As organisations continue to get leaner, there is an oft-heard call to ‘do more with less.’ Such an objective is possible to achieve through increasingly efficient systems and processes; investing in the latest hardware and will soon include hiring your first robot employee that can work 24-7-365 (No! I’m not kidding.)
This post acknowledges that whilst many of the changes listed above are important in the drive for greater efficiency it is also clear that all of these changes, and organisation performance more generally, rely centrally on the performance of human beings. Encouraging people to do even more can be a recipe for increased absence due to stress, high turnover rates as people exit your organisation in the search for a better ‘work-life balance’ and a general sense of employee dis-engagement: Not great outcomes for increased productivity.
So, how can you encourage higher employee engagement and output, as you continue to slim down the workforce, whilst also protecting the health and well-being of those same treasured assets?
Simple. But not easy.
Here are three key steps to ensuring you can ‘do more with less’ whilst simultaneously avoiding burning out your employees.
Ensure people work at the right level
Far too many organisations that I visit, seem to have a challenge with people working at the right level for their role. This is especially true of those in leadership positions. Still keen on rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in, too many leaders are spending insufficient time leading and too much time doing. This is not a new phenomenon and yet, still far too common.
The system that measures your leadership population (you have one of those, right?) should recognise and reward leaders for leading well and seek to develop those leaders who are not doing so sufficiently.
Recognise your leaders for:
- Leading the development of team talent
- Reinforcing values and behaviours of the organisation
- Innovating in ways that move the organisation/function forward and serve customers better
- Whole function/team results
- Adhere to/strengthen governance in an observable way
Don’t give ownership
You can’t give ownership, so don’t even try. What I mean is that you can’t give ownership to someone who doesn’t want to take it. Therefore, the best you can to hope for is to set an environment where the levels of accountability for performance are:
- Clearly and regularly communicated
- Measured, reviewed and discussed regularly
Leaders who can create an atmosphere where employees know and understand with crystal clarity the deliverables of their role (the ‘what’) tend to produce much higher levels of performance, especially when there is a culture of accountability for said results. A product of such an approach is that employees start to discover the ‘how’ of achievement for themselves: Now that starts to look much more like a team where levels of ownership are high.
How can leaders start to make the transition to increased ownership? Adopt a performance coaching style to your leadership skill set.
Prepare employees for the change
If your employees have been working at a certain level – i.e. well below where they should be – it will be a significant shift when leaders start actually to lead effectively and not getting stuck-in to BAU. Employees can feel really unsettled when organisations make such a change of style leadership. The result can be that employees become somewhat frozen as they try to work out the change of expectation. Productivity can decrease rather that start to fly. So, it is really important to share and prepare staff for changes.
One thing to be careful of at this stage is how you manage the communication to staff. Get this wrong and you’ll be met with rolling eyes and much long sighing, as employees perceive the changes as a way of squeezing even more out of an already exhausted workforce (by their current standards.) Focus on the nature of work i.e. more stretching, that will tap into people’s strengths and interests. Ensure people are also aware that their performance will be more carefully measured and should they need it, more develop will be available for supporting improvements. Then ensure that as a leader, leading at the right level, you follow-through on these commitments through regular one-to-one meetings, mentoring and performance coaching. Simple but not easy.
Dr Glenn Wallis is a leadership consultant that helps organisations develop outstanding leadership in order to improve organisational performance. When you want to develop the effectiveness of leaders and leadership in your organisation, Glenn would love to discuss your needs with you, just contact him here.