Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Implementing a high-performance culture in your organization is not only about identifying your needs and hiring talented people but also about the way you nurture your employees and monitor their performance.
1. Consolidate your company’s vision and values
When you start hiring massively, it is critical to stay aligned with your initial purpose, vision and values. If you want to preserve your company’s culture, hire people with the same DNA and do not lower your standards. The vision is your guiding thread, the way you see your company in five- or ten-years’ time. Values are the common set of beliefs you share with your collaborators. Your company’s practices must comply with your vision and values to maintain employee engagement.
Many start-ups and SMEs rely on their culture to stand out from competition and to attract talents. Before launching branding initiatives, I recommend that you clarify your company’s value proposition: What do you offer to your clients, your candidates and your employees? How does it reflect in your company’s presentation, recruiting guidelines and management style? Your Sales and Recruiting Managers are your front-line cultural ambassadors. Make sure they deliver the right message.
2. Empower your employees
Many studies have proven the weakness of autocratic management styles, especially with young generations. Authenticity and empowerment are key to inspire people at work and make them perform well. Find the right balance between laissez-faire and micromanagement. Employees who feel entrusted by their Managers are much more productive. Let your team members dare and try again. An entrepreneurial culture is where innovation and performance arise.
Another way to empower your employees is to provide them with critical trainings and skills. This will increase their interest, performance and mobility. Many companies do not pay for trainings which are not mandatory for the current job and responsibilities. This approach has proven to be completely wrong. The more you invest in developing a variety of skills, the more you get in terms of engagement and performance.
3. Give your employees the right means to succeed
Having a clear performance tracking system with clear goals and expectations will foster employee engagement and help you get better productivity insights. I suggest you implement OKR*, Objectives and Key Results system which fits any organization side. According to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, “Annual performance reviews are costly, exhausting and mostly futile. On average, they swallow 7.5 hours of manager time for each direct report.”
OKRs enable continuous Performance Management with more frequent touch points between employees and direct managers. Each manager cascades his goals down to the next level and his/her key results become the objectives of the next layer. Everyone can see how their own contribution is linked to other teams’ performance and to the company’s results. There is no space for politics, OKRs instill accountability, empowerment and teamwork at any layer of the company.
Ongoing feedback and coaching are part of the performance review process. Your regular, bidirectional, authentic feedback sharing sessions should be supported with data. High performers like to know what they have achieved.
Ongoing guidance is critical during the onboarding months. Do not assume that smart people do not need support. I recommend that you implement a mentor/buddy system if you are onboarding a high volume of junior profiles.
4. Implement a clear promotion process
Your promotion process and communication must be well-prepared, objective and fact-based. Each line Manager is responsible for identifying well performers and guiding them all the way to promotion. Regular feedback sessions will prevent bad surprises and frustrations after the promotion announcements. If you do not wish to be 100% transparent with the nomination process, you should implement a neutral “mentor committee” to “validate” the promotion list. The promotion committee should consist in collaborators who are not managing the nominees directly.
5. Train your Management Team
According to a Gallup survey of more than 1 million employed US workers, 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their Manager and not the position itself.
A McKinsey survey** highlighted 4 kinds of behavior which account for 89 percent of Leadership effectiveness:
a. Be supportive
b. Operate with strong results orientation
c. Seek different perspectives
d. Solve problems effectively
Those dimensions obviously require empathy, listening skills, communication skills, adaptation skills and influencing skills.
Specific trainings on how to conduct bilateral performance discussions should be on top of your list. Delegate the soft skills training program to your HR department. I would recommend a mix of remote training and in-person individual coaching sessions.
6. Share best practices, failures and successes
Sharing knowledge, best practices, tools and apps with other teams and other business entities fosters collaboration. This reflects on the level of employee engagement and performance:
o It raises the quality of the services you are providing
o It gives a competitive edge
o It avoids repetition of effort.
Celebrate performance within your organization. Celebrate team achievements during company gatherings and internal events. At individual level, grant special awards to show public recognition. If monetary rewards and getting “high level of achievement” during evaluations are a must have, high performers will be more sensitive to an increase of scope/responsibilities or personal recognition from the CEO.
Become a failure-tolerant Leader. “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate”. This famous quote from Thomas Watson (IBM) has become the leitmotiv of many CEOs. Failure is the prerequisite to innovation, creativity and intelligent risk culture. This managerial behavior breaks the traditional barriers and enhances the level of empowerment and self-confidence of employees. It has 4 critical aspects:
o Managers take a coach posture and engage with their peers at a personal level
o Managers admit their own failures instead of trying to shift the blame
o The outcome of a trial is non-judgmental but analytical
o There is no instillation of destructive competitive mindset in the teams.
How can you start converting your aspirations into tangible actions?
· Be open to change
· Stay connected to your employees
· Gather some feedback and take it seriously
· Invite your employees to contribute through small committees
Giving ownership to your employees ingrains a sense of accountability and makes them strive to achieve better results. Measuring progress regularly will confirm whether you are supporting your employees in the right way.
* Measure what matters, OKRs – The Simple Idea That Drives 10x Growth, by John Doerr, Penguin Random House UK, 2017
** Decoding Leadership: What really matters, by Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol and Ramesh Srinivasan, McKinsey Quarterly, January 2015