Every executive dreams of fostering the kind of work culture that turns every employee into a high performer. The kind of high performing work culture that creates cohesive teams that work extraordinary well to overcome obstacles, who push above and beyond on every project, and who are dedicated to your organization. Some companies, like Google and Facebook, have been incredibly successful at creating this type of organizational cultures. Others have had much less success, despite seeming to mirror everything the tech giants do.
The key is that it is not enough to simply mimic the surface-level actions of high-performing companies. Replacing cubicles with open desks will not breed collaboration and teamwork by itself. Providing a top-notch on-premises cafeteria won’t suddenly make employees want to work through lunch breaks and well past dinner. Offering mid-day yoga classes isn’t going to create employees that are less stressed and more focused.
Instead of placing emphasis on the outward appearance of a high performing work culture, organizations need to look through their entire organizational process and identify ways to build this culture from the inside out and from the top down. These five tips are a good place to start.
1. Focus On Customers First: The best, most high performing organizations focus on customer-oriented goals, and let sales and revenue follow. This focus needs to come from the top and permeate every decision the company makes.Some ways to make sure the focus stays firmly on the customer are setting company, department, and individual goals that rely heavily on customer satisfaction. This could be a reduction in returns, more positive or less negative feedback, fewer requests for service, and higher levels of quality control. You can also make sure that every member of the company receives thorough customer service training, and give customer service representatives a lot of autonomy to satisfy customers.
2. Let Your Employees Own Their Performance: One of the hallmarks of a high performing work culture is that employees at every level have a high degree of control and autonomy over their work. Giving this measure of control to employees builds trust within the company. It also builds accountability and responsibility in your workforce.The benefits of decentralizing your control process and giving greater autonomy to employees are clearly evident in companies that have implemented it. Employees react faster and more intelligently to changing conditions. They are more innovative in their solutions to work problems, and provide new ideas to the company. They are also much more loyal to the organization, which cuts down on turnover and boosts morale.
3. Identify What “High-Performing” Means And How You’ll Be Tracking It: So many corporate initiatives fail because there isn’t a clear, concise, and easy-to-understand way to measure progress. Without effective and clearly communicated metrics, not only will you have difficulty identifying high performers, your employees will have difficulty figuring out what they need to do to get better.Instead of working to build a high performing culture, identify specific concrete goals that you want employees to meet. Examples could be “5% reduction in customer complaints” or “$10,000 more in monthly sales”. The key is to link performance to quantifiable results that can be used to evaluate and judge high and low performers.These goals should be set at individual, group, department, and organization levels so that every step of the way, every one of your employees understands what is expected of them.
4. Improve Training and Support: Poor support and training will kill a high performing work culture faster than almost any other organizational issue. Employees need to know exactly what they need to do and how to do it before they can begin doing it independently or at a high level. Corporate training in all aspects of the job is critical to building the kind of strong workforce that can then go above and beyond expectations.The key is that training shouldn’t be strictly focused on job duties. In fact, the most critical support and training you can give your employees is in peripheral skills – skills like leadership, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. Having these skills honed to a high level will allow your organization to function cohesively as a single unit, even as you decentralize control. It will cut down on friction between employees and departments, and let employees focus on working better instead of dealing with operational and organizational issues.
5. Communicate And Collaborate: One of the keys to pulling every one of these tips together is to make sure that communication and collaboration channels are always open. This may seem like an easy feat, in the age of the always-connected employee, but to implement properly requires more than simply publishing an executive email directory. A focus on good communication and teamworking has to be present in every decision made.This includes things like screening potential employees for a high EQ or other measure of communication and collaboration ability, working with managers and team leaders to make sure that they are skilled in speaking both with subordinates and superiors, and making clear organizational statements that are easy to understand and implement.