Article (March-2019)


It can be linked to technology, diversity and manageable stress levels

Sameer Nagrajan

Designation : -   Senior HR Professional

Organization : -  Dubai, UAE


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Do you think that developing and maintaining a high performance culture is practically possible and easy in organisations or it is merely a buzzword far away from reality and difficult to achieve?
SN A high performance culture is definitely possible. It may not be easy. It is in my view a process of increasing focus, alignment and speed plus quality in execution. Once you have all these three in sync, and constantly on the rise, you are in effect experiencing a performance culture. And of course, there is no absolute standard. The entire exercise if about getting better than you were yesterday, and planning for a better tomorrow!
What should be the key initiatives for creating high performance culture in your view and how do you define them?
SN a. Goal setting : Staying absolutely true to SMART+ and defining goals that are really ambitious. Simply aiming for incremental growth is not enough.

b. Performance Measurement : Focused on the end result and supported by strong systems to provide real-time information on individual and group performance to all employees, in a manner relevant and understandable by each. 

c. Superlative Rewards : That reward ambitious goals and recognize that ambition is not always achieved. The philosophy should be that 95% of ambition is far better than 105% of conservatism!

d. Quality : Aim to be the best as defined by the consumer.

e. Speed : Do everything on time, in full, and as per the expectations of consumers.

f. Innovation : Always look for ways to make processes and outcomes simpler and faster to deliver.

In the final analysis, the role of HR will be instrumental in creating the right culture that will in turn enable and institutionalize the above.

In this complex process, what challenges and issues do you expect HR should be ready to address?

SN By definition, humans seek predictability, structure and minimal risks - these are at the root of social organization and business entities are no different. Thus the key challenge to HR is to equip people with the mindset required to take on aggressive challenges and goals, not because someone else gives it to them, but because they believe it is worthwhile. This has to be accompanied by the right skills and capabilities, resources, systems and information to make the entire exercise possible.
Does high performance mean high pressure and more stress on employees? How do you propose to handle this side effect?
SN A high performance focus will inevitably increase stress levels as both the organization and more importantly the individual have greater expectations. This is where the role of HR as Employee Champion comes in - to improve engagement levels, instil a sense of fun, joy and connectedness. Initiatives that aim to develop a whole person will have positive results and help employees identify more closely with the employer.
Having a high performing culture is a matter of direct influence from the top? In such absence, what strategies should HR adopt to keep employees' morale high to maintain high performing culture?
SN In my view it is not possible to create or nurture a high performance culture unless there is visible, constant and articulate endorsement from top management. The rest of the organization will only deliver to the lowest common factor of top management expectation. It is imperative that HR drive this sensibility among top management to instil a strong urgency and drive for performance and results across the business, while taking the specific steps necessary for individuals to take risks and attempt to go beyond what has been delivered earlier.

In organisations having diverse workforce and multi generational effect where technology is fast coming in to mainstream employee processes, what kind of obstacles and psychological blocks you foresee in creating high performing culture and their possible solution?

SN Diversity and technology in my view will not by themselves obstruct or challenge a high performance culture. At worst there may be a short term disruption in performance as employees work through the change management cycle and settle into the 'new normal'. One notable outcome however is that stress levels are on the rise, probably because of the speed of information flows as a result of automation and technology. Aside from looking for organizational solutions, the savvy employee of the future will seek to tap into the diverse experiences in the group and come up with innovative solutions to business problems. Next, employees will need to see for themselves the connection between their efforts and organizational outcomes and this can be helped dramatically by technology, with real-time, high quality information flowing directly to individuals. Third, making the reward ecosystem simple, transparent, competitive and directly linked to performance - both efforts and outcomes - will significantly reduce stress levels. Thus, a high performance culture can very definitely be linked to technology, diversity and manageable stress levels.