Tools and Resources: the Link to Performance

Have you ever tried to complete a report while your computer kept crashing? Have you been given an unrealistic deadline, had people ignore your requests for information, or tried to find a missing file that is nowhere to be found? When you don’t have the right tools or resources, it is hard to perform well, let alone at the exemplary level.

When we talk about the tools needed to do your job, the obvious items come to mind. However, there are other tools that we don’t often think of which can impact performance. For example, I once worked in an office and had to walk to another side of the building when I printed a document. This walk took about two minutes each way if no one stopped me. However, most of the time, I ended up talking with someone. This meant that picking up a document could take 15 to 20 minutes of my day. If there were a printer close to my desk, I would have been more productive.

Thinking about the resources needed to do your job, you often need to work with others, access to information, allocation of budget, and adequate time. Without these, performance will suffer. The challenge with resources is that we don’t think about them until they’re not there. For example, I worked on a project and needed information from our VP of Sales. I emailed him, then called him, and then called again the next day. A few days later I found out he had traveled out of the country and he wasn’t able to get me the information I needed until he returned. This put me behind and unable to complete my report on time.

In reviewing the Tools and Resources factor, this seems straight forward. However, it is not always easy to address. For example, what if leaders are slashing the budget to save jobs and you can’t get money to buy a new printer? In the case of the Sales VP being away, how can you learn that faster and ask for the information from someone else? In situations like this, be creative to overcome these barriers. In my research and experience, I have found that exemplary performers never let this stand in their way. They find a way to get the tools and the resources they need to continue performing at the exemplary level.

This is exactly what you need to do. First, identify whether you have the tools and resources needed to perform at the exemplary level. Then, if you lack something, find a way to get it. I once used my personal laptop until the company fixed my work computer. I also have been known to go to every leader in a department until I received the information I needed (I learned from the Sales VP experience). When faced with a tools and resources challenge, think of it as an opportunity to show how resourceful you are. Never let it get in the way of your performance.

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What Drives Performance

Many of you that know me are aware of how interested I am in the factors that drive performance. In fact, I have been so interested in this topic that I created my own model and have published a book on the topic. Over the next few months, I would like to talk about the factors I have identified that drive performance.

Before we get into that, this edition of my blog will provide you with some background. I will be short and to the point so I encourage you to contact me with any additional questions.

My interest started in college back in 1986. I took a course that required a project and mine was on decreasing absenteeism and tardiness. Amazingly, I actually got results from my intervention. I studied the topic for years and, after extensive research into every model I could find, I found that every model had gaps. To remedy this, decided to develop a more holistic and simpler approach to impacting the performance of people.

The model I will discuss has 7 factors that drive performance. That’s probably why I call it the 7 Factors model. I have found through my experience and research that these factors account for all the reasons for performance. The factors are talent and fit, tools and resources, the environment, motivation, clear expectations and accountability, process, and knowledge and skill.

I have found that these factors can be applied to individual, team, and organizational performance. What differs is the process used in each of those cases. While my first book focuses on a strengths-based approach to developing the performance of an individual, the same 7 factors (but a different approach) would be used to address a team or an organization.

In my next post, I will discuss the talent and fit factor. Until then, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

What are Competencies?

Any time I examine a position in the organization, I try to determine what makes the best performers tick. We can benchmark and look at best practices but they may not be much use within a specific organization.

In looking at a specific position, you can divide the work into the what and how of the job. The “what” part consist of key responsibilities and tasks. For example, a sales person may need to call on at least 40 prospects per day. The “how” part consists of the behaviors, skills, traits, and abilities needed to perform well. Following our example, when the sales person calls a prospect, the way he or she should communicate with courteousy, effective listening, effective questioning, proper rate of speech, proper tone and volume, and should follow a process for achieving the desired outcome of the call. Each of these could be a different competency that someone prospecting over the phone would need to engage in to do their job well.

One thing in particular that I have seen is that people developing competencies struggle with what the difference is between a skill and a competency. After all, the word skill is used in a preponderance of the definitions of competencies. My suggestion is to not get caught up in trying to differentiate the two. While academically it matters, practically it doesn’t. People that will be using the competency models we create really don’t care. They just want a model of what they should do and how the best performers do it.

In taking a look at documenting this, the “what” part of a job is usually contained in the job description. The “how” part of a job is contained in a competency model or list of skills. When taken together, you now have a profile of what success looks like for a particular job.

One last piece of advice is to get everyone behind the definition of what a competency is before developing your models. Agreeing on a common language is sometimes difficult but serves as a guideline when developing models.

Talent Management Challenges: Onboarding

Creating an onboarding process continues to be a challenge for most organizations. Developing one that addresses both phases of onboarding (orientation and job-specific training) will lead to great outcomes for participants and the organization.

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Creating an onboarding process continues to be a challenge for most organizations. The ones that have a process tend to be always working on it. The ones that don’t either wish they did or have pieces but no real effective process. As talent management professionals, how do we quickly develop a process that will help our organization get people ready to perform at their peak capability?

The answer is not very simple. There are a lot of things that go into an onboarding process. First, we need to understand the components that generally make up onboarding. Then, the hard part is actually building the components, process, infrastructure and support in order to roll out onboarding at our organization.

Onboarding really consists of two phases. The first phase is typically called orientation. In this phase, people learn about the company history, its’ culture and norms, heirarchy and team members, facilities, certain processes (such as expense reimbursement) and policies. They also learn about and enrole in benefits and complete all required forms to be processed into the organization. Some programs contain other pieces but this is reflective of most orientation processes.

The second phase is job-specific training. In this phase, people are trained on the key skills and abilities necessary to do their job at or above the standards set for their key responsibilities. This helps prepare them for success and eliminates the “trial by fire” mentality of some organizations. As a result, people should be able to perform at a higher level faster.

As was mentioned before, the hard part is creating each of the pieces and rolling out the process. This is not something that can be developed in a few hours (or a few days for that matter). It is something that takes a lot of planning, collaboration, and work. I have helped organizations with this and know that there are a few keys to success. First, you need the buy-in and participation from leaders (critical!!!). Second, plan your work and work your plan. And third, make it fun for all involved. If those three elements are addressed, you will develop and deliver an experience that will impact the participants and organizations in a very positve way.