Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Evaluating workers, skills Vs traits

How do we evaluate our employees? We know the traits we value in employees, but which traits are more important and which are less? Through gut feeling we may feel that trait A is more important than trait B, but how does each of them translate into day to day performance?

In this post I will discuss a rather cool method we have developed for determining which traits are the most important for an employee to posses, how to evaluate employees and more. The first steps are rather obvious, but starting from the third step it's getting rather cool. Trust me.

Some time ago, I had a conversation with one of my Team Leaders, regarding the needed skills and traits for a QFO (QA Feature Owner). We made a list of the traits we valued the most and wrote them on a whiteboard but then the calender reared its ugly head and we were forced to stop and vowed to resume the session "soon".

"Soon" turned out to be some six months later. When we met again, were no longer two people in the room but six, as I asked other leads from my team and two HR to join the party. After a long discussion we decided that our way for evaluating our employees will consist on the following phases:

1. At first we decided what are the needed skills the QFOs needed. The skills we decided our QFOs need are:
  • Task planning
  • Task duration assessment
  • Synching other interfaces
  • Reporting
  • Following up on features
  • Context switching
  • Task prioritization
  • Problem solving
  • Specification document analysis
  • Writing organized test documents
  • Effective test coverage
  • Good test prioritization
  • Bug hunter
  • Organized bugs
  • Through bug analysis
  • Bug prioritization
  • Etc' (this post is not about the skills required to be a good QFO)

2. After we were happy with the skills needed, we set about writing down the traits we thought good QFOs should posses. The list we came up with was something like this:
  • Fire and forget
  • Broad vision
  • Self driven
  • Self improving
  • Passionate about the product
  • passionate about QA
  • Technical skills
  • Organized and thorough
  • Businesslike (practical, focuses on getting things done instead of ego games)
  • Critical thinker
  • Creative

So now we have two lists, skills and traits. Now we put them in an excel table, with traits being columns and skills being rows:

3. And now the cool stuff begins. In the next phase we marked each box in which a trait and a skill intersected. For example, Task Planning requires a QFO to have a Fire and forget attitude, posses a Broad Vision of the team's goals and be Self Driven. So we marked those intersection boxes with 1's. Self Improving, on the other hand, is not especially important for Task Planning so we left that box empty. We proceeded to fill the table until it looked something like this:

4. In the next phase, we summed (in the last row) the number time each trait was used:

Looking at the last row, we see that the three most important traits for a QFO in our organization are being Organized and Thorough, possessing a Broad Vision regarding the company's goals and being a Critical Thinker. We know that they are important because they affect the largest amount of skills we defined as important for a QFO's daily work.

Next post I'll do more fine tuning and show how to use this method for evaluating employees and giving them more effective feedback.


braveheart said...

This is Excellent, really practical.
Thank you for sharing this.

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