What distinguishes “good” businesses from “great” ones? Often, it’s the employees. But are you unknowingly throwing up roadblocks that can prevent your team from doing great work? A recent study (PDF) by OC Tanner explores what employees need to achieve great things, and what holds them back from doing so. Here’s what you can learn — and how you can set your team up for greatness.
Improving Employee Performance
How Wide is the Gap Between Expectations and Reality?
Nearly eight out of 10 respondents in the survey believe all employees should do great work. But fewer than six in 10 think all employees actually take responsibility for doing great work. The older employees are, the more likely they are to believe that everyone should do great work — and the less likely they are to feel that people actually are doing great work. Baby boomers were most likely to see a huge gap between their expectations and reality.
What’s Holding Employees Back?
Both emotional/psychological and resource factors hold employees back from performing great work. A lack of resources is a major stumbling block for employees on the lower levels of a company. At the higher levels (manager and above), more than 80 percent of employees say they are encouraged to think about new ways of doing things, have time to think about process improvements, and have adequate resources to be innovative. Among individual employees below the manager level, however, just 43 percent believe they have adequate resources to innovate, and only 57 percent say they have enough time to think about ways to improve processes in their companies.
Emotional factors play a role as well. Only 52 percent of individual employees below the manager level feel they are encouraged to think about new ways of doing things in their jobs. Employees on the front lines, in particular, often feel like “cogs in the machine.” Because they don’t see the value of their work to the company’s overall mission, they don’t feel that anyone expects them to produce great work, and they don’t take responsibility for doing so. As a result, only 68 percent feel a sense of ownership about their work, just 56 percent believe their work regularly goes beyond expectations and a measly 37 percent feel their work provides value to the company.
What Difference Can High Expectations Make?
Setting high expectations and holding employees to them can make a huge difference. Employees in the study who worked at companies where all employees were thought capable of performing great work, and who actually took the responsibility to do great work, saw a productivity increase of 14 percent on average.
What Can You Do to Take Your Team from Good to Great?
OC Tanner suggests the following steps to inspire greatness in your team:
- Set clear expectations — not just for individual employees or departments, but also for the company as a whole.
- Ensure that employees understand how their particular jobs contribute to the company’s overall mission, and the value their individual work has.
- Recognize employees for doing great work, and share their accomplishments with the rest of the team. Celebrating great work will encourage more of it.
- Talk to employees to find out if they have ideas they aren’t sharing that could improve your company. Make sure they have the time they need to think about ways to innovate, and the resources they need to bring those ideas to fruition.
- Focus on non-managerial and younger (Millennial) employees. These groups, in particular, need encouragement and reassurance that they are not only capable of doing great work, but expected to do so.
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