Article: The role of leadership in driving productivity

Performance Management

The role of leadership in driving productivity

In the dynamic world of business and work, leaders need to skilfully balance employee productivity with employee wellbeing by building the right work culture.
The role of leadership in driving productivity

In discussions surrounding productivity, there is a need to acknowledge the strategic role that leadership can and must play. With definitions of what productivity and performance means shifting in this dynamic world of business, the onus to perform and to push the company forward towards its growth targets cannot be left on employees alone. Leaders need to come in to skillfully align their people and their goals to the company vision while motivating them with a deep seated empathy in these turbulent times. The drive for success needs to come in equal measure with the concern for their workforce’s wellbeing. 

To drive this conversation forward, People Matters led a series of exclusive interactions with top leaders who shared incredible insights on the rising trends and changes in defining productivity and performance management, leader’s expectations from their workforce, goal alignment, balancing employee productivity with employee wellbeing and the direction to take when building a work culture that empathises and motivates their people. 

What are some of the rising trends in productivity and performance management that have a deep seated impact on the workplace?

‘The biggest trend occurring within productivity and performance management is the shift in power that is occurring in the midst of the phenomenon called the “great resignation.” Top-down command and control leadership styles are waning in their ability to bring about desired behaviour changes. Whether you think the changes that will follow from this will depend on your view of the role of organisations and employees. At the Centre for Compassionate Leadership, we believe that deeper engagement and collaboration among management and workers is highly valuable. It relies on relationships and trust. If the ineffectiveness of top-down management approaches in the current environment brings forth greater cooperation and collaboration within organisations, which we believe it will, then this will be a net positive.’

-Laura Berland, Founder & Executive Director and Evan Harrel, Chief Operating Officer, Center for Compassionate Leadership

 ‘Performance Management has become more project based and continuous. The global pandemic has brought about so much change for organisations, that annual performance reviews and goal setting is no longer realistic. Feedback and development will become more automated and real time.

Where employee reviews have previously focused on employees’ performance, outputs, and competencies, in an attempt to bridge the skills gap, more organisations are focusing on how employees can develop and grow. For employees, this means a shift in culture from “How am I doing in my job?” to “How can my career progress in line with new ways of working and new technologies?”’

-Rosie Cairnes, VP APAC, Skillsoft

How has performance management changed in the current set up?As a leader, what are your expectations from your workforce when it comes to meeting business goals?

‘Writing for Inc Magazine, Delphi Group CEO Thomas Koulopoulos describes the annual performance review as “a relic of the industrial age.” If the performance review ever did serve a purpose, that time has long passed. Modern performance management needs to be in the moment, and address wellbeing as well as professional performance. Today’s business ecosystems are built on a foundation of instant communications and enabling technologies. Younger employees, in particular, connect to gadgets and apps to engage in their day-to-day life. Research has shown that more than 90% of employees would prefer real-time feedback from their managers.

Performance management is often based on meeting KPIs, and traditionally does not measure behaviour that requires continuous growth and self-reflection. It can have a negative impact on employees and company culture if performances are measured by pure numbers. There are a number of performance review and management types that are more suitable to today’s current climate in the workplace. Real-time 360 reviews, monthly and quarterly in-depth catch-ups, weekly pulse checks and project performance debriefs are some of the new tactics that companies can implement. Professional coaching from outside the business is another game-changer for many organisations to address wellbeing and behaviour, and ultimately lift productivity and performance.

We have a strong coaching culture at CoachHub, and part of the coaching process involves our employees working with their coach to determine their personal goals and potential for growth, and how they can achieve that through their work and the goals of the wider business. As a leader, I feel confident in the knowledge that my team is working with their coach to develop and enhance their balance, empowerment and sense of purpose, as well as help them set clear goals and motivate their performance, ultimately meeting (and likely exceeding) our goals as a business.’

-Tim MacCartney, Senior Vice President-APAC, CoachHub

 How can leaders balance employee wellbeing with employee productivity?

‘The first thing that leaders need to understand is that employee wellbeing and employee productivity are mutually supportive. There is no tension to be balanced between wellbeing and productivity. Employee stress and burnout are drags on productivity, so a focus on wellbeing helps productivity.

In order to support employee wellbeing, leaders should understand and practice the tenets of compassionate leadership in their day-to-day business. Compassionate action must be focused on the needs of the recipient of compassion. In order to understand those needs, leaders need to ask questions and listen. It is intimidating for employees to speak up about circumstances that they find challenging. So much goes unsaid. Many leaders end up with a flawed conclusion, thinking that they know what their employees want,’ highlights Berland and Harrel.

‘A recent report from Skillsoft found that 89% of workers want at least one COVID-19 practice adopted permanently in their day-to-day lives. On average, just 11% of respondents are happy to return to how things were. It’s important to recognise that many people – especially those who have shifted from the office to remote work – are burdened with extra responsibilities and stress. Allowing employees to create buffers, including spaces for them to do deep work or no work at all, is in everyone’s best interest,’ says Cairnes

As a leader, how can you ensure that your people are aligned with the business goals? What role does purpose have to play to ensure that your people are engaged and motivated?

‘Setting clear expectations and regular communication with employees are among the key elements to help ensure that employees are aligned with the business goals. Taking reference from the SMART approach, driving employee performance has specific and attainable objectives while giving the employee an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the tools or support necessary to accomplish each task. Open communication also allows employees to see how their work fits into the larger picture. 

Adjusting one’s style to meet the individual needs of employees – for example, whether it’s casual or formal check-ins, the purpose is to drive action — be able to work effectively together to accomplish goals, develop skills, and exchange feedback. Employees appreciate knowing if they are on the right track and these contribute to a long-lasting engagement and motivation towards their jobs.’

-Felicia Tan, Regional Talent Acquisition Manager, APAC, Mintel

During such turbulent times, a disengaged workforce can become the reality. What can you as a leader do to become more empathetic? What is the kind of work culture leaders should build?

‘Invest in employee wellness, listen to your staff's questions, and implement infrastructure accordingly. Promote communication, connectivity and collaboration, be it digitally or in-person. It’s also crucial that the leadership of today lead by showing their own vulnerability and humanism. This means re-writing the script of and true meaning of 'strength' by allowing yourself to be seen (truly seen!).

This creates successful psychological safety, which gives your team the permission to be human and be able to talk openly about their feelings, their headspace, mindset or challenges they're experiencing - both on the professional playground and in their personal life. They can be their authentic selves while removing the fear of judgement, so they feel safe to make intelligent failures (to learn and innovate) and take on new challenges  -  all fundamental to preventing burnout and promoting a happy, healthy workplace.’

-Kate Renner, Head of Employee Experience, Wisr

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Topics: Performance Management, Leadership, Culture, #HRCommunity, #PerformanceBeyondProductivity

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