The High Performance Business – More than Running Lean and Mean
Look around your workplace. It may appear that everyone is busy; there’s activity, no one’s hanging out socializing, no one appears to be deep into personal emails or zoned out. This is a good thing — everyone’s working. But ask yourself; how many are fully engaged? What looks like full effort and positive attitude may not be; yet engagement is one of the key components of a high performance organization. And, trust me, an HPO is what you want.
Job descriptions, performance appraisals, policy manuals and compensation plans are all important parts of creating an HPO organization. But, as a business psychologist, I see having fully engaged employees as a key component.
Research by the Gallagher Organization has suggested that only 25 percent of the typical work force is engaged. This means that only this fraction of the employees in the typical organization are truly in tune with management’s mission, vision and values. These employees are the core group who can always be counted upon to produce and make things happen. They train the new people, carry the owner’s banner and stick up for the company through bad times.
The second group, representing about 15 percent of the typical workforce, is disengaged. These are the ones who actively work against management. These employees are disgruntled, negative and act to undermine the organization. They will throw cold water on any idea and attempt to take new employees under their wings and corrupt them as quickly as possible. The last to convert to a new way of doing things and the first to complain, this group is made up of individuals who are usually very technically competent. The problem is that interpersonally they are incompetent. They get passed over for promotions but get to keep their jobs due to their technical knowledge. Management puts up with them, but if they actually knew how much undermining and damage this group caused, management would readily and willingly drop them.
The third group of employees is the 60 percent who are neither engaged nor disengaged. They do their jobs but usually not well enough or poor enough to be recognized. This group does not live to work, but rather works to live, usually doing their jobs and heading on home. Perhaps you could call them underachievers. They underachieve, in part, because they are not engaged but also perhaps because they have not been recognized and encouraged to achieve. People usually live up to or down to the expectations others have for them.
In a high performance organization, you would have zero percent of the work group in the disengaged category, no more than 15 percent in the middle group and the balance, approximately 85 percent of the work group, engaged. Imagine what it would be like in your work setting, without spending one more nickel on personnel costs, if 85 percent were engaged and nobody worked to undermine you? Imagine an organization where nobody is working against management and most people work at the highest levels!
My job is to help the business owner or executive expand the engaged group of employees. Sometimes the disengaged can be converted through counseling to become a part of the engaged group, which is a logical and preferable choice because there has been an investment made in all employees. The costs in time and money associated with recruitment and hiring are significant and must be considered. Additionally, it isn’t good to have a reputation of throwing away people as a first resort when encountering a problem.
More realistically, the best and most achievable outcome is to convert the disengaged to the middle group (neither engaged nor disengaged) and instill a disinclination to backslide. If they cannot be converted, my objective is to extricate them from the organization. This may sound cold, but in a business climate where you have to do more with less, all employees must be firing on all cylinders at all times.