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Elevating Workplaces: Unveiling the 3 Pillar Approach to Performance Excellence

By March 13, 2024April 9th, 2024No Comments

I’ve been exploring my 3 Pillar model since the beginning of the new year. The last leg of the pillar is performance management. What if we truly have a performance issue? How do we go about tackling that challenge? I know many organizations that still use a traditional annual performance review model. At the beginning of the year, employees outline their goals for the year. No one looks at them again until your manager or HR reminds you to do a self-review of what you achieved compared to the goals you outlined months earlier. This approach is generally viewed as painful, time-consuming, and has little value. This is not the performance management I am referencing in this pillar.


What I am referring to is a performance-based model that is ongoing and more holistic for the organization. In this model, the organizational environment is analyzed for potential gaps in performance, such as management and systems. With this mindset, we look closely at organizations and departments to uncover areas for improvement. We start with where value is being created through goals and outcomes. The goals and outcomes tie nicely with the strategic plan, so we look at areas that are important to the organization to uncover any metrics or measures that are not being achieved. Some examples include gaining new customers, reducing turnover, or increasing customer retention. Once we know which goals the organization is not meeting, we work to understand and identify what processes, tasks, and roles are tied to them. At the end of the day, we focus on the people who are completing the tasks for that role so we can dive deeper into what is influencing their environment and how can we improve it.


Processes are an inherent aspect of the model. What processes are tied directly to the outcomes and goals? Does the organization have a process and, if so, is it documented? Do people follow the processes, or do they go around them? Processes are critical to understand, especially when rolling out new technology and systems.


Concerning technology, what systems are these roles using, particularly to achieve the targeted outcomes and goals? After identifying what automated tools are being used, you can ask the employees how they are interacting with them and whether they find them valuable in their role. Because we have multiple generations in the workforce who didn’t grow up with abundant technology or computers, it is good to understand their comfort level in using these tools. Don’t assume that everyone is comfortable or savvy in utilizing tech. Hopefully, these tools are making everyone’s lives easier, but many times we find they are not designed with the end user in mind. Looking into the future, any new technology must factor in the human interface, how it will be used, and the value it is creating in meeting the end goals and outcomes.


Managers also are critical in helping to develop their teams by providing timely feedback and coaching to their teams. The key is to look at the frequency and timeliness of when they provide feedback and coaching. What if they truly have a performance issue? How do they go about tackling the issue? Do they wait until the end of the year for the performance review? There should be no surprises in talking to your employees at performance review time. It does not serve you or the employee well to wait. We also look at accountability on teams. Are managers setting performance expectations and holding their teams accountable? And beyond providing feedback or coaching, do the employees understand what is expected of them from their manager? The communication needs to go two ways, and transparency is key.


The next piece of the performance puzzle is rewards and recognition. This includes more than just benefits and compensation, although those are important when bringing on new employees and being competitive. I am talking about recognizing the day-to-day contributions of teams and leaders. For instance, are there programs within the organization to recognize good work? If so, how do they work? Can employees recognize one another, or does the recognition only come from the managers? Are the programs being used? Another question I like to ask is, are we providing incentives for the right behaviors? One negative I have witnessed is when top performers are rewarded with more work when they do a good job or hit goals early. Think about what signal this sends to the rest of the team. Do you suppose some team members will slide back and take longer because they know their manager will offload that task or project to the high performers on the team? Is that ok? No judgment, just a question. It might be a way to weed out low performers, but I would have to ask, to what detriment?


I find that work conditions are rarely discussed in organizations, but they are very valuable to understand. When exploring work conditions within an organization, I ask about the leadership team, usually at the top of an organization. Culture and politics are the key drivers I am trying to uncover. All organizations have these elements. In fact, organizational values are usually posted on company websites and on the walls at work. Do these values resonate, or is it just artwork? Are we holding ourselves accountable to these values? Leadership plays a huge role in following through on words and actions. The strength of the leadership team is usually a sign of a good or challenging culture. The bottom line is, would you follow your leadership team?


Closely related to performance needs are key performance indicators, or as they are commonly known KPIs. You would be surprised how many companies don’t have them. Or if they do, they measure too much in one area or fail to measure the things that will provide insight into low performance. How will I know if individual performance will lead to organizational performance? Busy work does not translate into business results. Do we understand those key tasks or processes that produce the desired outcomes and ultimately help us meet our strategic goals for the organization? In working with those who are closest to the task or process, you can better understand how to measure the desired outcomes.


As you can see, by working through the 3 pillars of this model, you can get a better view of the talent in the organization and develop clear strategies on what needs attention. Much of what I have described here is not new, but the value lies in pulling everything together and thinking more at a systemic and strategic level for the organization. It is not enough to consider any factor on their own anymore. These types of discussions need to happen at the highest level to craft a targeted plan of action and to keep on top of how the organization is trending against its strategic goals. This is truly macro-level organizational development and enhancement.


Unfortunately, most organizations fail to look at their talent pools across the organization. Many factors affect the performance and execution of any given strategy. By understanding where your current department/function stands within the whole of the organization, you can devise strategies on how each team member will support the organization’s goals. Beyond technology, people are the driving force behind your organization’s success. It is time for organizations to foster this resource with more care and feeding because doing so will reap benefits for many years to come.

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