Developing a High-Performance Culture: What You Need to Know

Developing a High-Performance Culture: What You Need to Know

As an HR professional, part of your job involves making sure your employer succeeds by making sure they have the right employees.

This doesn’t only mean you have to prioritize a careful hiring process. Yes, it’s important to hire and recruit the best possible candidates for every job, but once they join your company, it’s also important to ensure they’re able to reach their full potential.

That’s why you need to develop a high-performance work culture at your organization. Keep in mind, this is a goal that the entire organization must worth together to achieve. It isn’t something HR can do on its own, without full buy-in from executive leaders.

That said, you can start by considering the following tips. These points will help you and your team put together an effective strategy for developing a culture where employees consistently perform to the genuine best of their abilities.

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Establish Metrics

You can’t know whether you’re truly creating a high-performance work culture if you don’t know how to measure your performance. Before implementing any major strategy, coordinate with others to determine which metrics you’ll use to gauge your progress.

One company’s metrics will differ from another’s. Some HR professionals find the best way to measure workforce performance is to simply rely on managers’ subjective opinions of their teams. Periodically, management can report back to HR to explain the degree to which a strategy has (or has not) impacted their employees’ performance.

At other organizations, HR may be more inclined to focus on more objective metrics. For instance, maybe your company is a manufacturer. You could measure workforce performance by tracking the number of defective products that leave the factory. If employee performance improves, you would expect the number of defective products you manufacture to decrease. Of course, there are also simpler metrics like sales numbers, revenue, or number of units produced, and service-driven companies may use different metrics to assess performance. For example, call centers or customer service departments may use handling time, or the time it takes a customer service agent to resolve a customer’s problem over the phone; the number of callers whose problem is resolved on their first call; or the average amount of time it takes for a representative to answer a call.

Which metrics you use will depend on your industry, your product, your mission, and a number of other factors. Take the time to narrow down the metrics that are most important to your company.

Support Employees

Workers generally perform better on the job when they’re engaged with their roles. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the smartest ways to establish a high-performance culture is to focus on boosting employee engagement.

There are many different ways to go about this, and it’s best to develop an entirely separate strategy for boosting engagement. In general, to engage your workforce, you need to ensure goals and responsibilities are clearly communicated, employees are acknowledged for their contributions, employees have opportunities to grow professionally, and they have meaningful work.

This is another step in the process that will likely take some time to complete. However, it’s an essential one. Employee performance is almost guaranteed to improve when employee engagement improves.

Identify Rules That Need to Change

HR professionals and business owners seeking to develop high-performance cultures sometimes find that removing barriers and rules is one of the most effective ways to do so.

This was the lesson learned by Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix, as noted in her book Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility. McCord struggled to identify methods that would significantly boost employee performance—that is, until she recommended the company adopt an unlimited vacation policy. Surprisingly, this policy did not have a major impact on the amount of time employees took off. Employees did not take more vacation days, but their performance still improved.

McCord then decided to jettison the formal annual review process. Instead, managers and employees were encouraged to check in with each other frequently, but informally. This change removed another limiting factor that had negatively impacted the workforce.

Eventually, McCord and her team found that employee performance can’t improve when an excess of rules and restrictions denies workers the freedom to focus on developing their skills. Many of these rules simply force workers to follow time-consuming procedures that are ultimately unnecessary.

This may be true at your company as well. Review your current rules, discuss the topic with executive leadership, and determine if you can make any changes to give your workforce more flexibility. It may be key to their growth.


Expect Slow Progress

Trying to reinvent a major aspect of your company culture isn’t easy. No matter how strong your approach is, don’t expect to see big changes overnight.

In fact, it may be a good idea to implement your strategy in stages. If you try to make too many changes at once, you might struggle to manage the process. On the other hand, if you make small changes over time, your workplace culture will have time to evolve.

This is important to express to managers and executives when coordinating with them. Because you work in HR, it may be your job to oversee the actual execution of your company’s high-performance culture strategy. Executives need to know that some patience will be required in order to reap the benefits of your work. Luckily, taking the time to make these adjustments will pay off in the long run.

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