Performance improvement through people

The charge for efficiency and performance improvement often focuses on how an organisation can access new technologies, but ultimately it is people that drives innovation and productivity in the workplace.

Businesses talk about the war for talent and the skills that need to be brought into an organisation to enable it to succeed, but this ignores the sometimes far greater opportunity of developing and engaging the existing workforce.

To really unlock performance improvements, government and employers need to need to look carefully at improving workplace practices. How people are developed at work, the culture they work within and the quality of the relationship between a manager and their team are crucial to people’s sense of well-being, their commitment and ultimately, their performance.

One of the complex factors that underlies the UK’s poor workplace productivity performance is quality of leadership and people management which, evidence suggests, compares poorly with some of our international competitors. Employers need to focus on workforce planning and job and organisational design to ensure that the workforce is equipped with the skills and development opportunities they need to succeed.

Organisations, and HR professionals in particular, also need a strong focus on equipping leaders and managers with the rights skills to get the best out of their people. This means helping employees use their skills and ideas by developing leaders and line managers who empower rather than control staff, and by designing jobs which provide sufficient autonomy.

Setting employees free to innovate and play to their strengths involves an employment relationship based on trust and through removing unnecessary, restrictive rules and procedures that often get in the way of common sense and agility. This should also help to boost engagement, which we know is a key factor affecting productivity at work. The CIPD’s latest research on this issue highlighted that the proportion of engaged employees dropped from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in 2015, with men more likely to be disengaged at work than women. Among those that are disengaged at work, 44 per cent feel they are overqualified and overall, three in ten employees (29 per cent) think they are overqualified for their role.

Engagement also has an impact on productivity, as significantly more disengaged employees (17 per cent) say they are less productive than neutral (5 per cent) or engaged (3 per cent) employees. These numbers are worrying but the good news is that employees see the solution to over-qualification as themselves, with three-fifths (61 per cent) suggesting that broadening their job role would make better use of their skills and experience.

Clearly there’s a mis-match between the skills many employees have and the skills they are actually able to use in their jobs. Improving leadership and people management capability and job design are key steps to helping people reach their potential and boost workplace their performance and productivity.

CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. 


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