Q: What is the best way to reward great staffers? What performance metrics should we use to evaluate employees?
A: There is no best way to reward staffers. Instead, your reward system should reinforce the behavior that will enable the Member to meet his or her goals. To do that, I recommend offices adopt a performance and awards system first introduced in the early 1990s called a balanced scorecard.
A balanced scorecard is a way to make performance metrics reinforce the performance objectives an office values. In a nutshell, it ensures that you do not evaluate and reward staff solely based on one job factor, potentially to the detriment of other equally valuable behaviors or goals. For example, if you reward a legislative correspondent solely based on the quantity of letters sent to constituents, you may sacrifice the quality of the letters or encourage the LC to shirk other responsibilities. A balanced scorecard forces you to consider what makes an LC great and a contributor to the overall office goals from multiple perspectives.
While Capitol Hill offices may differ in certain areas, the following objectives are worth considering as part of a Congressional offices balanced scorecard:
Attitude and teamwork
Leadership and initiative
Growth and development
Be sure to set (and communicate) the specific goals for each category at the beginning of the year to enable staff to work toward those goals prior to being evaluated. Within each of these categories, the performance goals should be relevant for the individual staffer and his level of responsibilities. Goals for your legislative director and systems administrator would be very different, even though the categories remain the same.
For example, a teamwork goal for your LD could be to initiate and oversee projects that require collaboration from both legislative and casework staff. But the teamwork goal for the SA would look very different: Perhaps you would ask her to exhibit a greater willingness to chip in and help out colleagues when needed.
Does This Sound Familiar?
Multiple chiefs of staff have recently brought me the following challenge: An exceptional legislative staffer does a great job managing his issues and writes really well. But his attitude is really negative, he sometimes disrespects other members of staff, and he may be affecting the work ethic and overall environment in the office. There are also concerns about how he might be treating staffers in other offices or possibly constituents, given his somewhat unpredictable attitude. But the chief of staff does not want to lose him. He knows his stuff and the boss likes him.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.