If we could answer this question, HR leaders may be better equipped to accurately implement recruitment and development practices aimed at growing these specific capabilities, leading to higher levels of confidence within the organisation and an increased likelihood of delivering desired results.
Methodology of The Talented Performer Survey
We surveyed 150 senior leaders, HR directors and L&D managers in a broad cross-section of organisations from Microsoft, Tesco, Samsung, John Lewis, and more. Participants were asked to select the 3 words that best describe the attributes their business currently needs from its most talented performers. At the same time, we asked survey participants to tell us the top 3 business challenges they’re facing in 2013.
90% of the business challenges identified fell into the following categories:
- Delivering consistent, profitable growth through winning new business and effective cost management
- Operating in a highly volatile marketplace, characterised by ambiguity, uncertainty, increased competition and a weak economy
- The need to constantly change and adapt the organisation in order to deal with this volatility
- Recruiting, developing, motivating and rewarding people who are able to survive and thrive in these conditions
- Developing a strong client portfolio and an outstanding reputation for providing exceptional products and services.
Characteristics of high performers
The top 7 attributes required of high performers in order to thrive in these conditions are:
What does this tell us?
‘Communicator’ was considered the most important attribute, selected by 50% of survey participants. Expectations of exemplary corporate behaviour from consumers, customers and communities have changed the game – behave with integrity and communicate with honesty – or don’t expect to be in business for long! Top performers understand this and recognise that the customer experience is the business, not just a component of it.
A high score for ‘accountability’ suggests that business requires all employees to take ownership of the success of the enterprise. Everyone makes a contribution to the goals of the organisation. No half measures, no excuses, no blame – people are either accountable or they are not.
That business requires top performers to be positive, solve problems, and embrace change appears to make sense given the work conditions described above. Delivering impact in a highly volatile and ever-changing environment requires that professionals learn to see challenge and change as an opportunity to test themselves and a route to growth.
How should HR respond?
Planning development activity may seem logical and straightforward when it comes to building capacity in skillset areas such as communication and customer orientation.
But our survey and much of the current research in the area of work performance suggests that mindset factors like a preparedness to embrace change, acting with integrity, developing an aptitude for solving problems, being positive in the face of challenges, and building accountability are more difficult to develop through traditional training approaches alone.
Our work performance is underpinned by the quality of our thinking, emotions, work environment, and energy. Top performers control these elements by making good choices, effective planning and self-regulating. This is about developing themselves as professionals and human beings. It calls for specific long-term practice in these 7 areas, self-reflection and action-learning. It is an inside-out process.
The essential questions for HR departments
- How can we develop people’s capacity to perform right now and continue to help them develop themselves as human beings?
- To what extent do our recruitment processes take account of the likely demands being placed upon new employees?
- Do our people have access to training and coaching that focuses on the 7 key areas identified?
- Do these attributes feature as part of our performance review discussions?
- How can we evaluate our current strength in each of the 7 performance areas and identify mentors that can support others in their development in these specific capabilities?
In order to deliver consistent high performance, our most talented employees need to be well-led and given the space and resources to develop themselves. Different strategies, tools and learning interventions may be necessary to support people right now, and to facilitate growth in the key areas of performance that will deliver desired results in the future.