Do a quick Google search for “high-performing employees” and you’ll see all sorts of results:
“Characteristics of a High-Performance Employee”
“Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees”
“Shocking Insights on Your ‘High-Performing’ Employees”
Am I the only one detecting a problem here? If you ask me, it’s exactly this obtrusive perspective that prevents companies from fostering a culture of high-performance. At the end of the day, every employee is a high-performer capable of shaping a meaningful, high-impact workplace. The only difference between employees who rise to the top of their field and those who stay put is a lack of targeted engagement.
Every employee requires a unique form of engagement to operate at full potential. Such is the belief of Business Psychologist Andrew Sillitoe, who argues this may be less of a challenge than business leaders think.
In a recent TedX talk, Sillitoe explored what it takes to tap into the minds of employees to actively engage and create high-performing teams.
A few takeaways stood out to me, and I believe they can be very helpful for fellow hospitality leaders:
Purpose-driven people create teams of purpose: “I think we are losing our purpose in society,” Sillitoe said. “Purpose is about meaning in our life...it’s about connection.” This connection is easily lost when purpose starts to blur. Without purpose, the work your employees do—and subsequently, the impact of your teams—is much less meaningful, if at all.
Research shows that employees who exercise their strengths daily are 8% more productive and 6x more likely to be engaged. Ask yourself: what keeps your associates persistent? What feeds their determination? What are their strengths? The answer will be different for every individual, and it will be much more powerful than simply ‘performing routine job duties.’
Purpose is not about winning: Sillitoe offers himself as an example, having found street hockey at the age of nine. He traveled as part of a competitive inline hockey team across Europe and experienced some big wins. “If you speak to the team and say, ‘tell me about your experience,’ it’s very rare that they’ll talk about the winning,” he explained. “They’ll talk about the sacrifice, they’ll talk about the road trips…the fact that we owned it. We shaped it. It was ours.”
Is there a greater purpose to the actions of your associates, or is it simply to improve satisfaction scores and other performance metrics (a.k.a. to “win”)?
You can’t overlap cultures: When Sillitoe accepted the position as Head Coach for team Great Britain, he noticed the team had become a bit disengaged with playing for their country. He explained that he was ready to go in guns blazing as the new Head Coach to create the same ‘winning’ culture he had experienced in his time playing. “The problem is [that] you cannot take one culture and put it on another. It just doesn’t work,” he said. “There were some things I had to put in place around strategy…but I wanted them to come forward with everything, to thrive and really own it.”
Think of your team of associates: how are they shaping their own story, not one that you’re trying to force on them? Are you creating leaders capable of sustaining change, or limiting employees as followers?
Employee Engagement Isn’t Easy
But it’s worth it on so many levels. For example, research has found that productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees. Meanwhile, connected employees with a sense of purpose have the potential to recover up to $500 billion lost annually due to workplace stress.
Employee engagement cannot function as a one-size-fits-all initiative. Instead of categorizing only some employees as “high-performers,” leaders should foster purpose-driven employees with targeted engagement to create (and sustain) a culture of high-performance.