Q: I’m looking for a way to develop a performance evaluation system that would allow for consistent measurement of “values,” such as attendance, customer service, teamwork, etc. Can you suggest ways that I might implement such a system?

A: One of the best ways to build a culture is to identify those behavioral qualities that contribute to the kind of workplace you seek, hire for those qualities and measure performance around them. Organizational psychologists call these “competencies,” and they add a new dimension to the hiring and performance management processes.

Most traditional selection is defined by “skills” that a candidate possesses; likewise, performance management commonly looks at results or “accomplishments.” By shifting the focus to such factors as dependability, customer focus, and collaboration, the orientation moves to “how” one does his or her job. Achieving desired outcomes can be a part of this as well: such factors as “results orientation,” “timeliness” or “meeting deadlines” can be a part of the evaluation.

One good way to introduce this approach is to begin a discussion within the organization about the most important behaviors and how they contribute to success. The discussion can be a part of a strategic planning process, an agenda item for the leadership team, or gathered from all employees and vetted by leaders who are trying to shape the culture.

Regardless of the process you select, be certain to limit the number of competencies to five or six. You can always add more later. This is the time to focus on priorities. Work toward agreement that all positions will be evaluated on these criteria. Since you are working with behaviors, the performance evaluation form will ask about evidence of the behavior, and how frequently the employee displays these behaviors: never, rarely, sometimes, usually or always.

Thus, the performance process measures the degree to which the employee demonstrates the behavior in question, and the performance management process becomes focused on achieving desired behaviors, which reinforces the kind of culture that the organization aspires to.

Most performance management tools combine competency evaluation with achievement of key goals for the performance period, so that both what one accomplishes and how one does it are incorporated into the discussion. There are some excellent web-based tools that can help you structure the format and the process.

The most important element to keep in mind is that by creating a system of this nature, you are defining the cultural qualities that you seek to develop in your organization. Because of this, it is wise to invest in the first stages, in defining the behavioral qualities that you wish to measure. As the adage goes, you get what you measure.