Building effective performance

People are our greatest asset – right?

It’s a simple question that every manager faces – are your people doing what they should be, as effectively and efficiently as they could be? All the time?

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that labour productivity fell by 0.5% in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2017 and it’s now below the peak level achieved in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2007. More importantly we’re lagging behind many of our international competitors – in 2015 UK productivity was 18% below the G7 average, and in the time a British worker produced £1 of output, a German worker produced £1.35.

This gives us a major problem in competing both at home and abroad, but on the positive side it tells us that UK businesses have the potential to grow much faster than they currently are doing and to improve living standards in the UK significantly.

Investment in technology is part of the solution but it can be risky and expensive and often doesn’t deliver an acceptable short term RoI. Even then, it’s only half of the solution – a September 2017 House of Commons briefing paper noted that “an increase in capital or developments in technology will increase the amount of output….. without labour necessarily becoming more efficient.”

So whether or not we choose to invest in technology we should certainly focus on our people who, after all are often stated as being a company’s greatest asset.

There are some pre-requisites to generating this improved personal effectiveness and it falls principally to senior managers to create the right environment. First the busines needs a positive growth mindset that builds the confidence and desire for improvement (excellent work by Carol Dwek on this topic). Equally the business needs a clear plan and well articulated business goals to provide a context within which personal effectiveness can be improved.

Next it’s about identifying the roles and responsibilities that individuals and teams should play in achieving the business goals. Working out who’s best placed to carry out which function, and how that function interfaces with others within the business.

It’s only at that stage that specific training should be given to enhance personal skillsets. Focusing on improved teamwork, communication, leadership, goal setting, measurement, job satisfaction, stress management, time management and all the other elements that build more effective performance. Because not everyone needs all of these skills all of the time, and a boiler plate personal effectiveness programme can lead to unnecessary and unfocused investment.

Improved Personal Effectiveness should not be seen as an outcome in its own right, but it’s a major enabler to business success, and just like businesses want the best RoI for their investment in technology, they want the best RoI for investment in their people. For a limited investment and by following a logical and structured process, businesses can create a happier workforce, and make remarkable steps to improving output and profitability.

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