Mr. Hitesh Agrawal (name changed) was one of our high-performing Area Sales Managers in Uttarakhand (State changed) – impeccable performance record, quarter on quarter, year on year solid delivery on targets, and touted to be a very likely successor for his boss, the Branch Manager in the near future.
As a part of our organization career development framework, where we actively encourage people to shift from one business to another, he was moved as Area Sales Manager in Uttarakhand, in another of our product categories, under the same Branch Manager.
One year down the line, when his name came up in our Talent Review, we were shocked – the last one year was one of disappointment, to put it mildly!
How can a Star performer, in the same geography, in the same Job, under the same manager become an under-performer? We had forgotten a vital change - his Product Category had changed.
Across industries and organisations, I have seen many such cases of people moving in the same role and witnessing dramatic shifts in performance. A Branch Manager of Branch A moves as a Branch Manager of Branch B and his performance suddenly undergoes a change. Change the boss of an employee and suddenly an under-performer become high-performer, and so on.
And yet, when we hire an Area Sales Manager (ASM), regardless of geography, product category, etc. we use the same Job Description and the same Role Success Profile. We forget that the context of each position, even when the role is the same, can be radically different. For example, in the same geography, the skill requirement of an ASM, when the market is developed will be very different from the skill requirement of an ASM when the market is under-developed. The context can depend on many things - the level of competition activities, the profile of the channel partners, the strength of existing team, the manager, and so on. The hiring managers many time are aware of these finer nuances, but are normally not well-trained enough to isolate the key make-or-break skills requirement or how to assess it.
However the good news is that there are data-driven assessment tools available which do a far better job in picking out those contextual factors in a scalable way than human judgement. @Crompton, we start with looking at profiles of successful people in the same specific position (as opposed to looking at the profiles of successful people in a role) to get insights into what are the contextual factors and the associated skills requirements. For example, we would assess the skills requirement of an ASM of Appliances business in Madhya Pradesh, and not the skills requirement of ASM role. It takes some time and efforts to configure the assessment process as per this, but the effects have been rewarding and the efforts are far outweighed by the potential problems of wrong hire.
In case using Technology and State of the art assessment is not possible, it is worthwhile to at least consider what are key 3-4 competencies requirement which is very specific to the role, considering the context and trying to assess those through traditional methods such as Interviews.