How to get a high performance workforce

If your goal is a superior, high performance workforce that is focused on continuous improvement, you need to manage people within a performance management and development framework. When you implement each of these components, you’ll ensure the development of the high performance workforce you seek.

Use this high performance workforce checklist to make certain you have all of the necessary components in place to develop a superior, high performance workforce. I have provided the specific broad category of practice. Then, the bullets define the key success areas in each component.

Superior, High Performance Workforce Checklist

1. Create a documented, systematic hiring process.
Ensure you hire the best possible staff for your high performance workforce. See the Top Ten Recruiting Tips.
• Define the outcomes desired from the person you hire.
• Develop a job description that clearly describes the performance responsibilities of the person you hire.
• 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 departments and career services offices, search firms, bob 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, tours of the work area, and “what would you do” questions about your actual work place, to hire a high performance workforce.
• 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.

For a high performance, superior workforce, you need to provide effective communication of direction, regular performance development planning with each staff member, and regular feedback so people know how they are doing.

2. 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 committment to staff success.
• Company direction, goals, values, and vision are communicated frequently and in memorable ways where possible.
• You provide a motivating work environment that helps employees feel work motivation every day.
• You provide an empowering, demanding, commitment-oriented work environment, with frequent mention of company goals to support your high performance workforce.

3. Quarterly Performance Development Planning (PDPs) meetings are held that establish aligned direction, measurements and goals.
See the Quick Guide to Performance Management to get started.
• Performance and productivity goals and measurements that support your organization’s goals are developed and written.
• Personal development goals are agreed upon 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. Provide regular feedback.
• 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 reward and recognition system that tells people clearly what you want from them. It must also help people feel appreciated and recognized for their efforts.
• 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 the staff member.

For a high performance workforce, you need effective training and development and a fair, motivating recognition and reward system.

5. 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. For more information, see Tips for Determining a Motivating Salary.
• 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. (If you can afford the cost of the health care – do.)

6. Provide training, education and development to build a superior, high performance workforce.
• Employee retention and education begin with a positive employee orientation. The new employee orientation should give the new employee 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 forty 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 front line 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. 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.

The time and attention you pay to these seven success opportunity areas will reap your organization the performance of a superior workforce. And that’s the performance that will enable your organization to achieve its dreams and goals. Best wishes for your success. Develop a high performance workforce. You’ll be happy you emphasized the factors that created the high performance workforce of your dreams.

Source: Susan M. Heathfield,, November 2011
Read more about Susan M. Heathfield here

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