The untapped lever in your strategy

The Board meeting that none of us relish, things aren’t going so well, revenues are down and the business is facing its greatest challenges. Where do we look to resolve our challenges? Sales, we need to double down on high growth clients, what are the pipeline opportunities. Our brand doesn’t resonate with particular segments of clients, marketing you need to turn things around out with a new ad campaign. Finance, a cost analysis to highlight the areas we can cut costs without hurting our operational activities. Technology, we need to review what projects to stop for this year. Finally, we look to HR. HR, a recruitment freeze effective immediately, lets control headcount, new sign off processes needed.

Really, that’s all we get! Is this the only way the business perceives that HR can help in a revenue crisis? The people agenda is the engine that runs all the functions. It’s people who will come up with the new marketing proposition/brand campaign, people who will ultimately analyze the costs and spot the opportunities and people who make sales. The real question for our board rooms to address is how do we optimize the people agenda to drive the revenue growth we need.
It’s rarely about getting more from the top performers, our old ‘reliables’ who deliver every time but ultimately will burn out for having to carry the weight of the organizations expectations. It’s not through managing the bottom performers who will drain your time and energy in exiting them from the organization. But where you will get your real return from the people agenda? The answer lies in your average employee. The core, the reliable, the one who always got a 3 in their performance rating, fully meeting expectations. What if we could accelerate their performance by just 1%, the impact of the core performing at a higher level has an exponential impact on the future growth of your organization.
So why in HR do we obsess about the top talent and the bottom 10%, have we neglected to consider how we really drive performance from the core and the majority of your organization. What if that middle section of your traditional bell curve, the 60-70% of folks who sit in the middle, delivered just 1% more; made one more sale, delivered one more marketing win, reached one more customer with their campaign, found one more opportunity for cost saving, delivered one more dollar on every customer you have. The impact on your bottom line is inevitably going to be greater than the impact from leaning on your old reliable talent heroes to come rescue your company just one more time, ..before they break.
So if you are to focus on your core employees, how do we get the additional 1%? Firstly, they would have to know that you need an additional 1% from them, setting the expectation, creating the stretch goal. When we’re clear what it is they need to deliver, we’ve got to give them feedback on how they can develop to deliver it. Our feedback processes are traditionally recognition driven, it’s time to shift them to growth oriented feedback. Giving the kind of feedback that delivers recognition but in parallel offers developmental opportunities too. Not an annual discussion on what course we should send you on but a continuous flow of feedback that identifies where they can improve or deliver just that little bit more, that all important 1%.
We all want to give people the opportunity to be great, navigating them to their true potential. Growth oriented feedback is the map they need to focus their direction. Maybe you won’t get an additional 1% from this, but just maybe you’ll get an additional 10. So, next time you are in a Board meeting, and the business has some challenges, how about starting with the people agenda.

Author: Aisling Teillard, CEO Tandem