The Recency Effect image

The Recency Effect

Staff Squared date icon23rd November 2012

Tag iconManaging staff

In  previous blog posts we have discussed something we call “The Recency Effect”.  It’s also known by other names, such as cognitive bias or serial position effect.  This effect occurs when we assign too much significance to an observation that occurred recently in comparison to earlier observations.  To use a HR specific example, when a manager focuses too much on what an employee has done within the past few weeks or months when evaluating him for an annual performance review, that manager has fallen victim to the recency effect.

Interestingly a lot of employees are also wise to the effect and can be quite cunning around the time of performance reviews.  Managers see the improved work effort in the run up to a performance review, only to watch their staff trail off again once the review is over.  Employees wise to the game are rewarded with more kudos than perhaps they deserve.

To avoid this issue – don’t rely on a single point of contact, such as the annual performance review, as the only time you engage with your employees.  Be sure to implement a system that allows you to constantly and consistently monitor the performance of your employees throughout the year.  A proven way of achieving this is to define goals that your employees must report back to you on a frequent basis.  Quarterly feedback should be the minimum frequency, and for some goals you may even wish to request weekly updates.

When writing goals, it’s helpful to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Goals must align with the organisation’s mission and strategy
  • They must be clear and easy to understand
  • They must be accepted and recognised as important by everyone who will have to implement them
  • Progress towards goals must be measurable
  • Goals must be framed in time, with clear beginning and ending points
  • They should be challenging, but achievable

Our HR software Staff Squared provides goal setting and monitoring functionality so you don’t feel like you’re nagging your staff all of the time.  Your employees remain focused on their goals, which if properly aligned with your business are guaranteed to deliver you positive results.

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