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The Quality Of The Working Environment Makes Or Breaks Performance

SHAMEELA WINSTON
I know you’ll say you knew this. It’s obvious isn’t it? Of course the quality of the working environment affects performance. And this is not just about the air conditioning and attractiveness or comfort of the furniture in the office, nor is it about the quality of technology availed at each physical or virtual work station.

For the past two weeks we have been talking around performance management, looking at the building blocks and factors that influence the efficacy of any performance management strategy and instrument used in the workplace.

We have looked at managing probation in a systematic way so that each new team member has a clear understanding of what the delivery expectations are, and we have also last week looked at the trend towards fluid jobs as opposed to definite job profiles.

Today I thought we could look at some of the environmental factors that help or hinder performance, so that, even though we all know what they are, maybe the article could spark a debate.

Leadership

The quality of leadership available to the team is an important aspect of performance management. From floor supervisors all the way to the CEO, we are looking for leaders who cultivate and promote a positive and enabling culture of professionalism – I don’t know what professionalism would mean in your specific environment, but you know, a leader who inspires us to be the best we can be as far our respective disciplines require in terms of service excellence, accountability, technical compliance with industry regulatory provisions, personal growth and emotional intelligence.

We are looking for leaders who are visible and audible, who let us know what the direction is, the road map, the gains and losses along the way. We are looking for leaders who groom us to grow into the business so that we can anticipate and respond to shifting market needs without fear or favour. Too often we have managers who just set tasks and allocate resources, and this is different from leadership.

Look around you. Do you have managers or leaders there? You know, leadership development programs are a dime a dozen these days, and increasingly available online, so if there is need to improve on this aspect, explore the available options and subscribe.

Communication

High performing organisations thrive on robust communication practices, where teams and team leaders communicate freely and frequently to improve results. This two-way communication up and down the hierarchical structure extends from top to bottom. That is not only a text book concept colleagues, there really are organisations where transparency exists.

However, there are also organisations with such

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communication deficiencies that communication only comes from the top, cascading through very rigid leadership structures on a “need to know” basis of frequency and detail, to the extent that trust is destroyed. Where there is no trust there is no freedom to operate, and in that instance, performance is stifled.

Organisational Structure

It used to be the norm for organisations to have many hierarchical layers of leadership and management defining the organisation from top to bottom. Assistant Officer, Officer, Senior Officer, Principal Officer, Assistant Deputy Manager, Deputy Manager, Manager. Replicated across every department.

We are now starting to see an increase in flatter structures – few hierarchical layers from top to bottom – and it is becoming increasingly apparent that these new structures generally outperform the older models. Why is that? Nobody is hiding behind anyone, there is minimal role duplication and there is less that is falling through the cracks.

Everyone is pulling their weight, people are empowered to make judgement calls and decisions around their scope of operation, so there is engagement, there is accountability, there is progress.

Learning

The market is changing daily. The labour market for me has been revolutionised. Everything I deal with has changed. The employee profile is changing all the time. Employment practices are changing. Laws have been revised. Processes have been automated.

Basically, degree or none, to survive in the working environment one must constantly update one’s skills, otherwise one would become redundant and unable to meet the needs of one’s target market. With that, it becomes critically important to recognise learning as a fundamental part of the performance management process.

There are organisations that view learning as an unjustifiable expense that they grudgingly concede to if there is nothing else to budget for. This is an unfortunate mindset. Learning is a basic requirement for performance.

And it is more than a two day training seminar because when you think about it, we sometimes we learn directly, sometimes indirectly, through classroom lessons or observed cultural practice.

So, it is incumbent on those responsible for performance in the organisation, not just performance of the individual but also of the organisation, to look at these four points suggested here as the backdrop to your performance management strategies: Leadership. Communication. Structure. Learning.



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