Performance Assessment in Engineering – “Get them to like you!”

The transition from academic to professional cultures requires that former students adjust to new forms of feedback.  As students, most people expected continuous, quantitative and prompt feedback on their performance, but as professionals feedback is much more likely to be sporadic, qualitative, and infrequent.  The typical approach adopted by many large, technological organizations is the annual performance review.  The figures below exemplify the types of criteria against which many engineering professionals are typically evaluated.























Unlike engineering school, where students are evaluated largely upon technical, analytical (i.e., cognitive) outcomes, professional settings place greater emphasis on communication, teamwork, leadership and other interpersonal skills.  In other words, performance evaluation in professional settings depends to a great extent on how supervisors feel (i.e, affective) about the employee.

For example, “Values and supports diversity” relates to the affective aspect of the brain (feelings, values), whereas “Organizes and plans work assignments” is based upon action (an instinct to act relates to the conative aspect of the mind).  Even a cursory review of the criteria demonstrates that the emphasis in professional settings is heavily on the conative and affective, in contrast to academic evaluations, which are almost exclusively cognitive.

This is a lesson dramatized in the movie The Hunger Games when Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) explains that the key to survival is to get people to “like you.”

Once we understand the evaluation criteria important in professional engineering settings, a few important discussion questions emerge.

  • Should students their approach to their remaining education, given an improved understanding of workplace expectations?  How?
  • What do the conative aspects of the criteria listed say about the expectations of the engineering workplace?  Is engineering welcoming of a diverse set of conative strengths?

11 thoughts on “Performance Assessment in Engineering – “Get them to like you!”

  1. Robert Hannen

    1) I think it is very important for students to consider what makes them a good employee because it doe not necessarily correlate with being a good student. The performance criteria above indicates much more that problem solving and communication traits are important. In traditional classes, you just go and listen to a professor give you information and then take a test on it. This does not prepare you for finding solutions to problems. In a job you need to work independently and come up with solutions for your supervisor.
    2) From this, I feel like the fact finder mode is used very much. This is because you always need to find new things that improve your knowledge in your field. If you just stay where you are in your skillet, everyone else will surpass you. The next important mode is the implementer because the criteria wants improvement of processes or methods. This helps the company increase productivity if the new method is worthwhile.

  2. Brandon Olson (@75Olson)

    Assuming the question is as follows:
    Should students change their approach to their remaining education, given an improved understanding of workplace expectations? How?

    Depending on the students current approach to education depends upon their need for change. Personally, my education has reflected my understanding of the future workplace: you put in the effort, you have a greater chance of success. This is not always the case, however. Interacting with more people who have strong influences in the workplace make me realize that it is about playing the game in some instances. It may not be what you have to offer to the company, but it sometimes seems to be if you are able to put on a front. Sadly, this has been a common theme in the workplace.

    1. jonathanedgington

      I agree there has been a few presentations by engineers who thought that having a high GPA would guarantee them a job in the workforce. Only to find out that someone with lesser grades but strong communication skills got a job faster due to how well they were “liked” in the interview.

  3. jonathanedgington

    ( There is a typo in the 1st question IMHO) – Changed my question to make sense.

    How should students approach their remaining education, given an improved understanding of workplace expectations?

    By taking CEE 300 immediately students are faced with challenges. Challenges: be prepared, understand what is expected of a student, dress business casual, understand that being right and being successful may not be the same thing, speak about what you know, think before you speak, what is professionalism, engineering finance & ethics, how to communicate effectively, teamwork, participate in everything possible to get the best and most out of the experience, use Box, and the list could go on but perhaps it can be condensed into some simple words.

    Act like you want to be treated, you are a a figurehead so act like it, earning trust, integrity, and respect always come at a price to the Super Ego, and live it, be it, do it, need it, want it, try it, fail at it, learn from it, then succeed at it, don’t just talk about it.

    What do the conative aspects of the criteria listed say about the expectations of the engineering workplace?

    All life has expectations placed on it. Somewhere along the timeline members of academia found that KOLBE could better assist with defining personality trait characteristics. This potent tool is applicable like most things to what you apply it to based on mutual perspectives colluding to achieve desired results for improving teamwork, self awareness, and overall better life experiences. As far as it only applying to engineering workplaces I say that it doesn’t just apply there and therefore is a mute point in my assertion.

    Is engineering welcoming of a diverse set of conative strengths?

    Yes, how you apply what you think about yourself and your opinion is relative to the perspective’s vantage point, thus if think you can then you do, and if you think it applies then it does. Conative is a broad spectrum reduced to :
    Fact Finder (FF) – the instinctive way we gather and share information.
    Follow Through (FT) – the instinctive way we arrange and design..
    Quick Start (QS) – the instinctive way we deal with risk and uncertainty.
    Implementor (I) – the instinctive way we handle space and tangibles.
    Everyone has these elements just some higher than others because of preference.

