We can come up with hard measures of performance for most jobs. Sometimes, though, relying on hard measures leads to missing what's most important about employee performance. In many jobs, it's not how much workers produce but how they do it that matters. Consider just a few of the examples: health care, education, accounting, public relations, scientific or other research jobs, or work in government. This creates a problem, though: How can you estimate the payoff in better hiring when there's no hard measure to track success?

As an illustration, take the job of account manager in a membership services company. Renewal rates and up-sells might be useful hard measures, but a big part of an account manager's ...

Get Million Dollar Hire: Build Your Bottom Line, One Employee at a Time now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.