As it appeared in the Daily Nation on October 16th 2018
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

I often observe staff at their places of work or during training sessions. My observations largely revolve around their behaviours and attitudes and to some extent their skills. As I make these observations, I often wonder about the staff’s understanding of how they individually and collectively contribute to their organization’s performance. I also wonder about how their individual performance ranks. Are they A, B, C or even D performers? Sometimes, I am quick to pick the extremes. On one hand, the A-performers are more often than not upbeat, eager to learn and ready to make a difference. On the other hand, the D-performers have a negative attitude towards work, do not really care and like to blame others for their poor performance.

To win in today’s business environment, it is not enough to conduct an annual appraisal. Organizations need a high performance culture. Leaders, teams and individuals who individually and collectively aim to achieve superior business results characterize such a culture. Additionally, I believe that clear business goals, clear roles and responsibilities as well as high levels of trust also characterize such a culture. To build a high performance culture, business leaders and their teams must work together. First, the leadership must be intentional about managing the performance process and developing their teams. Second, the staff should be aware about their roles and responsibilities and must be ready to be held to account as part of the performance management process.

In some organizations, an effective performance management process exists. Managers and staff work together to set performance targets as well as review progress and measure performance against targets. Even though human resource professionals lead the performance management process, all line managers are actively involved. Most performance targets for individual staff are set at the end or the beginning of a planning cycle. The cycle could be annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly or even daily. These targets are in line with the goals that the organisation and the teams plan to achieve. When the staff is fully aware about their targets, it becomes easier for them to support their teams and the organization at large in achieving overall business objectives.

Building a high performance culture is possible. At the individual level, performance is considered a function of several factors. In their book “Developing Management Skills” professors David Whetten and Kim Cameron share the famous employee performance equation stated as Performance = Ability X Motivation. This equation stipulates that with the right competences and desire to achieve good results, employees can achieve high individual performance and thus drive overall business performance.

Every smart company that hopes to survive into the future must build a high performance culture. Basic questions that business leaders need to ask themselves to drive high performance include – Do we know what high performance looks like? Have we set overall, team and individual performance targets? Are team and individual performance targets aligned to the overall business objectives? Are our team members competent enough to achieve the targets? How are we enhancing our employees’ ability and motivation? Are we measuring our overall, team and individual performance against targets? By answering these questions and taking the right action, business leaders can start to embed high performance into their culture.

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy