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Improving employee performance

You want your employees to perform at peak levels? Focus on the real causes of problems in the workplace, not on the symptoms

Feb 29, 2012 18:00 pm

In most instances, the managers themselves are the ones who create problems in an organization, which then prevent employees from performing at peak levels, says Dr. William J. Rothwell, a world-renowned human resources consultant and best-selling author.

[related|post]Rothwell, who was in the Philippines as part of a speaking tour in ASEAN countries, says that this situation develops because many managers focus on symptoms, not on the cause of the problems. He explains: “When you ask managers about the problems of the organization, they would say things like my staff are not performing at par with standards, or the turnover is too high. But turnovers are symptoms, and the question really should be: ‘What caused the turnover?’”

The president of Rothwell & Associates and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, Rothwell has helped many entrepreneurs and managers worldwide to transform their organizations into high-performance workplaces (he uses the acronym HPW for it) where employees can maximize their key performance indicators (KPIs) through human performance improvement (HPI).

How do all these acronyms fit together?

Rothwell says KPI is an indicator of the most important result from a business, a department, or an individual; HPI is a tool used in troubleshooting problems with human beings to find out why people do not perform as they should; and HPW is an environment conducive to full productivity.

He continues: “Whenever we conduct training, we normally start talking about HPW because the thinking is that if management has not established the work setting where people want to be productive, then people would not achieve their HPIs, and the business would not achieve its KPIs. So HPW is about finding out why people are not as productive as they could be; it is about knocking down those barriers.”

He dismisses the claim of many organizations that they have a pay-for-performance compensation mode. “All they pay for is loyalty,” he says. “Everyone gives pretty much the same pay raises because they don’t want to hear complaints. So management has created its own problems. It has sacrificed getting maximum productivity just to avoid conflict. So they’re paying for that by keeping the most productive workers from having a reason to perform to high levels.”

In contrast, he says, HPW focuses on what has to be done to create a climate that yields maximum productivity. He explains: “Human beings are a lot more complicated. One of our problems is that managers sometimes have not been trained systematically how to troubleshoot problems with people. It’s something that is not taught in an MBA school.”

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