Forced ranking can be a process with brutally blunt results and outcomes yet it also can produce a more productive workforce with top producers and performers being recognized.
It also can produce a rock star environment with the subjective edge applied to the ranking criteria. So after every ranking process we do a shuffle with the band, put the rock star front and center with the microphone, the “also rans” on the guitars or drums and we give the rest of the group tambourines, put them in the chorus and tell them to support the lead performers while they work on learning the whole song.
The balance comes in encouraging and rewarding with ranking and not allowing it to become a perverse incentive through competition and sabotage. This is a competitive process and if it is a clear, transparent and moral process it will grow talent for the organization.
5 things we need to remember about forced ranking;
1. Being filled with passion is not enough to be the rock star. It takes hard work, dedication and much practice learning to sing the high notes consistently. Charisma is a portion of the rock star profile for sure, but so is hard work and commitment.
2. Coming in the rankings as the "also rans" is a vital part of the process and the organization. We look to this group for the drive they bring, the vision, and the hard work with predictable and much needed results. This group should be encouraged to build on skills and be provided opportunities to grow.
3. And the rest of the field, the chorus – well the process here is to look at the quality of this group and decide whether they can in fact perform to the standards of the organization and just what it will take to empower them to be able to do so.
4. Rankings are somewhat subjective and while improving the organization’s group of top performers, it can be produce adverse consequences with engagement and morale.
5. Rankings provide a level of accountability in managing performance objectives and allow for open discussion of potential.
So to talk about acceptance of rankings - Well, here the secret is to realize that even though we put on our capes and attempt to fly, only a few in fact can get off the ground the first time. It takes some practice finding the right fit, learning how to tie it on properly and catching those corporate winds that support our flight. Keep trying - Get cape. Wear cape. Fly.