Last week, I watched an episode of Black Mirror, the fictional television series that features satirical themes, which examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. The episode "Nosedive" explored what might happen if social media was allowed to become so engrained in our lives that it dictated everything about us: the friends we make, the jobs we do, the rewards we get and the biases that we hold.
In this brave new world, a single ubiquitous social media platform allows everyone to rate each other on every social interaction they encounter with other people on a 1 to 5 scale - if the guy at the local coffee shop makes you a great cup of coffee, you rate him a 5. If someone cuts you up on your journey to work, you rate them a 1. The entire population wears augmented reality contact lenses, which allow people to view everyone else's social score, which is floated conspicuously next to their head.
© Black Mirror, S03E01/Netflix
The intention behind this cleverly written episode is to extrapolate, in a satirical manner, the potential end game of customer ratings systems. We're all familiar with the power of social media and how we can wield that power on company review sites if we're given poor service or feel injustice of some form or another, but this episode takes the whole ratings mania to another level altogether.
It's a place where people rate each other, fairly or unfairly - usually unfairly - and an environment in which people are judged wholeheartedly on their own personal rating, with highly rated people eligible for the finer things in life - such as the priority queue at an airport, which is available only to those rated at 4.2 or above.
I found myself drawing comparisons of this stomach churning futuristic world with the modern day workplace. These days most organizations already rate their own employees on a 1 to 5 scale - and for very good reasons. In order to reward good performance, employers first need to discern good performance from bad performance.
Finding fair ways to rate employees makes a lot of sense - but what is fair? How do we ensure that employees are not subject to human biases? How do we avoid incidents of nepotism in the workplace but instead rate and reward employees accurately, according to their performance.
In the "Nosedive" episode, most poor ratings were dished out when emotions ran high and biases were clearly evident. People in this futuristic world did not rate each other based on hard data. Instead ratings were given out venomously and sometimes strategically and certainly not fairly.
So perhaps the answer for our modern day workplace is to ensure that all of our employee ratings systems and processes are as data driven as they can be, where judgements are made on solid foundations of fact.
Ultimately we should all be judged on outcomes and if goals and objectives are clearly stated up front and metrics are sensibly defined, judging whether or not employees have made a successful outcome becomes a lot easier to do in an objective manner. Performance Management Systems can help provide a framework for the performance management process, but ultimately the onus is on managers to make the final judgement. With almost a quarter of employees believing that their organization's performance management process is unfair, there is still a lot of work to do.
Simon Bates is CEO of Workteam, an HR Management System for businesses of all sizes with a focus on growing employee engagement. Visit http://workte.am to find out how it can benefit your organization.