It’s no surprise to read the findings of The Conference Board’s survey, “The Conference Board CEO Challenge® 2014: People and Performance”. In our sluggish economy, mergers and acquisitions not withstanding, the capacity for a business to grow rests in the hands of its people.
CEOs throughout the world are driving to improving organizational performance regardless of size or industry. Much has been written and studied on this subject, and we find in the myriad of surveys and books as well as in our own experience that there are 6 steps that, executed effectively, drive performance improvement and growth capacity.
1. Engage Your People.
Employee engagement is one of the most written and talked about issues today in business. By now the Gallup survey is familiar to all of us and efforts to better understand and to build engagement are under way in many companies. Following are examples of key actions to enable your people to engage: to feel passion about the work they do, deliver their best performance and to strengthen their commitment.
- Build a strong understanding of your business strategy throughout your workforce. Ensure everyone can answer the following questions: 1) Why do customers buy from us? 2) Who are our key competitors and why do their customers buy from them? 3) How do I contribute to our unique differentiation?
- Build trust. Employees need to know that their managers and executives care about them as people as well as being committed to their success.
- Make certain each employee is using his preferred skills and has an effective degree of autonomy.
- Focus each department on improving its procedures and targeting its activities on better-achieving the company’s competitive differentiation through what people do and how they do it.
2. Leverage high-impact leadership practices.
Communication is king in today’s organizations. It’s one of the biggest challenges leaders have, and is probably a weakness for many companies. Communicate clearly in simple language, creatively, interactively, daily about core business subjects, such as:
- Departmental and organization performance targets, progress, obstacles and solutions
- Stories about competitors and customer successes i.e. from Sales and Customer Service
- Current organizational initiatives
3. Identify and Remove Internal Roadblocks
How well aligned with your competitive differentiation strategy are your company’s policies, procedures and structure? Look for indicators of misalignment such as:
- Do people need to work around policies and work procedures to get things done?
- Do your policies and work procedures enable people to get the right things done quickly?
- How are relationships between functions, i.e. manufacturing and sales? Are conflicts and frustrations routine?
4. Align Your Metrics.
To have meaning, the metrics people focus on need to be understood by them to be within their influence.
- Your metrics can provide great value when they serve as a guide to decision making and prioritizing work.
- Non-financial metrics that relate directly to your competitive differentiation can help keep everyone aligned in a similar strategic direction.
- Explaining how metrics are chosen and measured and tailoring to each department can enable people to understand how they each make a difference in the company’s performance.
5. Use Training and Development Strategically.
Many organizations have a workforce that is approaching or past traditional retirement age. In addition, low engagement levels may lead to increased turnover as more job opportunities become available to people. Do you have training in place to enable people to perform essential work as employees leave or retire? Does your training effort prepare the organization with skills for the future?
- Develop a workforce plan to ensure hiring is done in time to develop people.
- All employees should receive training that is current-day and future-focused.
- Develop career-paths for people to progress to roles that will be needed in the future. Know your people and what their goals are for the future. Support them in channeling their paths to the future within your company.
6. Focus on your business strategy; you can’t please every market.
Authors and experts acknowledge three types of value propositions or competitive differentiation strategies in business. The rule of thumb is still to do a good job on all but to choose one single area where your company can and does excel. The three types are:
- Customer Intimacy – providing customization to meet each customer’s individual needs, providing outstanding customer experiences, and building strong, long-term customer relationships
- Operational Efficiency – providing a universal set of products and services designed to be cost effective for customers. This is not competing on price as much as it is providing value to customers that saves them money; do your products make customer processes more efficient i.e. reduce down-time, improve quality?
- Leading Edge – providing new, innovative products and services based on the latest technologies and practices. This depends on having a strong research function with frequent introductions of new and improved products and services that are both different and effectively meet customer needs.
These six steps require ongoing effort to sustain. Compare this with your experience – how do these actions measure up in producing performance improvement? How do these steps relate to the activities under way in your organization to build performance? Please share your opinions and thoughts.