4 Steps to Enable Your New High Performers

As organizations become more matrixed, employees are sharing more responsibilities, authority, and accountability than ever before.

While informal working relationships and networks have always been important, getting work done today requires more collaboration among a broader and more diverse set of people who may also be working across geographic locations.

Work is now done through a web of collaborating knowledge where employees have more ambiguous objectives, and their work is interconnected with a growing, more dispersed network. Employees must navigate across different structures, cultures, and processes to perform, but they struggle to understand whom to work with and how to work with them.

Enabling and encouraging networks

Yet if collaboration is to occur, companies need to enable and encourage broader employee networks — connecting employees as needed and providing clear direction, aligned incentives, integrated workflow, and better technology.

The new high performers are immune to the complexities of change, are willing to collaborate, and are able to apply judgment in an increasingly knowledge-based role. Unfortunately, while most knowledge workers know how to manage work processes and use technology and tools in their work, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), finds that less than 40 percent have the analytical skills and business judgment needed to use the tools effectively in decision making.

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Organizations need to create opportunities for employees to learn essential collaboration and analytic skills by reengineering the work environment to better promote learning on the job.

4 steps to increase development

While this is a challenging task, the CEB suggests focusing on specific steps to increase on-the-job development:

  • Design stretch roles to achieve development goals and business results. Employees learn best in real work situations that require direct skill application. Define projects where analytic and collaborative skills are essential to success and designate them as on-the-job learning opportunities. Select projects with high levels of stretch, accountability, and visibility for the employee — the more important and riskier the role, the stronger the incentive will be to learn.
  • Use “connectors” to transfer network building and collaboration skills. Identify your best collaborators and use them to teach others how to network, build relationships, influence decisions, and manage collaborative projects. Have them document key relationships and help transfer “network knowledge” from project to project.
  • Use “Informed Skeptics” to teach how to apply judgment in work. Identify employees with the strongest decision-making skills—those who bring a critical eye to analytic tasks, analyze data, use their intuition, and apply judgment. Use these Informed Skeptics to model the correct approaches to decision making on the job. Task them specifically with coaching less capable team members and rotate them across key projects.
  • Manage both learning and work activities on key projects. Learning needs to be intentional and built into projects. Emphasize learning alongside the project’s core activities and hold managers accountable for ensuring the following steps are taken:
    1. Identify learning opportunities and goals before a project begins;
    2. Assess learning during a project; and,
    3. Reflect on skill development and next steps at the project’s completion.

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry and to the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on performance improvement. A respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, talent and employee engagement, she’s a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Michelle speaks and writes about what she knows first-hand – as a former executive of a Fortune 100 global conglomerate, and as a researcher and strategist. She passionately shares new insights and tools for leaders to confidently, effectively and strategically lead their organizations to success.

Michelle is the Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association. Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-m-smith-cpim-crp



2 Comments on “4 Steps to Enable Your New High Performers

  1. Amazing article on collaborating Personal goals with
    organizational goals and the role of technology in the same. Any employee’s
    performance in an organization depends upon his accessibility to other
    employees. No person can work to achieve his individual goal without the
    knowledge of the organizational purpose. And the 4 steps mentioned in the
    article would definitely help in eliminating the ambiguity and increase effectiveness
    of on the job development.

    1. Thanks Neel. You’re so right, we all need to increase collaboration and develop and empower employees throughout our organizations.

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