How Can You Establish a High-Performance Culture? Here's a 12-Step Recipe for Success
Have you managed to navigate the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and the quiet quitting movement with your workforce still intact, engaged, and productive?
If so, you must be doing something right.
The chances are your organization boasts a high-performance culture. Sounds great, but what does this even mean?
Well, company culture consists of beliefs, values, attitudes, and practices. Still, it's not that easy to measure because it's hard to attach a number to something that's essentially a vibe!
So, going one step further and creating not just any old company culture but a high-performing culture can feel like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
How on earth do people achieve this?
All companies long for high-performing employees, but developing them is no easy feat. A strong culture requires a delicate balance of people, practices, processes, and policies.
And as management consultant Peter Drucker famously said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
This guide reveals the secret of developing your high-performance culture — and hanging on to it!
👀 Why is high-performance culture important?
There are many benefits of having a high-performance culture, but here are some of the most compelling reasons to invest.
Skills depth in high-performance cultures makes companies more profitable
McKinsey research reveals that organizations with high-performing cultures create 3x returns for shareholders. Wow - that's a stat worth listening to.
But why is this the case?
Let's take an example.
Imagine you have an individual contributor with a task that should take one working day to complete, at the cost of $175 to the company. But if that employee doesn't have the required skills to complete the work, the task is passed up the food chain to a higher-level employee. They might finish the job slightly quicker due to their vast knowledge and experience. Still, the increased wage associated with their elevated pay grade means that the company has now paid $250 for the same work.
So what could the company have done differently?
For starters, equipping employees at all levels with the necessary skills and knowledge to become high-performing would save money and ultimately help the company become more profitable.
Two-way feedback cultures encourage idea generation
Leaders respect all employee voices in high-performance cultures. Instead of relying on top-down decision-making, high-performance businesses take a more horizontal approach where everyone's input is considered valuable.
This allows for a more open, creative, and collaborative environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas. When all employees can voice their opinions, it's easier to identify areas for improvement. But perhaps more excitingly, it also throws open the doors for innovation.
High-performance cultures experience less employee turnover
47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021, which Harvard Business Review puts down to five core "R" reasons: retirement, relocation, reconsideration, reluctance, and reshuffling.
While retaining a veteran employee who has decided to retire may be challenging, a high-performance culture can ensure fewer staff members leave for the other four reasons.
In fact, a Columbia University study finds that organizations with poor cultures are 48% more likely to experience high turnover than those who excel in this area.
In a high-performance culture, employees are constantly learning and developing new skills. As a result, they also have opportunities to take on additional responsibilities and progress in their careers, which minimizes the likelihood of boredom and stops employees from seeking new opportunities elsewhere.
Stagnation often causes reconsideration and reshuffling.
For example, no employee wants their skill set to become outdated by doing the same job forever, with no prospect of improvement. The same applies to those that get bored with their work.
Reluctance to return to the office post-COVID or relocating to seek a better work-life balance can also be solved through flexible work patterns such as remote working.
A high-performance culture puts people first and offers perks and benefits that make working for the company more attractive.
➡️ Looking for more ways to save your talent? Check out our 25 employee retention best practices.
Stronger employer brands stem from high-performance cultures
Robert Glazer is the CEO of Acceleration Partners and a Glassdoor Employees' Choice Award winner. In a conversation with Spiceworks, he describes the importance of high-performing company culture on prospective candidates and how they might perceive a company when using an employee review site like Glassdoor.
"In the olden days, prospective employees didn't actually know what it was like to work at a company unless they knew somebody working there already. Aspects of the company's culture and values are [now] shared with prospective employees through honest, anonymous employee reviews, which can be a huge asset or a major drain for a company's recruiting effort.
By having a strong employer brand, you have the opportunity to attract ideal job candidates, and you'll see a lot of applications from candidates who are applying to the company as much as the role."
High-performance cultures produce better customer ratings
Employees align with the company's goals and values in a high-performance culture. They understand the importance of providing excellent customer service and are motivated to deliver positive outcomes.
This customer-centric approach leads to improved customer satisfaction ratings.
In fact, a study by Bain & Company found that companies focused on happy employees also benefit from satisfied customers!
The two are mutually reinforcing, so you can't have one without the other.
🌟 What defines a high-performance culture?
Gartner defines a high-performance culture as "A physical or virtual environment designed to make workers as effective as possible in supporting business goals and providing (creating) value."
A high-performance workplace results from continually balancing investment in:
- physical environment
Plus, it is specific for high-performance workplaces to "measurably enhance the ability of workers to:
- team and lead,
- achieve efficiency and financial benefit."
But to improve your organizational culture in your own business, you'll first need to outline what high performance means – it'll mean different things to different organizations.
For example, a software company might focus on high performance related to innovation and creativity. At the same time, a retail business might value customer service above all else.
Creating clear goals takes a somewhat nebulous idea and turns it into something concrete to work towards. To give you an idea of some common themes, here are a few examples of what a high-performance culture might look like.
