Pearls of excellence Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009

Repeating a business process again and again may get the job done and even meet desired business goals, but repetition can also mire an organization waist deep in the status quo, preventing it from driving toward a culture of excellence.

So, how can companies punch a hole in the box and change course?

“You need to align the work activities with the business needs in lieu of sticking with the traditional job functions,” says Dana Chatelain, SPHR, an employee relations professional with SCI Companies. “This leverages employees’ strengths and improves engagement while focusing on the bottom line.”

Smart Business spoke to Chatelain to learn more about hiring and training A-players, fostering a people-first culture and breaking out of the status quo to build synergy and a competitive edge.

What elements of hiring and training are building blocks for a culture of excellence?

You’re looking specifically for your highest performers, or what I call your A-players. Start off by benchmarking current employees to determine the skills and competencies needed for A-players within your organization. This benchmark should guide the company during the hiring and performance management processes allowing for only A-players. Eliminate employees who are not meeting the needs of your culture, and those who consistently perform below your standards.

It’s also crucial to promote and build a learning organization, where everyone is striving to be their best, learning new and changing industry particulars and understanding the impact of the economy on the organization. Encourage an entrepreneurial spirit within individuals utilizing a performance-based compensation plan to continuously motivate people.

Align all positions, training objectives and performance measures to the business goals of the company so that everyone sees their role in the overall success or failure of the company.

How does this lead to committed, enthusiastic employees and an energized organization?

A-caliber employees thrive in an environment where expectations and standards are high. They need to know how their performance is going to tie in to departmental and company business goals. Knowing this information will help them remain committed, enthusiastic and energized for the organization’s purpose. Giving employees the knowledge, providing them with the tools and resources to perform their jobs in a successful manner, and offering fair and equitable compensation helps build and retain motivation. They can keep their eyes on short-term plans as well as long-term plans for personal and organizational success.

Considering the current economic pressures, how can companies foster a culture of excellence that puts people first?

Layoffs can be a touchy situation for companies. Careful consideration must be given to eliminating nonessential personnel and wasteful work. Even A-players can get a bad taste and become underperformers if transitions are not adequately managed.

Putting people first means providing meaningful work and measuring how that work helps the company achieve success. Communication is key. Sharing the results of these measures with employees so they are knowledgeable regarding where the business is going and what they are doing will help the business achieve these results. Offer fair compensation. Keep employees engaged in looking for ways to increase the bottom line while consistently working smarter. They may be able to move along your company philosophy, return on investment, whatever it may be, because more often than not, these individuals have the day-to-day, hands-on experience that can eventually help improve the company and eliminate waste.

What are the dividends of developing satisfied employees?

Employee satisfaction should have a positive return on investment because the tangible and intangible costs of turnover can have a huge impact on business. Developing an inclusive corporate culture that informs and empowers employees to be part of the overall success of the company creates an environment of engagement where you have a reduced cost of turnover and increased productivity.

What are first steps to reframing an organization’s strategy to reach new and higher levels of excellence?

We hear a lot about stepping outside of the box. My philosophy is not only stepping out of the box, but also stepping away from the status quo, eliminating the waste and looking at things in a different way. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut thinking things have to be done a certain way, but there are actually multiple ways of doing them if you’re truly open to ideas, which will help to eliminate some of the waste. Re-engineering and diversifying your positions outside of the traditional roles to allow employees to become part of the business solution will make a significant impact on the business. Challenge employees and offer them opportunities to engage in meaningful projects. A-players will deliver in environments that provide opportunities to step outside of the norm.