Managers are fond of the maxim “employees are our most important asset.” Yet beneath the rhetoric, too many business leaders still regard – and manage – employees as costs. That’s dangerous because, for many companies, people are the only source of long-term competitive advantage. Companies that fail to invest in employees jeopardise their own success and even survival.
The benefits of a high-performance culture
Having worked in recruitment for more than 18 years, I have been privileged to have worked with some fantastic leaders and coaches and I have benefitted from many opportunities to train, learn and develop. I have seen some highs and lows alongside some very good (and very poor) examples of high-performance cultures.
The benefits of a high-performance culture are well documented. Gallup reports that organisations that have made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees. It makes sense. High achieving people (the ones who can grow your business) seek development. And employees have a psychological need to learn and grow as human beings. Development at work satisfies two of the five essential elements of wellbeing by fulfilling a person’s drive for career and social wellbeing. Having a sense of purpose makes people feel great about what they do at work and helps them enrich and deepen their relationships outside of it.
My search for a high-performance culture
Back in 2017 when I made the decision to search for a new opportunity, I wanted to make sure I was making the best decision I could. I wanted to work for a company with vision, purpose and values. A company that resonated with me. Somewhere I would feel a sense of belonging. Somewhere that put people at the heart of what it did and invested in their people and their development.
I found what I was looking for in Hunter Campbell and I joined their team three years ago now.
I had always regarded myself as a high performer – I have been fortunate enough to rack up a number of achievements, accolades and awards over the years. When I joined Hunter Campbell, I was confronted with a new ‘normal’. My previous high standards, performance and achievements were put into a new focus and I found that here I was an average performer. How could this be right? At the time, I had more than 15 years’ recruitment experience and was at the top of my game (or so I thought).
Early on in my career with Hunter Campbell I hit a career-high achievement and to my astonishment, I was not even the best performer for the quarter – I was the third-best performer. This was still a huge accomplishment and one I was very pleased with – though now judged by new and, in my opinion at the time, ridiculously high standards. The fact that I had smashed a personal milestone was equally important to the company and the team around me and was celebrated as if I had been the consultant of the year.
In between working hard to lift my performance and continuing to achieve the new high standards, I observed and reflected on how I found myself in this unexpected situation. The answer was in plain sight – I had not let my standards drop. In fact, my performance had gone up and I was more productive, effective and efficient than I had ever been. I was working in a high-performance culture and everyone was a high performer.
Continuing my journey
Within a short time of joining Hunter Campbell, the benefit of working in an environment where leaders invest in people was really starting to pay off and I found that an old dog can learn new tricks. I had started to think and behave differently. Terms like collaboration, being agile, self-actualisation and achievement became part of my DNA. While everyone has their own style, approach and personality; we all have the core values and high-performance culture in common. This was taken to the next level when I was encouraged to undertake a journey of improvement and self-actualisation through a career coaching, lifestyle and development plan with Human Synergistics.
The course provided a way to see and change my thinking and behavioural style to help drive my performance and contribute more. I have really enjoyed the journey and through professional coaching and support, I have seen many benefits and improvements that I could never have realised on my own. As a result these improvements have benefitted not only me, but Hunter Campbell. Through the support and investment of my employer, I have been able to take my performance to the next level and am excited that my career and welfare is being so well looked after.
A focus on people first
So how does Hunter Campbell create a culture like this? As well as ensuring they recruit the best talent available, they strive to support the team in every way as well as providing opportunities for growth and development.
At Hunter Campbell, I have discovered a new freedom where everyone is given the opportunity to express their views, make suggestions, take on new responsibilities and try new things. Businesses often talk of an open-door policy or career development but not all back this up with walking the talk. Having worked in environments that claim to have a high-performance culture and those that actually do, the difference is palpable.
How to achieve a high-performance culture
So what has my journey taught me about what a high-performance culture is and what it means?
- Creating a high-performance culture means more than adding a few learning programmes and training sessions. It is a long-term plan and a way of being.
- Recruit and retain – it is all well and good getting the right people on board, but the key is to retain them. The best employees will always seek development – and if these opportunities are not available, then they will invariably leave.
- Businesses with high-performance cultures protect their investment in employee development with a focus on employee engagement. They have a strategy in place, commit to it and present employees with opportunities to learn new skills, take on more responsibility and provide a work environment where ideas can be discussed. A happy employee who has a healthy work/life balance, who feels appreciated, who has a sense of belonging and is optimistic for their future is more effective, high-performing and engaged with the business. People won’t stay with an organisation or perform at their best – even if they’re given lots of development and learning opportunities – if they’re not engaged in their work and committed to the company.
- Avoid the most common misunderstanding about development. Companies have typically defined growth and development as a promotion. Often, the employees who are really good at what they’re currently doing don’t necessarily want to be promoted – but they still want growth. Understand each person’s unique talents, abilities, experience and aspirations – find roles, projects and opportunities that allow them to flourish and build their capability, performance and experience. Giving people opportunities to understand themselves, develop what they’re good at and use their strengths every day at work can be more fulfilling than a new job title.
- A high-performance culture is not hard work. Hard work helps of course but putting in consistently long hours and sacrificing your family or leisure time is not high-performance – it is more likely unsustainable and leads to high staff turnover. Provide an environment that values individuals, their time and interests and that encourages results-driven achievement.
- Leaders are actively involved in development – they act as coaches, not bosses. Managers drive culture change and high-performance. They understand how to develop employees and engage them. People are more likely to learn and grow when they receive immediate feedback that is specific and targeted to their development. Managers become the perfect people to coach employees and link them to practical learning and action.
- Everyone owns the culture. A high-performance culture does not happen through meetings, emails, newsletters and values written on websites and office walls. The fundamental drivers are commitment and communication from leadership to high-performance workplace practices that are backed by action.
High achieving employees continuously seek purpose and development. If you provide the right opportunities and the right environment, they won’t have a reason to leave, and you’ll attract even more top talent. Oh, and working in a high-performance workplace is massively enjoyable too.