You can always count on Bob Hanson of Sarasota County for a good performance management story. Here’s one that I heard him tell recently:
The Parks and Rec department struggled with recruiting and retaining lifeguards for the public pools. People viewed being a lifeguard as only a summer job, not a career, so job satisfaction was low and turnover was high. The County department allocated budget to raise the hourly pay but this had little impact on the situation.
Enter performance management. Rather than treating this as budget issue, try to optimize processes, or streamline headcount, management went back to first principles to determine what outcome they were trying to achieve. Lifeguards are there to protect citizens. Lifeguards prevent emergencies and quickly provide medical assistance if they do happen.
Once they focused on these outcomes, it didn’t take the Parks and Rec department long to realize that protection, prevention and assistance weren’t their core strengths. Instead, these are attributes of the Public Services department. As a result, they transferred responsibility for safeguarding pools to Public Services, giving lifeguards a career path as emergency medical technicians (EMT) or as firemen.
Guess what? Job satisfaction and retention skyrocketed. Lifeguards are even better trained than they were in the past so citizens are presumably even safer. Parks and Rec is no longer distracted with a problem area. All without any additional budget.
That’s performance management at work. And maybe even saving lives.