Want a Superior Workforce?

7 Tips About How to Develop a High-Performance Workforce

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A superior workforce is one that is collectively better than an average workforce. It often includes employees who are smarter, faster, more creative, harder working, insightful, aware of the competition, and autonomous. They are daily contributors to a harmonious workplace that emphasizes accountability, reliability, and contribution. 

If your goal is a superior, high-performance workforce that is focused on continuous improvement, you need to manage people within a framework that focuses on performance management and development.

To achieve this, there are seven components you need to implement. They work together to create a superior, high-performance workforce. Create a checklist to implement these components and to make sure you are following through regularly.

1. Hiring

Create a documented, systematic hiring process. Ensure that you hire the best possible staff for your superior workforce:

  • Define the outcomes desired from the people you hire.
  • Develop job descriptions that clearly outline the performance responsibilities.
  • Develop the largest pool of qualified candidates possible. Search via professional associations, social media networking sites such as LinkedIn, online job boards, personal contacts, employee referrals, university career services offices, search firms, job fairs, newspaper classifieds, and other creative sources when necessary.
  • Devise a careful candidate selection process that includes culture match, testing, behavioral interview questions, customer interviews, and tours of the work area.
  • Perform appropriate background checks that include employment references, employment history, education, criminal records, credit history, drug testing, and more.
  • Make an employment offer that confirms your position as an employer of choice.

2. Defining Goals

Provide the direction and management needed to align the interests of your high-performance workforce with your organization's goals and desired outcomes:

  • Provide effective supervisors who give clear direction and expectations, provide frequent feedback, and demonstrate the commitment to staff success.
  • Company direction, goals, values, and vision should be communicated frequently and in memorable ways when possible.
  • Provide a motivating work environment that helps employees want to come to work every day.
  • Provide an empowering, demanding, commitment-oriented work environment with frequent mention of company goals to support your high-performance workforce.

3. Reviewing Progress

Hold quarterly performance development planning (PDPs) meetings to establish aligned direction, measurements, and goals:

  • Performance and productivity goals and measurements that support your organization's goals should be developed and written.
  • Personal development goals should be agreed upon with individual employees and written. These can range from attendance at a class to cross-training or a new job assignment.
  • Most importantly, progress on the performance development goals is tracked for accomplishment. Central tracking by Human Resources ensures the development of the entire workforce.

4. Feedback

Provide regular feedback to employees that lets them know where they stand:

  • Effective supervisory feedback means that people know how they are doing daily, via a posted measurement system, verbal or written feedback, and meetings.
  • Develop a disciplinary system to help people improve areas in which they are not performing as expected. The system is written, progressive, provides measurements and timelines, and is regularly reviewed with staff members.

5. Employee Recognition

Provide a recognition system that rewards and recognizes people for real contributions:

  • Provide equitable pay with a bias toward variable pay using such methods as bonuses and incentives. Whenever possible, pay above market.
  • Develop a bonus system that recognizes accomplishments and contributions.
  • Design ways to say "thank you" and other employee recognition processes such as company periodic anniversary remembrances, spot awards, team recognition lunches, and more. You are limited only by your imagination.
  • Despite the rising cost of health care insurance, which you may need to share with your employees, provide a continually improving benefits package.

6. Training

Provide training, education, and development to build a superior, high-performance workforce:

  • Employee retention and education begins with a positive employee orientation. Employee orientation should give new hires a complete understanding of the flow of the business, the nature of the work, employee benefits, and the fit of his or her job within the organization.
  • Provide ongoing technical, developmental, managerial, safety, lean manufacturing, and/or workplace organization training and development regularly. The type of training depends on the job. Some experts recommend 40 or more hours of training a year per person.
  • Develop a procedure-based, cross-training matrix for each position that includes employee skill testing and periodic, scheduled, on-the-job training and demonstration of capability, for most hands-on jobs.
  • Provide regular management and leadership training and coaching from both internal and external sources. The impact of your frontline people on the development of your high-performance workforce is critical.
  • Create jobs that enable a staff person to do all the components of a whole task, rather than pieces or parts of a process.
  • Develop a learning organization culture through such activities as “lunch and learn,” reading books as a team (book club), attending training together, and by making the concept of continuous learning an organization goal.
  • Make a commitment to both providing and tracking the accomplishment of the developmental activities promised in the PDPs.

7. Employment Termination

End the employment relationship if the staff person is not working out:

  • If you have done your job well—effective orientation, training, clear expectations, coaching, feedback, support—and your new staff person is failing to perform, termination of employment should be swift.
  • View every termination as an opportunity for your organization to analyze its hiring, training, integrating, support, and coaching practices and policies. Can you improve any aspect of your process so the next new employee succeeds?
  • Perform exit interviews with valued employees who leave. Debrief the same as you would a termination situation.
  • Use an employment ending checklist to make certain you have wrapped up all loose ends.