Do You Have a High Performing Workplace?

At the Australian Financial Review’s (AFR) Leadership Conference in August this year the audience was provided a taste of results from research which identified the leadership, culture and management practices that characterise high performing workplaces. The project was also featured in the October 2011 issue of AFR’s Boss Magazine. The 65-page research report is available online from SKE, Society for Knowledge Economics. Links are at the end of this article.
What follows are some of the key points, extracts, quotes and highlights from the report.

The Leadership, Culture and Management Practices of High Performing Workplaces in Australia: The High Performing Workplaces Index

This 2.5 year project was funded by the Workplace Innovation Fund within the Federal Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) in December 2009 and project managed by the Society for Knowledge Economics (SKE). The research began in March 2010 and was undertaken by a cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of New South Wales, Australian National University (ANU), Macquarie University and Copenhagen Business School (CBS).
The researchers worked with 78 Australian organisations from the services sector to identify and analyse what constitutes a high performing workplace. 5,661 employees participated in the research (senior executives, middle management, frontline management and non-managerial employees).
16% of the sample (12 organisations) are rated in the HPW category and 17% (13 organisations) are in Lower Performing Workplace (LPW) category.

The HPW (High Performing Workplaces) Index

Organisational performance was assessed using 18 performance measures in six categories:
1. Innovation
2. Employee Experience
3. Fairness
4. Leadership
5. Customer
6. Profitability and Productivity

Highlights / excerpts from the report

Productivity: HPWs are more productive and are nearly three times more profitable than LPWs
Innovation: HPWs have higher levels of innovation outputs, generate more new ideas, have in place more mechanisms for capturing ideas from employees, have more formal processes for assessing and responding to ideas from employees, are more successful at transforming ideas into new products/services, processes and dedicate significantly more resources to fund new strategic initiatives.

Employee Experience: HPWs have lower levels of employee turnover, higher levels of job satisfaction and employee commitment; employees are more involved with their organisation, exert extra effort in their jobs, and are more likely to tell their friends that their organisation is a great place to work. Employees have lower levels of anxiety, worry, fear, depression and feelings of inadequacy and higher levels of positive emotions, such as feeling valued, proud, cheerful, optimistic and loved.

Fairness: HPWs have higher levels of fairness. These include distribution of rewards and fair implementation of company procedures and policies by managers.

Leadership: Supervisors and managers in HPWs spend more time and effort managing their people, have clear values and ‘practice what they preach’, give employees opportunities to lead work assignments and activities, encourage employee development and learning, welcome criticism and feedback as learning opportunities, give increased recognition and acknowledgement to employees, foster involvement and cooperation amongst employees, have a clear vision and goals for the future, and are innovative and encourage employees to think about problems in new ways.

Customer Experience: HPWs are better at understanding customer needs and are curious to learn new things from customers. They act on customers’ suggestions and feedback; do whatever it takes to create value for customers, and are better at achieving their customer satisfaction goals.
“This suggests that any organisation wishing to transition to a HPW would have to improve the management, development and measurement of its intangible assets.” (page 9 of the report)

Specifics

The report details questions/statements used for all six categories. For example, Employee Experience and Leadership are listed below.

Employee Experience – the HPW Index comprises these areas:

Effort: I am willing to put a great deal of effort beyond that normally expected to help this organisation be successful
Effort: I would accept almost any type of job assignment in order to keep working for this organisation
Effort: This organisation really inspires the very best in me in the way of job performance
Membership: I tell my friends that this organisation is a great place to work
Membership: I am proud to tell others that I am part of this organisation
Membership: For me this is the best of all possible organisations to work for
Values and Purpose: My personal values and the organisation’s values are very similar
Values and Purpose: I really care about the fate of this organisation
Values and Purpose: I believe in the overall purpose of this organisation
Turnover Intention: I do not plan on leaving this organisation soon
Job Satisfaction: Overall, how satisfied are you with your current job?

Also measured were positive emotions (optimistic, proud, valued, loved, cheerful) and negative emotions (anxious, worried, depressed, inadequate, fearful). Positive emotions are much more prevalent in HPWs whereas negative emotions are more prevalent in LPWs.

The most prevalent emotions in HPWs are feeling proud, followed by feeling valued, optimistic and cheerful.

The greatest difference between HPWs and LPWs is in feeling proud, followed by feeling valued. Employees in HPWs are proud of their organisations and feel valued by their colleagues and, importantly, by their immediate supervisor.

Leadership – the HPW Index comprises these areas:
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor has a clear vision or goal for the future of this organisation
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor is clear about his/her values and demonstrates the values
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor is highly competent in his/her role as a leader of the organisation
Authenticity: My immediate supervisor responds well to feedback and criticism
Developmental: My immediate supervisor supports and encourages staff development and learning
Developmental: My immediate supervisor gives recognition and acknowledgement to staff
Developmental: My immediate supervisor fosters involvement and cooperation among staff
Developmental: My immediate supervisor is innovative and encourages thinking about problems in new ways
Developmental: My immediate supervisor gives people opportunities to lead work assignments and activities
People Management: My immediate supervisor prioritises people management as a number one priority

“High performing organisations are not just much more profitable and productive, they also perform better in many important “intangible attributes”, such as encouraging innovation, leadership of their people, and creating a fair workplace environment.” (Steve Vamoz, SKE President, from the report’s foreword)

“SKE president Steve Vamos says the report is a call to action. “It provides clear evidence that improving Australia’s productivity – or effectiveness at work and performance of our workplaces – is and will be largely a function of our commitment to developing leadership and management capabilities across organisations in our economy.” ” (AFR Boss Magazine, October 2011)

Links
SKE, Society for Knowledge Economics
SKE media release and link to report
AFR Boss Magazine  – Boss Magazine is published on the second Friday of each month and provided free with the Australian Financial Review

Acknowledgement: Thank you AFR!

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