The Four Components of a High Performance Working System

Posted in management by Christopher R. Wirz on Tue Mar 01 2016

A Higher Performance Work System (HPWS) is a set of management practices designed to create an environment where the employee has greater involvement and responsibility. This strategy combines HR practices, work structures, and processes to leverage employee knowledge, skill, and alignment to the organization. When building a HPWS, it is important to know the following attributes for each employee:

  1. The employee's decision making process
  2. How the employee learns
  3. What the employee sees as incentives
  4. What technologies the employee is familiar with
Knowing each will allow a manager to build a team that is organized, motivated, and trained the successfully execute within their job environment. While these considerations are great for hiring, they have a strong application within the organization as well.

The first component is the ability for an employee to participate in the decision making process. By allowing the employee to make decisions that effect their immediate environment, this leads to positive effects within the entire organization. Employees feel more empowered, creating a committed workforce.

The second component is training. Training provides employees with the necessary skills to perform their jobs - or to be more effective. This can also set employees up for greater responsibility within an organization. Cross-training employees in different skills and roles allow employees to better understand their role within the organization.

The third component is incentives. Without incentives, employees will be less likely to participate in the HPWS. Employee performance should be linked to outcomes that are beneficial to themselves and the organization. This is why we see smaller companies providing stock options and other equity plans and profit sharing plans. Larger companies tend to use pay raises, bonuses for meeting performance targets and other monetary incentives. Sometimes, even lunch is enough.

So how do you motivate an employee? It has been shown that applying metrics defines the expectations to an employee and will drive them to outperform themselves in meeting those expectations as time goes on. Another way to motivate an employee is to formally articulate the essential value that they bring to the team. Empowerment in this regard becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – a positive feedback loop. This is why negative feedback generally makes poor employees and positive feedback makes high performing employees. Employees are more inclined to provide quality work if they know their work is valued.

What are some ways of providing feedback? Feedback needs to be timely and accurate above all. Saying something like “This product is below expectations” is different than “Did your deliverable meet your expectations?” Obviously the second is preferred and more productive. A lot of times, people don’t even know I am giving them feedback because my questions are so technical. However, given the line of questioning, they are able to course correct their product into a something that more aligns to the perceived values of the customer. Many times people give direction by telling people what not to do – or what they have already done is bad. This is not the right approach. Not only does it not convey expectations, but it does not provide adequate direction to realign the employees efforts.

The fourth component is technology. Technology does not have to be leading edge technology solutions - it just has to provide the right resources for an employee to be successful at his or her job. It also must facilitate communicating and sharing information within the organization.

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