Trying to find answers to this age-old question is like finding a needle in the haystack. There are no easy answers here and the answers most certainly differ with the audience to whom the question is raised. However, what’s easy to understand is that the success or failure of an organization in achieving its strategic goals is largely determined by the success of its people at the job. High performance increases productivity and helps build an engaged workplace. Conversely, low employee performance increases employee turnover and decreases corporate earnings.
Hence, it’s imperative for us to find what are some of the key contributors to the performance of an employee.
Prevention is better than cure. This adage holds perfectly true when we talk about employee performance. The first step towards building a high-performance culture is to hire right. While a lot can be done to increase employee performance but there is little we can do if the hire doesn’t have the right attitude to excel or doesn’t have the required competencies. Hence, it’s prudent to onboard the right people who can be champions from the go.
One of the key building blocks, when you are trying to build a high performing work culture, is “Motivation” because every human being essentially needs some sort of inducement and encouragement in order to perform. Motivated employees lead to increased levels of productivity and thereby allow an organization to achieve higher levels of output.
“An employee who is motivated will work on a problem because s/he finds it enjoyable or will find a solution to a problem because it gives them a sense of satisfaction upon solving it. In contrast, when employees are demotivated, the likelihood of their success is dramatically reduced even if they clearly know what they are supposed to achieve.”
So, how do we motivate people?
Managers play an important role here and are at the drivers’ seat. Knowing what your people want, offering them a clear plan of how to get there, setting clear goals, helping them achieve those goals, celebrating their wins, giving constant developmental feedback and encouragement go a long way in increasing motivation in the workplace. We also need to ensure that the individual goals of our team members are aligned with the larger organization’s goals. If an individual feels that his/ her personal goals cannot be realized while working towards the organization’s larger objective, then the company is always posed with a flight risk of such individuals.
Another factor that greatly influences the performance of employees is the workplace culture. A highly engaged workplace culture makes employees emotionally committed to the organization where they are willing to put discretionary efforts. So how do we build an engaged workplace culture that drives performance?
Each organization has a vision, mission, and values that they stand for; these values are essentially the bedrock of what constitutes a workplace culture. Hence, we must ensure that the stated values are actually practiced. A good culture exists only when both are aligned, and it takes arduous efforts to make sure that the actual culture doesn’t drift away from the stated culture.
Secondly, leaders in the organization need to ensure that they build an ‘enabling environment’ where they support and develop people. If people are enabled to do their best, are cared for and are respected, they will undoubtedly be able to establish trust with the organization that leads to increased levels of performance. When employees consider themselves crucial to company growth, they take responsibility for the organization’s overall well-being.
How do you thank your employees for their good work and extra efforts? Your answer to this question will greatly determine the productivity levels of your organization. Recognition has a positive correlation with employee productivity and is a powerful extrinsic motivational tool that serves a dual purpose; it positively reinforces the behaviors that we wish to see in our team and at the same time it inspires the non-achievers also to strive for the goal. Workplace recognition imparts a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued. Hence, leaders should firstly appreciate both big and small accomplishments. Many times we are solely focused on appreciating only the big wins. It is however important that we celebrate smaller wins too and thank the employees for their efforts. Secondly, we need to make the recognition visible. Appreciation sounds sweeter when people are cheered and applauded in front of their colleagues and teams. Also, it acts as a fuel for others too to walk the extra mile and get rewarded. Thirdly, give it often. There’s never a bad time to say Thank You! Recognition need not be a yearly or quarterly affair. We need to realize that the essence of a recognition is lost if it’s not given on time. So why shy away from giving that little pat on the back?
When differentiating performances, one of the key factors in an individual’s competence levels i.e. knowledge, skills, and abilities. It is the aptitude of an individual that helps them control outcomes and drive superlative performance. The inability to perform a task or not knowing how to, can often be frustrating and lead to negativity and cynicism. Competent people on the other hand ooze confidence, are self-sufficient and often solution-focused. Hence, organizations must invest in skilling & upskilling people constantly to help them stay relevant and competent.
What’s in it for me?
Last but not least, the final piece that completes this puzzle of employee performance is WIIFM. Now it is not to suggest that most people are selfish, however, when we expect our employees to move from a certain performance level to a notch above; as leaders, it’s our responsibility to create a vision they can internalize and embrace. Defining the future with irrevocable certainty is difficult but we should try to paint a picture of it with as much clarity as possible. Good compensation, role enrichment& a visible growth plan can be the possible answers to the WIIFM question. If you are able to show your employees what their future holds and how they can grow in the company; their natural reflex would be to strive towards achieving that goal resulting in increased performance levels.
While the above aspects are the biggest contributors to employee performance at the workplace, every organizational context & growth stage will define their magic mantra to driving a high performing culture. The process is iterative and evolving, as long as the basics are kept uncompromised.