Two words - "Innovate" and "Create" (I always think of the old "Think Different" campaign by Apple when I see these words).
One of the hardest things to do related to getting a robust Performance Management system in place is develop the right kind of evaluation culture. How do your managers rate employees? Are they soft or hard? Are they challenged to have candid conversations with employees regarding what truly constitutes "Exceeds" performance? What type of system has been in place in the past? What type of business are you in?
The biggest challenge seems to exist for companies who are migrating from a subjective system to a more objective format, one where individual objectives and goals are set for every position in the company. The primary challenge in this circumstance is not only to create individual goals and objectives, but also to set the bar for what is "Meets" performance vs. "Exceeds" performance.
How do you cope with this challenge? Regardless of position, I focus on common identifiers which illustrate how someone who truly "Exceeds" in their performance differentiates themselves from the pack. Much of how I viewed this revolves around rewarding those who create and innovate, but I have had my book of identifiers expanded recently by Scott Stone, CFO at SourceMedical. Instead of positioning the value play as Meets vs. Exceeds, he calls them Expectations vs. Differentiators. Regardless of the headers, here's the list:
Examples of Identifiers signaling "Meets" Behavior: Quality, Accuracy, Timeliness, Respect for Others, Integrity, Communicates Effectively, Accountable, Pride in Work Product, Team Player, External Locus of Control.
Examples of Identifiers signaling "Exceeds" Behavior: Proactive, Creative, Innovative, Leads By Example, Seeks Greater Responsibility, Self-Motivated, Solution Oriented, Always Learning, Takes Chances, "Zooms", Internal Locus of Control, Builds Teams.
That's a pretty good list - special thanks to Scott for helping me get my head around them. Apply these identifiers across any functional area to identify the true players - the ones that will not only help you maintain the status quo, but will blow up the status quo as necessary. When you find them, reward them, and guard against rating inflation in your organization - lest you drive the players away because they don't feel like they are "different"....