Predicting Performance

Easter holidays traditionally bring the start of the revision period for GSCE and A level students across the country but this year things are different. Pupils are going to be assigned grades based on their teacher’s best estimations of what they would have achieved, had they taken the exams as normal.

There are two interesting parallels to this which relate to the way workers perform in the real world.

The first is that, without the motivation of an exam to sit, it appears that nearly all students have stopped work completely. Where schools tried to maintain some semblance of a timetable for exam students before Easter, this has been abandoned post Easter. Despite choosing subjects which interest them, and potentially going to university to study the same subjects, it seems that without the carrot (or is it a stick) of an exam grade there is little effort being put in. It will be similar later in the world of work – we see so many times where employees, who once enjoyed their jobs, do the minimum or drift between tasks because there is no recognition at the end of the day of how well or how badly they have done. Employees want, and need, a way of being recognised for the work they have done and want that feedback on how they have performed against the rest of the team. It might not be a grade, but people need to know if they have had a good day or not.

Secondly, there is a view that teachers can rank pupils and determine the grades they would have achieved. However, a UCL study showed that only 16% of A level students achieved their predicted grades. Despite spending years with students, and seeing their prior coursework, teachers could not predict performance with any great accuracy. It is the same in the workplace. Whilst managers probably have a view on who is a high performer and who might not be so academic, they typically let their biases and subconscious affect their judgement. It is therefore crucial that there are concrete measures in place to track performance. This gives managers the ability to answer key questions which will affect the business. What was achieved? What was planned to be achieved? Why was there a difference?

It is obviously a life changing decision that teachers must make, and hopefully it will be a once in a lifetime decision for them. Managers, on the other hand, have the chance to plan, set targets, measure output and feedback daily. When they say that this is too difficult or too much effort, they should reflect on the cohort of 16 and 18 year olds who should be studying hard but are currently baking, Netflixing and Housepartying – that could be their staff if they do not get the feedback they need.