    Pavlov’s dogs teaches us that we can be trained even if it is not in our nature do so normally without training. Engineers are trained and tested most of their lives, and if they love what they do then they will naturally seek to better themselves and the things they create.

    To be blunt engineering takes all conative skills + dedication = results

  4. Samantha Dell'Armi

    Students should most definitely change their approach to their remaining education if they haven’t already. Dr. Seager and Alex Arreguin have pointed out during lectures that we are constantly being interview whether we realize it or not. Our appearance, attitude, personality, etc. is being seen by the students, staff, professionals around us and are leaving a lasting impression on them. One day you could be sitting down for an interview in front of one of your previous colleagues that remembers you always had your phone out during class, or you wore highly unprofessional clothing around campus, etc. At this moment in time we are paving our path to to the workforce after graduation, so it is important to ensure that there are no mistakes left in the path and that we are forming ourselves to fit into the professional workplace.

    The conative aspects of the criteria listed exhibit that the expectations held by the common engineering workplace cater to those who are high fact finder and follow through. Engineering does not seem to be highly welcoming of a diverse set of conative strengths, but I believe that it is needed in the workplace. The criteria outlined above incorporates all four categories of Fact Finder, Follow Thru, Quick Start and Implementer but seems to cater more to people that are insistent fact finder and follow thru’s.

  5. Daniela Panfil (@daniela_panfil)

    Students should change their approach if they already haven’t. School, as it is approached today, teaches only small fraction of the sample evaluation above, such as demonstrating technical expertise. Instead of focusing so much on learning the technical details that lead to acing test, students should focus more on their ability to be an effective team member and/or leader and communication skills. These seem to take up the overwhelming majority of the evaluative criteria, and school is a good time to learn these thing because mistakes in school projects or groups are do not harm the individual or too many others as it would in a workplace. Students could do this by using this sample sheet to self-evaluate, or even by asking feedback from group members in group projects.

    The criteria listed seems to cater more to two specific cognitive strengths, high fact finder and high follow through, neither of which I am particularly high in. In particular, work habits and team work seem to have criteria all related to high FF and FT. However, other cognitive strengths are included, just in fewer criteria. the need to be able to communicate to clients and varying levels technical expertise caters to someone with low FF, or who simplifies information well. Quick starts also have an advantage with communication because they may be better able to adapt to situations and change communication style if necessary. Quick starts would also do well with improving processes and or introducing new methods. These expectations say that engineering workplaces value good organizational skills, reliability, and ability to cooperate.

  6. Jessica Allison

    Students MUST change their approach! If you’re coming to class in a shirt that says “I like to party” (swear, I saw this the other day) and breaking up group assignments how they did in the fourth grade, you’re doing it wrong! It’s time to start dressing a little more how you’d want your future boss to see you and a little less like you’re participating in a walk of shame. In addition, group projects have been going SO much better and smoothly since I started assigning people tasks they were actually good at! And that goes for every class, not just 300.

    So far, I’ve been noticing a pattern of high FF and FT, and low QS with varying implementer. I believe that over time, we will begin to see a little more diversity. Similar to the increasing amount of females entering the field, I believe the next bit of diversity we’ll see is the variance in Kolbe A Indexes.

  7. Trevor W

    I’d assume there is a grammatical error within the first statement. For that, i’m going to assume there would be a “change” in between students and their. I think students should change their approach to a degree. Everyone you meet in class is a potential co-worker. With that being said; your a making first impression. As far as the knowledge skill set, Ken stated it best as I totally agree. I would be curious to see the conative results of freshman enrolled into introduction to engineering. Based off of our KolbeA index scores, the majority of us were 7-7-x-x. I wonder how that changes within a freshman level class. I think that would be the true indication of engineering welcoming diverse conative strengths.

  8. Ken

    Engineering judgment is a conative strength. A lot of problems encountered in the engineering field do not have an definite answer, therefore a conative thought process would have to be used to approximate the best solution for the situation. I feel as though the conative thought process is welcomed in engineering, but it is not the first choice an engineer should use. After exhausting all resources, and if there is still not a definite answer, then a good engineer will use his/her conative strengths to solve the issue. In fact, I feel that the FE requires a certain amount of conative strengths and perhaps is part of the grading process (this is only my opinion, not fact).

    1. Thomas P Seager Post author

      There is no such thing as a “conative thought process”, because “thought” is cognitive. Conative is instinctive.

      But you are correct that standardized tests like the FE favor some conative strengths over others.

  9. Ken

    If the question is asking if students should adjust their approach to their remaining education to model the workplace, then I think the answer is yes. They most definitely should! There’s one saying that sums it up I think, ” A person should dress, act, walk, and talk like the position they are trying to achieve.” If students live by this metaphor, then they will be well prepared by the time they do reach that position.


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