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Facebook – the shortcut to employee performance information

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Facebook is a well-known tool for finding out information about a person’s past and present, but did you know it can be a window into the future performance of an employee? A veritable crystal ball, were you can see the outlines of a worker’s capacity?

This window mainly consists of five personality traits that experts regard as being valuable KPIs, and they are probably not what you might expect.

Findings in the field

Several studies were dedicated to this matter, proving that your Facebook profile can be a reliable predictor of your job performance. The first experiment, quoted by The Wall Street Journal, was conducted at the University of Northern Illinois and consisted of analyzing the pictures, wall posts and comments of dozens of profiles belonging to working college students.

The college’s board was then asked to answer a series of questions regarding the subjects’ personality. Six months later, these reviews were compared against the working performance evaluation the same students received from their employers.

The researchers found out that the subjects who received the best feedback from their jobs had also scored higher in their reviews. These results were based on the analysis of five specific characteristics, which are called The Big Five: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

Following the first experiment, another one was conducted on a much larger scale, arriving at a very similar conclusion. The only difference was that this latter one focused more on conscientiousness and extroversion.

While these Big Five have become centerpieces in personality assessments decades ago, the novelty these new studies bring along is the fact that they can be more accurately evaluated with the help of Facebook, than they would be through classical personality tests.

The core of this idea is the fact that while questions in personality tests can be manipulated and answered in a way that puts the respondent in a positive light, an entire Facebook profile is hard to fake.

Even harder – if not nearly impossible to counterfeit, are other people’s interactions on social media, which are a strong indicator of one’s extroversion and agreeableness levels, for example.

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So what exactly do the Big Five predict in terms of job performance?

  • Conscientiousness is generally the most applicable performance indicator. It can measure an individual’s entire lifespan, starting with early school years, all the way up to high school and college, showing how well an individual performs across a wide variety of jobs, being closely linked to aspects like orderliness, reliability, self-discipline or achievement striving.
Conscious employees are sure to complete their tasks in an efficient and timely manner, respect deadlines and quality standards.
  • High agreeableness and low neuroticism predict performance in jobs were individuals work in groups. Agreeable people tend to be warm, affectionate, modest and generous with a high degree of empathy. This is a feature vital for almost every employee, in most fields of expertise, since human interaction is a vital component of the working environment.
Neuroticism is connected to irritability and anxiety, suggesting an unstable person prone to low levels of job satisfaction, burnout and changing jobs more often.
  • High degrees of openness, or openness to experience, indicate a multi-faceted intellect, a rich imagination and perceptiveness.
People scoring high on this trait are intellectually curious, emotional and creative. They are open to new experiences and quite adaptable, which favors an artistic career or a working place that relies on innovative ideas and creativity.
  • Extroversion refers to elements like sociability, charisma, adventurousness and leadership, all of which are a valuable characteristic for every job reliant on human interaction, but most importantly for people working in sales or management positions.

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What do these findings mean for us?

We should start paying attention to the conclusions others can draw about our character after viewing our posts. Ideally, these should portray us as being optimistic, tolerant and forgiving towards others, creative, humorous, with a great variety of interests, emotionally stable, communicative and kind. We should avoid extremities, varying between intense opinions or expressing our negative emotions too vividly, for example.

Similarly, we should be aware of publicly discrediting or over-criticizing others and getting involved in violent reply-posting, which are public, ergo any of your higher-ups can see it. Sharing a witty quote every now and then, an interesting scientific article or someone’s artistic efforts, while expressing an optimistic and humorous view on life at the same time can easily score you some positive points in anyone’s eyes.

Moreover, if paying too much attention to our posts turns out to be a burden, we are always left with the option of customizing them. Nowadays Facebook offers the possibility of selecting the confidentiality level for each and every one of our pictures, statuses or videos, thus leaving us with the option of sharing our posts only with our closest friends or, if we so wish, with every internet user interested.

All things considered, even though checking the personal Facebook profiles of employees is a disputed method, which is usually not officially practiced by organizations, it is a known fact that a great amount of HR specialists turns to it when faced with hard decisions regarding current or future staff.

And as studies show that the Big Five, openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism can function as valuable KPIs, they should probably serve as guiding points for both employers and employees.

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