Business bottom-lines are under pressure, with organizations striving to do “more with less”. As companies aim to stay afloat in the ever-changing business environment, productivity, efficiency, effectiveness and cost-optimization are taking on new forms. This is significantly impacting the workforce; we are seeing automation, mechanization, and role-adaptations for human workers. The performance-expectations are changing, with people having to adapt to these new norms if they are to build successful careers. Aligning the human element to this high-performance agenda will help organizations build a strong competitive advantage.
What drives high performance today?
Delivering high performance consistently, over time, is the only way to avoid stagnation. A number of companies failed to keep pace with the rapid pace of disruption and innovation- Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster, Yahoo, and Blackberry to name a few. Somewhere, when an organization starts “doing well”, it sometimes descends into a comfort and complacent zone. The reality of today is that change is the only constant.
With technology and macro factors rapidly evolving, organizations too must constantly evolve. This involves developing a future-forward, nimble mindset, and embracing of new competencies:
- Change-resilience: Humans by nature, are resistant to change. Overcoming this resistance requires a fundamental mindset-shift. HR and line managers must strive to build resilience and change-readiness, by constantly continuously educating their people about how change is good for them, and how to make change work for them.
- Agility: Speed and agility go hand-in-hand. With powerful predictive analytics at hand, organizations now have data-backed tools to foresee the future, and adapt early-on. It is a question of whether organizations have this capability inhouse, and to what extent are they using it to further business outcomes.
- Flexibility: Organizations today expect employees to be flexible in their thinking and approach. We are foreseeing a future, where an employee may be expected to work with a machine. Be it learning new skills, being mobile, or taking up challenging assignments, flexibility is a real organizational ask. The reverse applies too, organizations must provide flexible career opportunities to encourage people-growth.
- Innovation: New and innovative ideas have often disrupted big businesses. Mobile phones replaced cameras, WhatsApp replaced SMS, Uber is the largest car-fleet carrier without owning a single car. These are the new-age high performers. Organizations must create platforms and a supportive environment for employees to think out of the box and contribute creatively.
- Hyper-personalization: Customer has always been the king, but today’s customer demands a high degree of personalization. An ability to predict and understand customer’s needs, and even “create the need”, through technology and insighting, can prove a game-changer.
- Collaboration: Team-spirit and collaboration are the essentials to modern-day business success. Technology is making collaboration easier through messaging platforms, multi-device access, etc. These platforms and tools must be made available and usable for employees, to allow them to unleash the “power of one team”.
- Honest and open communication: Employees must feel comfortable sharing their ideas openly with leaders, only then will they be more engaged, enthused and accountable. At the same time, leaders too must be accessible and approachable, and willing to “listen”. Two-way dialogue is the fulcrum of success, and the culture must encourage it.
- Transparency and trust: Millennials seek an authentic experience in all that they do- they are who they are, with little distinction between personal and professional selves. Organizations must understand this and foster transparency and trust in all people-interactions, be it with tools, technologies or with other people.
Integrating these competencies in the day-to-day ways of working, and encouraging employees to work on this ethos, is critical for delivering high performance. A culture build on these values forms the base which triggers the organization to do the unthinkable and execute with the persistent discipline to deliver the unimaginable*.
How to foster high performance?
Building an organization that consistently delivers high performance requires a purposeful shift at every level.
Cultivate and communicate the culture
It is important to establish a common understanding amongst one’s people, as to what high performance really means, and demands. To cultivate a high performance culture, each of the employee touchpoints, from people-processes to employee-interactions must “live the high-performance competencies”. Build (or rebuild) the right organizational values through visioning and value-building exercises across employee hierarchies. Employees will embrace the high-performance agenda only when their personal values resonate with the organizational values. This will inspire them to go “above and beyond” and exceed expectations.
Revamping of people-processes
Each of the people-processes must be carefully aligned to the new expectations.
- Revamp and redesign the performance management system- define clear, actionable, and measurable goals which align with the overall strategic direction of the business. Institutionalize trust-evocating tools, such as feedback loops, leadership one-on-ones, empathetic communication channels, etc. in the PMS, to ensure that the system elicits the right behaviours such as risk-taking, creating, experimenting etc.
- The Total Rewards philosophy must acknowledge those who explore and bring live, innovative ideas. This means that certain KPIs and reward outcomes must be tied with “failing fast”, and not with “playing safe”.
- The L&D function must build a supporting foundation by enabling people to build the right skills. Making available learning-interventions through modern learning platforms which encourage self-driven learning are a must to drive high-performance learning culture.
- Even recruitment must take a shift from mere skills-fit to culture and values-fit.
Being flexible with policies is important to attract and engage the millennial generation. Millennials increasingly want to work the way they want to, and supporting work arrangements such as remote-working, part-time working, gig-based special assignments etc. can help boost accountability and productivity.
The right leadership is a catalyst for high team performance. Existing leaders must carefully curate how they lead, communicate, engage and inspire their people. They must exude authenticity and build trust. Leadership development should be an ongoing commitment, and Leadership Development Programs must create future leaders who espouse the high performance values.
The above actionables can support the shift to a high performance organization, but sustained success should come only with a strong foundation i.e. the Why of this transformation. The top leadership team must outline the purpose and roadmap for becoming a high performance organization. Leaders must communicate the same to employees, time and again. With a clear purpose in people’s minds, it would be much easier to take everyone along on this cultural transformation journey.