Confessions of a benefits manager

Blogs%20confessions%20imageCandid: As another sheet of paper lands on her desk this time demanding staff answer a myriad of competency questions about areas that aren’t always related to their job, Candid creates responses to serve her own ends.

I wish someone would give those boys in Corporate some proper work to do. As it is, they are twiddling their thumbs and coming up with new stupid forms for us to fill in. This week’s pointless assessment is all about competencies. For some inexplicable reason, every poor soul in the company has to assess their own competency across a number of different subjects. We not only have to assess the competencies considered relevant to our position – which arguably someone should have done at the interview stage – but we also have to assess around 100 other competencies, many of which have no relevance to our role. Sure, why not? I’ve got nothing better to do.

And what is it all for? Call me cynical, but I suspect this is yet another device to decide who takes part in the annual cull in the new year. We used to have a performance evaluation model for this underhand purpose. Everyone would be rated according to a forced distribution and it would be a dead cert that the bottom 10% would be on the next redundancy list. Scary, and not exactly legal, but true.

Bearing this in mind, I proceed cautiously with the form. The first question is about company knowledge. Well, having been here for far too many years to mention, I feel pretty comfortable scoring myself as a ‘subject-matter expert’ on that one, But, to be sure, I look up the detailed description. Apparently, in order to meet the top rating, one must be able to cite examples of best operational practices, and evaluate the strategic direction of all business units. Well, no one is going to get that one. We don’t have any best practices nor, if I may dare say so, any true strategic direction: the Higher Beings (our management team) only look as far ahead as the next quarter. However, I assume good knowledge of the company must be baseline criteria for staying off the exit list, so I put down ‘highly experienced’ to be on the safe side.

The next question concerns business ethics. You will remember from last month, that is a pretty hot topic around here so, again, I am keen to score myself highly. However, ethical to the last, I decide to check the criteria for each rating. The top score requires being able to list examples of relevant laws and to be able to discuss historical and future perspectives of global business ethics. That feels a bit ambitious to me, but I am loath to score myself too low on the ethics front as it is surely a key factor for staying employed around here. I tick ‘highly experienced’ again even though I don’t meet any of the criteria for that rating either. After all, it will only be checked by Big Bad Boss and he’s not exactly in a position to point the finger when it comes to ethics.

I am then required to rate myself on interpersonal relationships. Pardon? Well, I think to myself, I have never had any complaints. Looking at the detailed explanation however, it seems they mean relationships with colleagues. There was that really good-looking one in finance, but that never really came to anything. I’m not sure I want to admit to ‘highly experienced’ again in this context so I put down ‘experienced’ but still feel a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing.

The next section on the form is a little batch of specialist subjects clearly specific to my department such as compensation management and benefits strategy. I suspect they will definitely get the hatchet out for those people scoring low in their job-specific competencies so I make doubly sure I score suitably well on these points. I give myself top marks without even reading the descriptions. This form is taking far too long to get too hung up on details.

Personal effectiveness: um, top marks for me on that one I think. After all, it must be good if I can avoid getting sucked into the nitty-gritty of filling out stupid forms. I wonder how Lazy Susan scores on effectiveness. How do you rate slouching in at nearly 10am, avoiding work by aimless chatting for several hours, and then going home early claiming a headache? OK, so I score pretty highly on critical thinking, but then I get plenty of practice.

There is a set of questions relating to other departments in HR, such as training and development, and recruitment. Although I could describe lots of relevant experience from my last company, this is not an area I want anyone to realise I am good at, so I just put ‘basic knowledge’, the lowest rating I could use apart from ‘total numpty’.

I’ve neatly side stepped a potential career minefield, so I have no qualms about rating myself as a ‘subject matter expert’ on organisational politics. This, along with the competencies of leadership, strategic thinking and global perspective, must be our criteria for executive management. It’s amazing how our Higher Beings have all risen to this level despite their own incompetence. I make up a high score for myself on all these as well. You never know, it might help the promotion prospects along the way.

It is a great shame they didn’t make the form a bit more interesting and address my real strengths. If they had measured perseverance in shopping for shoes, the ability to open that third bottle of wine when manual dexterity is severely affected, or downing a second portion of Christmas pudding, I could be a lot more honest in my self-assessment.

  • Next time…Candid makes some New Year resolutions

Confessions of a benefits manager – November 2007