A Progressive Way To Measure Performance: The NPPS

Joost
Written by in Practices
- 6 min read

A few years ago we stumbled upon a simple but powerful performance measuring tool that Dutch company bol.com used in their transformation to a progressive workplace. It is called the "Performance Promoter Score". (We wrote about it in our book). Academics now endorsed the effectiveness of this tool. It must be good!

Boring appraisal forms

We are all familiar with the problem this new tool set out to solve: boring, lengthy, time-consuming appraisal forms.

Traditional forms are usually more a burden to employees than they are useful. They can add extra useless work to other pressures.

This is especially true in times like the pandemic, when organizations might neglect performance measurement because it is difficult to do.

But surely that is the wrong response. In times of crisis performance is even more critical, even to survive.

The need for constructive feedback

In a recent paper "Measuring performance during crisis and beyond: The Performance Promoter Score", Herman Aguinis and Jing Burgi-Tian (professors at George Washington University) talk about the importance of measuring performance in times of crisis.

They argue that a key output of performance management is regular, timely and constructive feedback. Without that, people are stalled in their professional development.

It is important to keep doing it regularly, so teams and staff can give each other sound, meaningful feedback. This keeps improving their performance, and that of others.

Frequent, reliable information, helps to make critical decisions now, and hopefully the ability to thrive after the crisis is over.

Keep measuring performance in crisis

They argue the solution is not to stop measuring performance. "Abandoning performance measurement results in loss of valuable information at a moment when data are badly needed."

But the focus should be to upgrade measurements to the new reality. "Rather than abandoning performance management [...], a better solution is to adapt measurement to the new organizational and societal realities. What is needed is a measure of performance that is simple, relevant, informative, adaptable, comprehensive, and clear."

This raises two questions:

  • How can we create performance tools that are simple, relevant, informative, adaptable, comprehensive, and clear?
  • How can we make them easy to understand, and useful for everyone in the organization?

Performance Promoter Score

In answer to these questions, the researchers suggest the so-called Performance Promoter Score (PPS). This new way to measure performance is inspired by the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

They write: "PPS is a convenient, practical, relevant, and useful performance measure during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also an innovation that will be useful long after the pandemic is over."

This is how it works, and what they say about it.

What is it? How does it work?

The performance tool is strongly inspired by conventional NPS. For those who have not heard about NPS, it is popular, especially in marketing, for measuring customer loyalty to products, services, and brands.

Computing an NPS score takes three steps:

  1. You ask one simple but powerful question that can be answered on a scale from 1 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). The question goes something like: "How likely is it that you would recommend this product to a friend or colleague?"
  2. Next you categorize customers into three groups. Those who give a score of 9 or 10 are called "promotors" in NPS-speak. Those who give a 7 or 8 are considered "passively satisfied," and those with a 6 or below are called "detractors".
  3. You now calculate the NPS score by subtracting the percentage of those labelled as promoters from the percentage of detractors.

Via these steps the NPS score of any product, service or brand can range from -100 to +100. The higher the score, the better. To gain more insights, you can ask other questions like: “Why did you give the rating you did?”, or "What should we do to raise your rating?"

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Net Performance Promoter Score (NPPS)

Computing an NPPS is similar. Instead of asking about a product, service or brand, these questions are about your work environment.

The researchers write: "Extrapolating and expanding upon NPS, measuring performance, using PPS involves...three questions:

  1. How likely is it that you would recommend working with [name of individual, workgroup, or unit] to a friend or a colleague?
  2. Why did you provide the rating that you provided?
  3. What would it take to raise the score just by one point?

Similar to the computation of a Net Promoter Score, it’s possible to use PPS scores to calculate a Net Performance Promoter Score (NPPS). NPPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

Thus, an individual, work group, or unit’s NPPS ranges from -100% to +100%. Moreover, as with the NPS, it is possible to calculate the NPPS for a functional unit, department, or an entire firm."

Important points

There are at two important points to note when using such a peer-rating tool.

  1. There can only be a fair score if there is a diverse and all-inclusive list of raters who are sufficiently familiar with the workplace (or team) being assessed.
  2. It's key to understand the feedback behind the rating. Therefore, employees should be given time to process and absorb the feedback solicited from the tool. Discussing the feedback among peers is critically important.

Why is it good?

Once implemented, and correctly used, the tool offers several advantages, according to the researchers:

It is flexible: "Because PPS does not go into the narrow technical details of the job or specific key performance indicators (KPIs), it can be used in any circumstances and for any type of job."

It is simple: "PPS is a simple measurement: It does not take raters more than 15 seconds to provide a score and no more than 5 minutes to respond to the two open-ended questions."

