How do you get performance improvement from your most important asset – your people? In my experience, it lies in the alignment of four things:
- Communication – is it absolutely clear what is being asked and why?
- Education – do your people have the requisite skills and competencies?
- Measurement – are there clear goals and evidence of progress towards them?
- Reward – how will success be recognised?
If managers are responsible for directing resource and effort to achieve corporate aims, they should clearly and persuasively explain to individuals what is required and expected of them, and how their role fits into the ‘big picture’. A common complaint made by staff is that they are neither told nor consulted enough, so this is an issue worth addressing – and being seen to do so.
Another problem area is the way organisations communicate with their people. The use of media, the style of language and the tone of voice are so often simply not appropriate. You can’t talk to your shop-floor staff on minimum wage in the same way you talk to your investors. And a wonderful new proposition or initiative can so easily be ruined by pages and pages of terms and conditions that threaten the recipients’ will to live, rather than engender their excitement and interest.
Modern-day positive psychology grew up in a sales environment, with performance measured against targets and rewarded accordingly. However, by the time the sales numbers actually came in, it was generally too late to do much about them. There was therefore increasing interest in the quality of the sales process – the means as well as the ends – so that management could intervene while work was still in progress if it saw constructive opportunities to do so.
We hire people in with some skills and, if we are sensible, commit to a long-term plan for their development. Some may go elsewhere and use all that training you have given them with another organisation, but every sum spent on giving people more meaning and effectiveness to their work will result in better corporate performance. Not least because those that train well tend to hang on to their best people.
You can’t succeed if you don’t know what you are being asked to achieve. And you can’t celebrate (vital for motivation) unless you know when you’ve scored – which could be getting through the door, gaining commitment, taking the order, signing the contract, launching the product, completing the report etc. Reaching an important milestone should be measured, acknowledged and rewarded accordingly.
Reward needs to be applied within a consistent framework, commensurate with the achievement, include an element of choice and be delivered with a little creative flair and imagination. However, it’s not just the value of a reward that matters it is the way it is presented and the associated recognition.
For example, all of our employees receive a handwritten card on their birthday from the chairman – a personal piece of recognition which is both motivating and says a lot about the culture of our business.
It also reminds us that leadership behaviours are crucial to employee engagement. The pattern of communication, education, measurement and reward is very much down to how leaders, and subsequently their managers, go about their daily business.