League Tables

They are everywhere – from the green playing fields of England to the hallowed halls of academia – League Tables are presented as a measure of performance and are studied avidly by those who actively participate and those who have a vicarious interest.

School League Tables – navigate to the Education Website, pop in type of school, post code, school name and region and voila! you get to know everything about the school, bar the colour of their politics.

Guardian University League Tables – it’s name, rank and number time for our universities. A few clicks will inform you that Oxbridge still holds sway at the top and Bath, Imperial College and Surrey are moving on up.

Premier League: on the Barclays Premiere League website currently. you can go back as far as the 1992/1993 season to see who was top of the League – Manchester United, who else and, when the season starts again chart your team’s progress.

So if you’re looking for the best school for your child, a top-rated university for your young adult or want to see how your team compares, league tables are very useful. But how about in the world of work? Is it right or fair that your performance (good or bad) should be open to public scrutiny?

There is a huge amount of accountability in my work. There is a high level of admin and minimum standards must be maintained and targets achieves. However attempting to balance these two aspects of the job can sometimes be overwhelming and, in the long run, detrimental to performance.  To get a client who has the triple whammy of 1) never having worked, 2) speaks little or no English, 3) has multiple health issues, into work requires a formidable arsenal of skills, in terms of progressing that person, which a league table with its concentration on percentages can never fully illustrate.

League tables may be employed as a way of monitoring accountability within the workplace and are great if you’re at the top, high-flying your way to bonuses and rewards, but what if you’re near the bottom? Do you really want your dirty linen hung on a public line for all to see? And, is this more an exercise in naming and shaming people into better performance rather than accountability?

By all means send out ‘hero-grams’ to the high-flyers but managers should also offer constructive help those who are ‘failing’ – not by naming and shaming but by taking a realistic look at the tasks to be performed by employees. Managers should help employees to prioritise and get organised in line with business objectives. Is there a level playing field in operation? Do some members of staff have more to do than others? Does the technology need upgrading to allow for more automation and less manual input?

More importantly managers should take every opportunity to demonstrate their own accountability – after all they are also employees. If you are publishing a league table to illustrate accountability and to be open and transparent managers should be very much present. Showing that managers are also accountable will certainly help in fostering a culture of accountability which would in turn go a long way towards increased performance and perhaps negate the need for league tables.