Operations employee performance is usually broken into two dimensions: productivity and quality. Productivity reflects an employee’s output per unit time, while quality captures the incidence of error in employee work. Intuitively, it may sound like there is a tradeoff between these two dimensions of performance—when employees do work more quickly, their productivity levels rise, but speeding quickly through work may also likely increases errors and hurt quality.

This is the scenario most Operations employees think applies to their day-to-day work. In a Council survey of Operations managers, sixty-five percent indicate their staff perceive a tradeoff between productivity and quality performance. However, when these same managers are asked what they think (as opposed to what their staff think), most say it’s possible for employees to break this productivity-quality tradeoff and improve both dimensions of performance at the same time.

To help their staff break performance tradeoffs, Operations talent managers need to clearly define performance standards that employees can realistically achieve. Many institutions expect staff to strive for best-in-class productivity levels, while also producing work that is 100% error free. Only a sliver of Operations employees are even capable of achieving these kinds of standards, and the rest will create their own ad-hoc systems of determining where to make tradeoffs.

We recently profiled a leading institution that recognized its employees were making just such judgment calls regarding the relative importance of productivity and quality performance, and did something about it. They developed a balanced performance framework which uses rigorous methodology for setting dual standards that can actually be achieved by a sizable share of their Operations workforce. The framework also helps managers develop tailored development plans for employees based on their relative performance strengths and weaknesses.

You can learn more about this case as well as others firms are using to break perceived tradeoffs between productivity and quality by accessing a replay of our webinar “Balancing Employee Productivity and Quality” .