Business Insider: If Your Employer is Trying to Dump Poor Performers by Tracking the Time You Spend Online and On Calls, Watch Out. Researchers Say These Metrics 'Are Anything But Fair.'

04 Oct 2022
Why Productivity Scores Don't Effectively Measure Employee Performance

Originally found at Business Insider

Productivity metrics are increasingly turning up in knowledge work contexts like law and healthcare.

Research suggests these tools aren't very effective at measuring or improving employee performance.

They can be demotivating and give employers the false sense that they're evaluating people fairly.

In 2019, Bill Tayler, an accounting professor at Brigham Young University, published a cover story in the Harvard Business Review about the hazards of productivity metrics. He was delighted to get his research "into the hands of people who can do something about it," he said, even though publishing in Harvard Business Review wasn't something his bosses expected of him.

In an ironic twist, for all the value Tayler saw in his article about measuring performance, he knew professors are typically evaluated on how often they publish in academic journals, not in mainstream outlets like Harvard Business Review. Lucky for him, Tayler said, his managers appear to have taken the article into account when reviewing his performance. 

But not all bosses are as open-minded as Tayler's department heads about how they measure work.

Productivity metrics are something of a paradox in modern management. Widely used in call centers and manufacturing plants, they're turning up in knowledge-work contexts like social work, law, and healthcare, as shown in a recent New York Times investigation. The rise of remote work has increased the use of productivity scores as a way for bosses to ensure workers have their proverbial noses to the grindstone. 

In theory, productivity tracking can help organizations identify top performers and spot possible problems. But when employers wield these tools haphazardly, they risk incentivizing the wrong behaviors, increasing inequities among workers, and hurting business performance instead of boosting it.

Continue reading the original article at Business Insider.

Learn more about the AOM Scholar and explore their work:

  • Cary L. Cooper, Manchester Business School