do they have the right JOB-SKILLS?
  • Will they FIT the job?
  • Will they be PRODUCTIVE?

Job skills include their experience, technical or educational qualifications and basic skills to be able to handle the job. This, and how they fit the job (personality), are handled elsewhere; see Hiring Employees.

For now, we will concentrate on the last point: How effectively will they perform? This is the key performance indicator.


It is a sad fact that, on average, only about 20% of employees could be called “top performers”. Another 20% are really non-performers and are deadwood in your organisation. Some of these are actually dangerous.

The remaining 60% have varying degrees of effectiveness. Some are quite good, but others need to be pushed and directed continually to get results. These are the ones who exhaust far too much executive time.

What is a Result?

Every job, no matter what it is, has a final result (or “product”) that is valuable to someone else in the organisation. That result they achieve is actually the reason the person is paid each week. Their ability to achieve this is the key performance indicator. For example:-

  • A CEO could be producing a “viable and expanding organisation”.
  • A Sales Person should almost certainly be producing “signed orders” or “sales volumes”.
  • A Cleaner should probably be producing “clean premises”.
  • A Personal Assistant may be producing “freed time for the executive”.

Each of these end products is “valuable” because someone else wants or needs them; they are things that can be “exchanged”, i.e. the person producing them gets paid for getting those results.

Ideas – Action – Results

The term “ideas” here also refers to what the applicant is “being”, or has been. It is their title, their status, their educational qualifications, as well as their ability to originate new concepts.

Of course, there have to be ideas in the first place, before anything else can happen.

You have to have a Sales Manager on post, with the right experience and ability in that area, in order to get a sales team functioning well. That’s his key performance indicator.

You also have to get some actions performed in order to actually attain the required results. But it is also true that some people have great ideas and never act on them. And they can sound so good when you interview them!

And there are others who can be very busy all day without producing any viable results. When you check their references, you are likely to be told that this ex-employee was “very active” all day long, but “active” does not tell you if they were “effective”.

The Traditional Approach

Reading through the applications gives you the candidate’s view of what they “have been” and done. The problem is that they can make this sound very good indeed. Some even get professional help in writing their resumes. Essentially; a resume is the candidate’s personal advertisement. Read it as such.

Normal reference checks give you another person’s opinion of what that applicant has been and what they have done. And this is also open to exaggeration and embellishment.

And finally, the traditional approach taken when interviewing applicants usually gives those applicants the opportunity to really tell you what they have been and what they have done.

  • The fact of the matter is that the ideas and actions of an applicant in a former occupation can be dressed up to appear very attractive.
  • Alone, they do not give you an accurate picture of the applicant’s ability to perform.
  • Ideas and Actions are not the key performance indicator.

Do not, initially, look at the candidate’s “ideas” and “actions” when you interview them. Don’t ask: “What have you been?”, “What did you do?”.

No! Go directly and immediately to finding out what results they have achieved in their past jobs. If the results are there, and you can verify them, you know the ideas and actions must have preceded those results. This is a key part of performance management.

Performance Guide

You can easily recognise a true performer because they will:-

  • Know their results.
  • Measure their results.
  • Be able to prove their results.

Performers are easy to identify during the interview. The key performance indicator is that their answers will be simple, direct and fast.

If a candidate “can’t remember” their results, or if they try to convince you that it was all very complex, forget it! They are not a performer. By these criteria alone you will know them.


Did you ever work with someone who needed no supervision, no directing and no pushing? They just got on with it, achieving the desired results. What a joy that is!

The first thing to understand about such people is that they can envision the end results, before they start.

It doesn’t matter what the job is. If you have a cleaner who is effective, that cleaner will know what a clean room looks like; they can envision it clearly. You don’t have to tell them to clean the corners, or wipe the dust from the window ledge.

A top performer does not keep coming back to their manager with problems. A performer will have enough force and nous to overcome all the stops along the way. They are focused on the results; not the barriers; another key performance indicator.

Why Is It So?

If a performer ever gets results that were not as good as expected, they ask themselves, “Why was that?” A top performer will always ask this question. Their natural instinct is to measure their results.

Why? So they can correct any bad results next time they perform those actions! They know what they want and continually strive to achieve it.

But this attitude of seeking improvement is equally applicable to those times when things go really well.

So, a performer will continually ask themselves:

  • Why did it improve so much this time?
  • How can we strengthen that?
  • How can we do it even better in future?

That’s a performer! That’s a key performance indicator.