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High-Performance Culture - How Do You Measure Up?

June 1, 2007 by Jill Geddes, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

Only 29% of Canadian employees feel that their organization does a good job at managing, motivating, and rewarding high-performance. How does your organization measure up?

Each individual in the workplace has distinct abilities and skills that need to be recognized and switched to the on position. Organizations who understand this are frequently named in lists of The Best Companies to Work For that regularly appear in local and national business publications. These organizations leaders use defined performance management processes and consciously plan to identify, develop, reward, and thereby switch on the individual talents within their employees. Organizations that do not make the list usually do not have such a plan, and to some extent, are unaware of how to fully engage their employees.

Why is this important and what does this mean? Replacing an employee can cost an organization up to three times their salary. Vacated positions represent not only lost revenue opportunities, but a variety of other serious costs that are not always as easy to spot, including:

  • Delayed product delivery to market
  • Increased vulnerability to competitors
  • Weakened customer confidence
  • Decreased productivity from remaining staff (overworked, demoralized)
  • Loss of valuable intellectual capital and training investments

The president of OCRI, Jeffrey Dale, has predicted that by 2008 high tech employment in Ottawa will reach 100,000, which is an increase of 30,000 jobs in the next three years. As competition for top employee talent shifts into full gear in the coming years, organizations with effective performance management processes will prosper. Employees who benefit from personal development opportunities, meaningful rewards and recognition for their unique talents are more likely to reward their organizations with superior performance and increased loyalty. Performance management takes planning and cannot be implemented without the leadership and commitment of the executive team.

How to create a high performance work culture within your organization?

Here are five steps to help you start on the right path to performance management. They are not new or revolutionary but as the economy shifts away from leaner times, and organizations begin to focus on more than just survival, this is the time to revisit and focus on these matters. The sooner your leadership team puts them on the agenda, the faster you will profit from the results.

Step #1: Define and communicate the organization’s goals.

Workplace performance should not be measured independently of the goals of an organization. Clarity and consensus on these goals by the leadership team is the essential groundwork for any successful performance plan. To achieve maximum by-in from all the members within the organization, leadership needs to effectively pass down the information so that employees identify with these goals, and have a sense of ownership which is essential for motivation and retention.

Step #2: Use the goals of an organization to create measurable objectives for key positions within your various departments.

This can be accomplished through a job benchmarking process, which entails setting specific performance objectives for each department and leadership position. A part of this process is not simply the laying down of metrics and numbers; there is also a certain set of behavioural styles and talents that need to be included to achieve the position’s objectives.

Step #3: Assure that the right person is matched to the right job.

This is easier said than done. The classic pattern of matching skills to requirements does not constitute a fully effective matching process. Consideration must be given to the innate persona of an individual; will this person be fulfilled in this position?

With the job benchmark completed, matching the right person as a whole to the right job will be more transparent and result in maximizing the strengths of an individual and increasing job satisfaction. Behavioural style assessments reinforce the part of the job benchmark dealing with individual talents, styles and motivators. A valuable side benefit of these assessments is the automatic collection of a talent database for use in the future, as your jobs evolve within the organization.

Step #4: Improve managerial effectiveness to engage employees.

Managers are the key to the employee-employer-organization relationship. They need to be given the skills and support required to inspire their employees, otherwise the organization will continue to struggle with creating a productive workplace. Organizations that invest time in the training and development of their employees are often named as the top managed Canadian companies. These companies build more productive work cultures, produce higher shareholder return, and have less turnover.

Attending workshops as a team and using behavioural assessments as the basis for discussion can help managers and their employees learn more about their own working styles, and that of those around them. These types of assessments help us articulate how we approach projects, deal with conflict, communicate with others, and like to be managed. Spending a day together as a team learning about and highlighting individual styles can instantly help people work better together. This in turn makes people happier, and as research shows - employee happiness has a direct impact on performance and the bottom line.

Step #5: Implement an ongoing review, recognition and rewards plan to consistently drive top performance.

Research indicates time and time again that people in the workplace seek rewards and measure success not only from their salary and recognition for their performance, but from a sense of participation in the whole. Growth comes from a truly symbiotic relationship between a company and its employees. A personalized developmental plan for each employee linked to increasing performance for the company carries the message that the organization truly values the individual, and is investing in their growth.