Can average performers become high performers?

What makes performance management an effective tool for achieving and sustaining high employee performance

The term "talent war" represents a new reality in which companies of all sizes are competing to hire and retain the best employees - those who make up a large portion of their company's revenue, profit and overall success. But what if, instead of worrying about losing these top performers, companies made changes and created opportunities that enabled average performers to reach their full potential and achieve their goals? The following article explains what makes performance management an effective tool for achieving and sustaining high employee performance.
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Why is having high performers crucial for organizational competitiveness?

Financial capital and technology are increasingly readily available, while the shortage of high performers is a major problem in companies of all sizes and industries. Properly implemented performance management systems can be an effective tool for turning average performers into top performers and retaining them while preventing competitors from poaching them. Employee's have a desire to learn and improve, so striving for and nurturing growth culture in an organization inevitably results in higher performance. What can you do to enable your average performance to rise to their potential?

Create and maintain individualized developmental plans for higher performance

Fostering growth culture means supporting each individual in their development. Individualized development plans are actions taken by both the manager and the employee to improve the employee's performance. They can also prepare the employee for promotion and enrich their work experience. The course must be individually tailored and agreed upon to meet the expectations of the employee and the manager for the position. By creating such a plan, an employee can receive individual attention and learn new skills.

Ensure challenging, interesting and meaningful work

It's very important that the personal values and life interests of high performers match the values of the company. The work of average employees is usually perceived as unchallenging, uninteresting and not meaningful enough. Therefore, it's important to ensure that tasks offer an increase in knowledge and skills, make a difference, are fun and promote employees' strengths and growth. When employees can use their talents and strengths every day, they spend more time in flow state, feel better and contribute more.

The manager of a larger organization can use job sculpting to divide employees into smaller autonomous units. This gives employees the feeling that they're working in a small company (when in fact they're working in a large company) and gives them the opportunity to show their potential.

Provide clear advancement opportunities

High-performing employees are more likely to cite opportunities for advancement as a reason to stay with the company than average employees. What should performance management be used for? The first and most important purpose is to communicate the barriers to advancement on the ladder. The second purpose is to demonstrate new skills and behaviors needed to overcome the obstacle. And finally, it can identify what developmental actions are needed to engage and set appropriate goals. These three steps require consistent follow-up and feedback from the manager, and deliberate effort of each employee to turn their talents (innate abilities and tendencies, natural ways of behaving) into strengths (when talents are productively applied to achieve goals).

Implement contingent rewards

The importance of extrinsic rewards is very important in maintaining motivation. Employees who strive for higher performance pay particular attention to whether they're rewarded appropriately. They usually feel they're entitled to it, including the expectation of a raise. If they aren't adequately compensated and rewarded, their performance and productivity may decline.

Employee's contribution to the company should be measured appropriately and rewarded accordingly. Striving for higher performance leads to higher productivity - so compensation should also reflect the potential to increase with further performance gains.

The responsibility for change lies with the entire working ecosystem

The answer to our initial question, "Can average performers become high performers?" is yes. It's important to remember that the responsibility for a performance change lies not only with the employee, but also with the manager. What else needs to be considered? It's very important that the entire ecosystem - the organization and the employees - don't become performance obsessed. On the contrary, it's the responsibility of everyone in the organization to create a culture of growth. This creates good relationships and empowered employees who inspire and support each other to achieve both individual and organizational goals.

[a] Aguinis, H., Gottfredson, R. K. & Harry Joo. "Using performance management to win the talent war." Business Horizons 55.6 (2012): 609-616.

[b] Aguinis, H., & Vaschetto, S. J. (2011). A new model for business university collaboration to enhance human capital in emerging markets. Business Journal of Hispanic Research, 5(1), 31—38.

[c] Fishman, C. (1998, August). The war for talent. Fast Company, 16, 104—108.

[d] Groysberg, B., Nanda, A., & Nohria, N. (2004). The risky business of hiring stars. Harvard Business Review, 82(5), 92—99.

[e] O’Boyle, E., & Aguinis, H. (2012). The best and the rest: Revisiting the norm of normality of individual performance. Personnel Psychology, 65(1), 79—119.

Ana Hribernik
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