A recent report by Ofelia Isabel (Towers Watson) titled: “Revisiting workforce engagement” (What’s lacking in workforce engagement?) raises for me some thoughts I have regarding the importance of designing effective role performance into any human performance scheme.
The report elaborates on the argument that organizations need to effectively develop sustainable engagement in their workforces. Some key observations include:
- Employees must be given the capability (enablement) to excel. in the performance management cube parlance this is the “know how”
- Employees need to be able to maintain their efforts over time (energy). Again in the performance management cube we would call this the “want to”.
The third performance cube dimension (know what) is not explored in this article.
The article does a very nice job of illustrating the benefits to the organization (reduced absenteeism and reduced retention issues).
The notion of role performance considerations are important contextual pieces to this issue of performance and engagement. The article lightly touches on this:
“An addition 24% of workers are considered the “unsupported – engaged in the traditional sense … but stymied by organizational barriers to enablement and energy.”
I wish the article had explored this further as the above point highlights where I believe we should focus much of our attention – the context for superior performance. I call this role performance design. It is completely contextual to the person/employee in the role. It starts with the role performance management question:
“What do we have to put into place for this role to deliver optimal performance with any minimally capable and motivated person in it?”
The phrase: “what do we have to put into place”, is the entry into role design and surrounding context. What do I consider as fair game in this questioning perspective?
- What kind of supervision is performance elevating? This of course is a mine field as it clearly operationalizes what we need in leadership development and leadership performance when it comes to leaderships contribution to the optimal performance of others.
- What role supports (information, tools, etc.) support optimal performance? I have observed that these considerations are often driven more from a cost management perspective than performance enhancing one.
- What ergonomics and environmental features support optimal performance? The whole matter of meetings, interruptions, physical settings, etc. are covered here. How often are these determined by others (I want a meeting because I am your boss. Stop what you are doing because my needs are more urgent and important than any customer’s. Our practices regarding space and furniture are covered by a policy that says, …).
- What coordination mechanisms (rules, procedures, policies, principles, values) are appropriate for optimal performance. It is amazing how rules seem to be the preferred choice of organizational leadership when it is the most inappropriate mechanism for ensuring legitimate control of performance.
- What socializing interactions should be designed into the roles day to day activities? Yes I realize that we differ as individuals in terms of our needs/interests in social interactions, but each role has requirements regarding what, when and how we optimally interact with others so we can be optimally productive.
What roles merit this level of design consideration? Actually, all roles that the organization wishes to build its operating model around. Priorities on where to start? Begin with your key/pivotal roles and work out from there.
Further evidence for the importance of role design and context:
Many of us have played games like Monopoly. The rules and structure of the game are such that there are clear patterns of behaviour that are optimal for winning. The game’s rules and layout are the role design performance management features of this diversion. Note, though there are patterns of behaviour that promote winning, there are many ways we as players can participate. If winning is not important, and some other preference is dominant (e.g., entertaining a child, socializing with friends, etc.) we can and adopt one or more of these winning behaviours while ignoring others.
For those interested in some other posts that cover this issue of engagement and closely adjacent issues please read: Talent Management: Place and Displace for Engagement in TM, Talent Management: Applying the Performance Cube to Sick Leave, Talent Management: Implications on Role Design/Performance of an Older Workforce, Talent Management: Leadership Performance Management Issues, Talent Management: Roles vs. Jobs