Leads with a future-minded leadership
Effective high-performance managers should be focused on strategic planning and thinking about how to stay ahead of the competition. Build this philosophy into your new manager training to ensure a future-facing organization.
Julie Devoll of Harvard Business Review offers some ideas on the C-Suite skills we now need. She explains:
"What companies are looking for in the C-Suite has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Landing a leadership position is no longer about industry expertise or successfully managing financial resources. It's now about a stronger set of social skills.
According to recent research, what companies are really seeking today is leaders who are able to motivate diverse, technologically savvy and global workforces; those who can play the role of corporate statesperson, dealing effectively with all constituents, and whose who can apply their skills in a new company in what may even be an unfamiliar industry."
Clarifies values, purpose, and rituals
A high-performing organization is usually very clear about its values, purpose, and rituals. These elements help to create a shared identity within the company and give employees a sense of belonging. They also provide a clear framework for decision-making and behavior.
Prioritizes human capital
A high-performance culture thrives with people as the company's most important asset. For most businesses, this means investing in employee development and creating a culture of learning.
Tip: Strategies like microlearning are one way you can achieve this.
The idea is that high-performing cultures continuously invest in upskilling and reskilling their teams to bridge any capability gaps.
But going beyond individuals, the teams in a high-performing organization are well-structured and have a clear sense of purpose. They are also highly skilled and have a good mix of complementary talents.
Understands the importance of the entire employee life cycle
Employee experience doesn't begin and end with the onboarding process. However, assimilating new joiners should be a priority so they can ramp up and become productive quickly.
High-performing companies must also continuously strive to improve every stage of the employee life cycle. From attracting top talent to retaining and engaging employees, they understand that each stage is important.
According to Gallup, only 36% of employees are engaged, so there's plenty of ground to make up in this area.
Even during offboarding, high-performing organizations will work to stay in touch with former employees and ensure they have a positive experience.
Offers a holistic approach to performance management
The best companies don't just focus on individual performance; they take a holistic approach that looks at the team as a whole. This includes:
- setting clear goals,
- providing feedback,
- offering development opportunities.
As an alternative to traditional performance reviews, 360-degree reviews are a great way to incorporate guidance and viewpoints from peers, superiors, and even direct reports. 360 reviews offer a more well-rounded way to appraise employee performance.
Benefits from strong communication
Communication is key in any organization, but it's imperative in a high-performing one. Leaders need to share their vision and strategy with employees while also creating channels for two-way communication. This way, employees can give feedback and share ideas.
🪜 12 Steps to developing a high-performance culture in your organization
A high-performance culture relies on feedback, learning and development, and organizational values.
Let's explore 12 best practices to reach your high-performance goals.
Prioritize employee recognition
Motivation goes a long way in creating high-achieving employees.
Tip: Don't ignore that 44% of employees will switch jobs if they fail to get the recognition they deserve.
One way to reinforce positive behavior is by instituting an employee recognition program. This will make your staff feel appreciated, increasing engagement and satisfaction.
But how can they deliver recognition in a way that employees connect with?
Implement continuous feedback
Continuous employee feedback means your team members won't need to wait the best part of a year to receive meaningful input on their performance. Feedback should be immediate, specific, and objective to be most effective. Employees will take these frequent insights about their performance and apply them in real-time to improve their work.
➡️ Learn how to build a winning continuous employee feedback process in 10 easy steps.
360 performance reviews
360-degree performance reviews are an excellent way to gain insights from different perspectives on an employee's behavior. Employees can get a well-rounded view of their performance by hearing feedback from their peers, managers, and direct reports. Additionally, 360-degree reviews ensure that everyone in the company – from the CEO to the newest hire - is held accountable for their actions.
Offer coaching and mentoring opportunities
Learning by example is an effective way for employees to develop new skills. By pairing up more experienced staff members with more recent hires, you can create a mentorship program that helps everyone in the company to grow and develop. Not only will this benefit the mentees, but it will also give mentors a chance to share their knowledge and expertise, honing their leadership skills in the meantime.
Follow this route, and you'll be in great company. MentorcliQ reports that 84% of US Fortune 500 companies use mentoring programs, increasing to 100% of Fortune 50 companies. Need an even better reason? Those who committed to mentoring saw better profits during the 2020 Covid-19 economic downturn.
Empower employees to learn in the flow of work
Thought leader Josh Bersin believes that the biggest barrier to learning in organizations is not time or money but rather the fact that we try to do it in a dedicated way outside the flow of our work.
In other words, we tend to see learning as something that happens in training sessions or workshops rather than integrated into our daily work lives.
To change this, Bersin recommends creating opportunities for employees to learn in the flow of work. This means giving them access to bite-sized training resources they can use when needed rather than taking them out of the workplace to meet their L&D goals.
Motivate employees to work towards specific goals
It's not enough to simply tell employees what they need to do and achieve. You need to give them a reason to do it.
What are your team's goals, and how will achieving them benefit the company?
