- “Develop refined rating scales.” How does Santa determine whether a child is “naughty” or “nice”? What is naughty? What is nice? How can a child improve performance if the child does not have clear guidelines and examples of the behaviors expected?
- “Develop SMART performance objectives.” A child needs clear goals to be successful at “nice,” goals that are “specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.” Ideally these would flow from the family strategic plan.
- “Increase feedback throughout the year.” It’s either a lump of coal or presents one day a year. 364 days with no feedback is just not acceptable in the 21st Century. If feedback is too much for Santa to handle, he should delegate and train others, such as parents.
- “Establish a naughty review board.” There may be review boards in organizations that are naughty; this recommendation concerns grievances. What’s a child to do if deemed naughty and considers this an unfair assessment? Is it fair to not have a grievance procedure, especially in the absence of feedback?
- “Get a handle on rating inflation.” Let’s be real. It seems most children get a “nice” rating and the associated benefits. Refined rating scales would definitely help here.
- “Explain how he obtains his information.” This one puzzled me as a kid. How does he know if I am being naughty or nice? As Stetz’s very appropriately noted, “at least a consent-to-monitoring statement should be made.”
- “Decide between developmental or administrative evaluations.” “Under the current system how can naughty children improve. They can’t” (p. 36). There is no feedback. Children simply did not know how to improve their performance. Santa’s performance system is administrative with only “rewards and punishments.”
- “Institute self-assessments.” Instead of writing letters to Santa once a year, which not all children do, there should be periodic self-assessments from children. This could be an online system with elf’s perhaps providing feedback. Currently children have little opportunity to speak to the naughty or nice question with relevant supporting data.
Can any of the recommendations for Santa’s performance system be applied to your organization? If so, 2021 might be a good year to work toward improvements. Feedback is key to employee development and organizational growth and renewal.
Best wishes for the holiday season and a great 2021.
Stetz, T. A. (2012). What Santa Claus can learn from I-O psychology: Eight performance management recommendations. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49 (3), 35-37.
Image of Santa by Clker-Free-Vector-Images. Image obtained from https://pixabay.com/vectors/santa-claus-christmas-reindeer-31665/
© John Ballard, PhD, 2020. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Now also available as an audiobook and paperback.