ITL #29 Evaluating individual performance: why, when and how to measure a PR specialist’s effectiveness.

9 years, 8 months ago


Talent management and professional development are essential in the creation of successful PR teams. But managers often struggle to determine how best to evaluate employees. By Inna Alexeeva.

Take a look at your company. In particular, at your team. Can you say that every single member of the team is working at their best, giving their work 100%? Some might be, but there is always someone spending time on Facebook, dozing off, lost in thought, talking to a coworker or taking a smoke.
Of course it is a given that employees should take short breaks between everyday tasks, but how to tell apart a professional who is taking a quick break between two colossal projects from a lazy individual whose best ability is wasting time on entertaining websites while pretending to work?
Evaluating the effectiveness of an employee is a challenge for any manager. How to tell if the worker does his best or is underperforming? 
What’s my first step?
Any successful team begins by hiring the proper people. There are several ways to tell that a person is a professional, especially in PR.
First of all, it is highly important that the job applicant already has experience in a certain field of PR, or certain market: IT, FMCG, Finance, Retail, Real Estate or other.
Second of all, if the person is professionally active (they constantly update a blog or are a business trainer or speaker on the topic of PR), that most likely means they know what they are doing and will be a great asset to your company.
Also, the applicant’s education helps a lot in determining whether you want him on the job or not. If the person received a degree in PR, he should probably be your primary choice. Additional education is a huge advantage — especially seminars and lectures given by practicing specialists in PR and corresponding fields (for example, copywriting). If the applicant finished a university with top scores, this is also a good sign.
Otherwise, look for people who lead an active style of life: perhaps they do sports or are a member of a non-government organization. This means that they are not indifferent and will most likely be as passionate at work as they are in their daily life.
If you work in a country where English is not the native language, its knowledge should probably be compulsory for the applicant, and possession of more than one foreign language is always a huge plus which you shouldn’t ignore.
What methods should I use at a job interview?
When conducting a job interview, a good idea would be to use Brian Tracey’s method of recruitment. The idea is to interview the person three times, and each time the interview should be conducted by a different person and in a different place. If all three people who interview the worker are pleased, you can hire him for sure.
A method we use at PR Partner agency when hiring a PR manager is a game named "The Yes/No Game". To test the applicant with this game you have to give them a simple situation like, "He betrayed his king in the name of his love for the Russian beauty". The applicant has to unearth the whole story by asking questions which can be answered only by "Yes" and "No". In the case of the poor king, the story is about a chess player who fell in love with his female opponent during a tournament and intentionally lost. 
The idea of this game is not just to see how many questions it takes the applicant to uncover the full story, but to observe which questions are being asked. A true PR professional is never shy or afraid of asking too many questions. My agency uses this game when recruiting to measure the applicant’s ability.
The applicant is hired! Now what do I do?
Once the employee begins their work, you should keep an eye on a few things. From this point the real evaluation process starts.
Evaluating the employee’s work performance by KPIs is not as effective as one may think — doing so every half a year is more than enough.  For the first few months you should instead look closely at how the new employee acts in various situations. Does he take the lead when opportunity comes, is he emotionally mature, can he manage risks — these and other key reactions to situations will tell you a lot about how competent the new employee is. 
Once you start using the KPI system to evaluate the employee, you can use a five-stage score system. The five scores go as follows: IC (Incompetent), RT (Requires Training), C (Competent), EE (Exceeds Expectations), SE (Serves as an Example). By observing the new employee at least 2 times per year you can easily relate them to one of these groups and plan their career. 
A well-known headache for the manager, however, is the employee’s balance between quality and speed of work. Most everyone says that speed is more important — until the quality fails. This is why you should judge the typical actions of the employee by standards set by professional organizations. Better off, make your demands clear: "I need this done today, can you do it?" will get a lot more effect than "Do this for me please".
How else do I evaluate those who have been working in the company for a while?
A few weeks or months are usually enough to determine whether the employee is suitable for the job or not. After the trial period passes, there are three groups of people you can ask to evaluate the employee: clients, coworkers and journalists.
• The clients will tell you how satisfied they are by the results that this person achieved (or failed to do so). This alone is a good factor.
• The coworkers will tell you if the person managed to integrate into the team or is a piece that does not fit the puzzle.
• The journalists will be able to give feedback on how well the person can communicate ideas and ideals.
This is how you can evaluate the person — but it is also your responsibility as a manager to help the employee improve skills and assist in their professional growth.
How do I develop my employees’ skills?
You can broaden the PR specialist’s skills by delegating work on marketing or creative projects. Of course, projects like these, if successful, must be adequately rewarded. Another skill that a PR specialist can get is SMM, as Social Media are considered one of the "new PR instruments". You can propose to an employee that they start working on your company’s twitter or Facebook accounts — but first make sure the person understands the basics of this matter.
To give your employees a good understanding of not only the subject of PR, but certain useful skills (like SMM and copywriting), you should consider creating a corporate library. This library can serve as a great base for improving the skills of all your employees and coworkers. There are two ways you can go here: either create the library yourself (ask your employees about which business books they would love to see there and order them) or make a shelf for book-trading (where employees themselves leave the books they’ve read for their colleagues).
Another thing you can do is send your employees to business training events and seminars. In many Russian companies, for example, such practice is considered one of the best for increasing the employees’ knowledge and skills, and is considered nearly as important as a university degree,  if not more so.
However, in case you are afraid that you will spend a lot on employee education only for them to leave you, here is a great little story: 
Once, two entrepreneurs were discussing various matters and one asked the other:
— You invest so much money into your employees’ education! Aren’t you afraid that they will learn everything and leave?
— No, I am afraid that they will learn nothing and stay.
There are always risks when you invest into something. Not investing into your team at all is a much higher risk.
To sum it all up
So, if you want to get all the members of your team to give their work 100%, you should:
1) hire proper people,
2) evaluate them not only by yourself, but with the help of your clients, coworkers and journalists,
3) never stop educating them.
If you follow these three simple steps, you should be able not only to properly evaluate your colleagues on all stages of their professional growth, but improve their overall productivity. Remember: every penny spent on your employees will return — this is sometimes costly, but it is efficient investment. A trained employee will save you both time and money you could spend training a new one and time you will spend desperately trying to measure everyone by the mysterious (and often hated) KPIs.
Thought Leader Profile
Inna Alexeeva, Managing Director of PR Partner, has 14 years’ experience of working in PR. In 2006 she launched her own PR agency, PR Partner, a top independent PR agency in Russia, today focused on the promotion of IT, finance, real estate and consumer goods clients. Inna is also a coach, business consultant, co-author of the book "Top Ranking PR: How to Stellify a Top-Manager", and author of the first PR blog in Russia, She has developed PR-strategies for Unistar, BrokInvestService, DeltaCredit and many other clients. Her main specializations are IT and finance. She is in the top-10 most influencial young woman entrepreneurs in Russia (Moscow Times Rating, 2012) and took 1st place in the rating of best heads of PR agencies made by the business magazine Profile (2012). 

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The Author

Inna Alexeeva

Inna Alexeeva, Managing Director of PR Partner, has 14 years’ experience of working in PR. Her main specializations are IT and finance. She is in the top-10 most influencial young woman entrepreneurs in Russia and took 1st place in the rating of best heads of PR agencies made by the business magazine Profile (2012).

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