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How well do your employees stay on track?

Do* you supervise people? If so, do you know their "tracking" quotient"?

Hit the TargetDo you always hit the target? How well do you stay on track? How well do the employees you supervise stay on track? How often do you even ask yourself these questions?

An employees' ability to start a project and get to the end (goal or target) has everything to do with productivity, employee satisfaction, employee salary increases, your success as a supervisor, customer satisfaction, company profits, and the need for supervisorial intervention.

Have a look at the information below to determine a "Tracking Quotient" for each of your employees. And if you are an employee instead of a supervisor or manager, use this information to assess where you might improve your ability to stay on track.

Employee Tracking Quotient

We believe it is vital to assess how well we or the employees we supervise stay on track in completing daily work. Here are the reasons:

  • Employees who stay on track well are good models for other employees
  • Employees who stay on track well are more productive
  • Employees who stay on track well are happier and feel more successful
  • Employees who stay on track well require much less supervision
  • Employees who stay on track well contribute greatly to meeting group, department, or corporate goals and deadlines
  • Employees who stay on track well are fun to work with
We assign a "Tracking Quotient" value from 1 to 5. If your quotient is 5, you stay on track perfectly! If your quotient is 1, you are unable to stay on track at all. Review the diagrams below to see how we come up with a "Tracking Quotient". The "project boundary" lines (see diagram below) represent a hypothetical line that, when crossed, would indicate that the person is off track and would require external intervention from a supervisor or peer to get back on track.
Tracking Quotient 5 - The Best
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The obvious path to a goal or target is a straight line. This assumes no distractions and no need for any newly developed information to be gathered or incorporated into the project. Anyone rated 5 would always proceed directly to the goal with no course variations (see the next diagram below). Very few people will be able to complete tasks without the need for some course corrections along the way. Anyone who could be rated 5 on our scale probably ought to have a psychiatric examination to see if in fact, they are actually a computer! Consider a quotient of 5 to be the goal but don't expect most to ever reach it.
Tracking Quotient 4 - Extremely Good
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This diagram illustrates a person who proceeds from the start of a project or task to the goal in a slightly meandering way. What is important to recognize here is that this individual has the ability to almost always self-correct their course. They have the ability to constantly reassess the location of the target and where they are headed in relation to the target. They then correct their course with little or no outside supervisorial intervention. Note that as the blue line proceeds from left to right towards one of the project boundary lines, a small orange dot emerges and the blue line changes course, staying within the project boundaries. The orange dots represent some force or talent within the individual to recognize a course correction is necessary. It is probable that this person constantly asks the question, "What was the problem I set out to solve?" They probably constantly seek new input as they move the project or task along. They probably have the ability to quickly gather good information, even about topics they know nothing about. And they probably have a highly developed ability to stay focused.

If you encounter an employee you would rate 4 on our scale, try to spend lots of time with him or her to find out what skills, talents, and work habits they use in their daily work. Satisfy yourself that you know why they are so successful at completing their work. This will give you an storehouse of information that you can then share with others. As a supervisor, if you don't know why this person does such good work, then you will have no perspective within which to evaluate why others do poor work. You should also try to give this person increasingly more difficult and more responsible tasks. It is probable that this person could quickly emerge as a leader in your company.

You will probably find very few people that you can rate this high in your company.
Tracking Quotient 3 - Very Good
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This is is the area in which we would expect most employees to fall. Many times they complete projects like those with a tracking quotient of 2 - they get from beginning to end without supervisorial intervention. Sometimes, however, they get off track (represented by the magenta line crossing the project boundary lines). The blue circles represent some kind of intervention required from a supervisor or manager to get the person back on track

Let's examine a simple example for clarification. You have assigned an employee the task of determining the location of stores within 5 miles of your business. You learn after three days that the employee is compiling an exhaustive list of all stores, including the type of store, a complete list of it's inventory, lists of the names of all of it's employees, the store's telephone numbers, square footage, paint color, and every other imaginable fact about each store. At this point you intervene and inform the employee that all you really wanted were auto parts stores and that all you wanted to know was where they were so that you could send you parts manager out to do some comparative pricing. In this case, the employee got off track due to a lack of sufficient information about the goals of the project. At this point, this employe changes his course and get's back on track. There are a million reasons why we get off track and most are legitimate. But what is really important here is to note the location of the blue circle relative to the boundary line in the diagram above. Notice that the path of the employee is not too far outside the boundary line before the supervisor becomes involved (blue circle). If the supervisor has no mechanism in place to assess how employees are progressing in their tasks, and if an employee gets off track and does not know it, then that employee will never get back on track. Getting off track is normal. Staying off track is not and is more often the fault of the supervisor than the employee.

(Here is the diagram again so you don't have to scroll back up the page)
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Notice in this diagram that the person crosses the project boundaries twice on the way to their target but that they self corrected their own course three other times along the way (orange dots). This is critical information to evaluate about the person. Why are they OK sometimes and not other times? In our example above, we demonstrated that the lack of information about the goal was part of the problem. Perhaps when the employee gets off track, the employee is ill. Perhaps they are distracted by family or personal problems. Perhaps they think the target is somewhere else. Perhaps they are unhappy with their working conditions or salary? Perhaps they are involved in a new romance (a surefire way to be distracted!). Perhaps they are spending their time and energies working of hidden agendas. Whatever the reasons, it is important for the supervisor to recognize that the employee is getting off track and its it important to try to ascertain why. The "why" is how we help our employees grow.

It is also important to gauge the rate of how often an employee gets off track so that you can tell if s(he) is getting off track more or less frequently. If s(he) is getting off track more frequently, then some outside influence has started influencing the employees performance. With most employees, the rate of self correction will increase with time and experience. If this is not the case, it's time to find out why.

This diagram also suggests that you, as a supervisor or manager, need to have some way of evaluating where your employees are relative to the targets or goals.

If the frequency of boundary crossing is excessive, even though this employee can correct his or her own course from time to time, the supervisor needs to reevaluate the suitability for this project assignment for this employee.
Tracking Quotient 2 - Poor
Target 4

Notice that this person is crossing the project boundaries frequently and also notice the conspicuous absence of any self correction (no orange dots). This employee typically occupies a great deal of the supervisors time. Assuming that the supervisor gave adequate guidance to the employee about the project and it's components during the earlier interventions, we can see that the employee still gets off track a lot in later stages of the project. The employee eventually hits the target but not without constant redirection from the supervisor. This condition can exist with employees who have undeveloped job skills. If the condition persists with time and experience on the job, something is radically wrong and the supervisor needs to make a new plan! If the condition improves with time and experience (that is, if you begin to notice the employee correcting their own course), then you're both doing just fine!

Keep in mind that the employee who seems always off track is not only taking up a lot of your time, s(he) is also dragging down the remainder of your team. Others in the workgroup are probably working harder to take up the slack. Do the employee, yourself, and your team a favor by quickly reassigning this employee to work tasks that they can do successfully.
Tracking Quotient 1 - Unacceptable
Target 5

We have all seen employees from time to time who just go of into orbit somewhere and never come back. The solution, in our opinion, is simple here.

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*Disclaimer: Neal & Associates provides these tips as general guidelines. Consult with the appropriate policies in your company and applicable Federal, State, and local laws and regulations before implementing them.

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