Simultaneously, what's in it for the employees?
This has been a huge question for workers during the Great Resignation who need to know they're progressing toward their own career goals while succeeding for the company.
Tip: To keep everyone on track, link specific, measurable goals to individual career development plans to ensure a high-performing culture that motivates employees.
Create an inviting and enabling work environment
Our physical or virtual environment greatly impacts our mood and motivation.
For example, suppose employees feel stuck in a dreary, cramped office with no natural light. In that case, they will not be enthusiastic about coming to work every day.
And for remote workers who feel they constantly have to check in with their managers or feel like they're not a part of the workplace culture, it can be easy to start looking for a new job.
But what's the best way to determine how your employees feel? Ask them, of course.
Tip: Collect valuable employee insights (anonymously as needed) through pulse surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, or employee engagement surveys to help identify any common issues. And don't forget to act on the data!
Encourage risk-taking, innovation, and experimentation
For employees to take risks, you need to create an environment where failure is okay. Failure is a springboard for new learning experiences, so it's vital to give employees the freedom to experiment and try new things without fearing punishment if it doesn't work out.
As an employer, provide the resources your employees need to be successful. This might mean giving them access to new software or technology or delivering training on how to use it.
Create an objective compensation philosophy
Compensation is a key driver of employee motivation, so it's important to get it right. But how do you create a fair compensation philosophy that closes gender and racial pay gaps and motivates individuals to perform at their best?
This might involve conducting pay equity analyses, implementing salary bands, or creating bonus structures. Whatever you decide, make sure you work with data and that you communicate the plan to employees so they understand how their performance influences their compensation.
Promote team cohesion and collaboration
Promote team cohesion by creating opportunities for employees to socialize and get to know each other outside work. After all, high-performing teams don't just work well together – they enjoy working well together.
You could organize social events, company-wide or department-specific, or start a remote working buddy system for employees who work from home. Encourage employees to share their skills and knowledge through mentorship programs or communities of practice.
By promoting team cohesion, you'll create an environment where employees feel comfortable working together and can rely on each other for support.
➡️ Explore these eight steps to building high-performing teams.
Communicate core values and purpose
To improve employee engagement, define the company's "bigger picture" by identifying how each role and goal fits into the puzzle. Do this by sharing the company's vision, values, and strategy at all levels of the organization.
Tip #1: You might also address how the organization plans to address suspected challenges or upcoming industry changes.
In the past, this probably involved sharing long-winded documents and presentations that employees didn't feel connected to or failed to digest. But nowadays, there are much more engaging ways to communicate this information, for example, through interactive videos.
Again, it's all about walking the talk.
Tip #2: Encourage everyone from the top down to embody company values during all employee touchpoints, from the onboarding experience to performance reviews.
Develop inclusive leaders
Leaders play a key role in setting the tone for a high-performing organization and its employees. They must possess superior soft skills to build trust, foster relationships, and communicate effectively. They must also create an environment where everyone feels like they can be themselves without fear of discrimination or retaliation.
Inclusivity is essential to developing these kinds of leaders. And promoting DEI in the workplace will create an environment where everyone can thrive – regardless of background or identity.
Tip: When everyone feels like they belong, they're more likely to engage with their work and perform at their best.
🏢 3 Examples of a high-performance culture
So, who are these high-performance organizations killing it with their strong company cultures? We selected 3 inspirational examples:
Netflix's culture deck includes this persuasive line: "In many organizations, there is an unhealthy emphasis on process and not much freedom." As an alternative, Netflix prioritizes people over processes, providing employees with plenty of space to move quickly and try out new tactics.
The company culture at Slack revolves around expecting people to work super hard and then go home! Employees aren't allowed to use the Slack app after 6 pm or on the weekend, proving how invested the company is in work-life balance. This sense of community is pivotal to Slack's success, with strong communication and continuous feedback also central features of the culture.
Candid two-way communication is key to AirBnB's culture. There's also a rule that employees must never hear company news externally until they receive it internally. Further, all employees have access to written notes at every executive leadership meeting just 24 hours afterward. How's that for transparency?
➡️ Create a high-performance culture by enabling employees with Zavvy
The only thing left to do is to launch your own high-performance culture, and you can use Zavvy's powerful suite of tools to accelerate the process.
- 🚀 Onboarding: Great experiences from day one will enable your employees to hit the ground running as soon as they're in-seat.
- 🌱 Development: Make career growth a priority to retain your top talent. You'll offer employees the breadth of skills to progress in their careers while ensuring they support company goals.
- 🔄 360 Feedback: Gather enriching feedback from a cross-section of your organization to make recognition and continuous learning a natural part of the day.
- 👥 Connection: Match like-minded people for walking meetings or coffee chats to supercharge the social element of your company culture.
- 💪 Manager training: Equip your senior teams with the necessary tools to become future-facing leaders.
Ready to reap the benefits of a high-performance culture? Arrange a free demo with Zavvy today.