It is practical: "PPS is standardized. Individuals from different functional units, departments, and geographic locations are evaluated on the same criteria, which makes cross-functional and cross level comparisons easier."

It is holistic: "PPS information can be collected from peers, direct reports, partners, vendors, and customers." As such it can provide a holistic view on the performance of a particular unit.

It is peer-driven: PPS gathers information from peers by peers. This "employee involvement enhances their acceptance of the results and minimizes defensiveness when results are not positive."

And, most important:

It is realistic: "Employees are in a good position to provide information on what would be needed for them to improve their performance: Is training needed? Resources? Supervisory support?" It can be used easily to identify the additional resources (e.g., training, improved IT) needed to improve performance.

What are your thoughts? Should more companies adopt this NPPS tool? Comment below.

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Replies (19)

Henk

Henk

Great insight! Thank you Joost. Will do a pilot with this ASAP within our company.

| | 7 | Flag
Alicia Medina

Alicia Medina

Thank you for sharing, interesting to read but
in my opinion this is not a good tool at all.
We are talking about people and not about products!
There is also a risk that people start to focus on being liked by others in order to get high scores.
I know, from my experience from the business that some high performers can become less liked when they go against the stream. My experience from the academia has also showed me that all research is not relevant or applicable.

| | 15 | Flag
lukekyte

lukekyte

We've used NPS for a long time now, and can testify to the positive impact it has – important feedback that actually led to us overhauling the cultural framework.

I'd be interested to know if everyone thinks responses should be anonymised or not...?

| | 2 | Flag
Magz

Magz

I love the simplicity of this. I’m just about to pull together group of individuals who have expressed an interest in attending a conference to hear how another region has adapted a new way/model for delivering growth. I’ve been thinking about a simple way on how to engage them after the event. I’m wondering if NPPS could work to capture their views in the first instance on if they thought the same model could work for our purpose. Where can I find out more about NPPS. I have your book. Thanks

| | 0 | Flag
Alicia Medina

Alicia Medina

NPS is a powerful tool, my note was abut PPS. There are two different things.

| | 1 | Flag
Simona

Simona

Interesting approach! We already use the eNPS to measure employee engagement and to get some important feedback where to improve as an employer and it's really helpful.

I like the idea that the PPS is peer-driven, simple and short . Not sure about the anonymity of the responses as it's important to discuss the results with the peers...

| | 0 | Flag
Gert

Gert

While I am all aboard with actively collecting feedback from employees I am against using NPS.

One of the problems I have with NPS as a metric is the classification system. The boundaries between scores of 6 and 7 (detractors and passives) and 8 and 9 (passives and promoters) are arbitrary and culturally specific. Grouping data into categories eliminates potentially useful information. For example, a customer who says that the likelihood that he or she will recommend something is 0 is probably a more active detractor than a customer with a rating of 6. It's also possible that the mean score given goes up, without the NPS going up.

By grouping different types of detractors in the same bucket, NPS loses the opportunity to explore the differences.

Besides this NPS has been proven to not accurately predict customer loyalty behavior, such as repurchase.

| | 8 | Flag
Lizzy Lowenstein

Lizzy Lowenstein

Hi 👋
While I can see the benefits of whet you describe , especially involvement and the need for regular discussion is now a given and widely accepted as best practice, as well as fulfilling the psychological needs variables that are so vital.

However, have ung spent years creating performance systems as well as a needs analysis to measure learning cultures and processes, I would say that limiting things to one question does not allow for the fine and detailed analysis of performance and keeps things in a general space which will not hike the discussion and thinking to specific areas of need and performance variables that we know influence performance. Leaving everything to the revolving topics j believe does not honour the research and understanding we have about performance.

| | 1 | Flag
Keely Maitland

Keely Maitland

Carol Sanford in her book "No More Feedback: Cultivate Consciousness at Work" argues that if the goal is to help people accurately assess their work, improve their performance, raise the level of their contribution, make it possible for them to appreciate their job and find work more meaningful then feedback comes close to doing the opposite. Her book provides alternative practices to feedback and I suggest, the Performance Promoter Score.

As far as the PPS is concerned, it's important to choose a tool based on it's effectiveness rather than one that is flexible, simple, practical, holistic and peer-driven. How effective is it? If anyone is using the PPS would you please say how it's helped people accurately assess their work, improve their performance, raise the level of their contribution, make it possible for them to appreciate their job and find work more meaningful?

| | 4 | Flag
Herman Aguinis

Herman Aguinis

Thank you, Joost, for featuring our research! For those interested, our Business Horizons article describing these issues in detail is available at http://www.hermanaguinis.com/pubs.html
Also, feel free to email me directly if you have any questions: haguinis@gwu.edu
All the best,
--Herman.

| | 2 | Flag
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