There is an apparent disconnect in performance measurement. Today, agencies measure two discrete things: the performance of the agency and the performance of the individual. The thought is that those are connected – after all, leaders cascade performance objectives and targets, so theoretically, if everyone meets performance objectives, then the organization will be successful, right? Well, not quite.
In today’s work environment, organizational performance cannot be defined as simply the sum of individual performance.
Traditionally, organizations have used performance systems to clearly define SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely) objectives to break down performance requirements for each individual. The idea is that, if goals are defined for the individual, then the reverse can also be done – aggregate results and meet the organization’s mission, goals and objectives.
While this effort helps to clearly articulate what each employee is responsible for, it is often siloed; these objectives specifically focus on individual task contribution and not the work that needs to happen with others or across teams. The challenge that is created is that individual task contribution is measured and recognized, but it doesn’t always take into consideration how work actually gets done.
The reality is that work itself has changed. In a CEB survey of over 23,000 employees, 67 percent report increased collaboration and 50 percent report increased reliance on others just to get their job done. In fact, the average employee works with between 10 and 20 people every day on what were formerly known as “individual tasks.” Today, any given project’s component parts now span different business units or at least involve various roles across teams, and individuals have to be able to cooperate with these other contributors and work effectively with them to accomplish it.
In other words, individual tasks are not so individual anymore, and how agencies manage performance requires a shift in what they ask their workforce to do, how they prepare them to deliver performance amongst growing business demands and how performance will be measured.
Complicating matters, organizations are continually raising performance expectations and need more from their workforce than ever before. Across the globe, government leaders report a need for 18 percent improvement in performance from their workforce just to meet baseline expectations. However, employees are hitting their limits – 88 percent report that their workload has increased and 55 percent report they have too little time to complete their work.
All of these issues feed into the work that is currently underway across the Canadian public service through Destination 2020 and the Treasury Board Secretariat’s efforts to improve performance management. These efforts position the workforce to achieve this increased need for performance while also recognizing the changes to the work environment. In a February 2014 progress report for Destination 2020, 76 percent of employees reported a desire for more innovation, networking and improved infrastructure within the public service and with external stakeholders to support a more collaborative workforce for the future of the Canadian public sector.
With this new reality – increased need for collaboration and innovation matched with higher performance expectations – the question becomes: how do agencies drive productivity and performance when individual performance is no longer enough? The answer lies within a new type of performance – enterprise contribution.
Defining enterprise contribution
Traditionally, to improve performance, organizations focused on improving the ability of an individual to complete tasks, focusing on productivity metrics like on-time completion or output production as a way to extract higher performance. However, by deconstructing what high performance looks like within the realities of a highly complex, interconnected environment, research has found that those employees who are the most successful in this type of environment contribute something more than just high individual performance.
Specifically, these individuals are enterprise contributors. They are set apart by their ability to not only produce high individual performance, but also their effectiveness at “network performance,” or more specifically, contributing to others performance and the use of others’ contributions to improve their own.
Less than 20 percent of employees today are enterprise contributors, giving both the public and private sector plenty of room to improve. Demographics like age, gender and education do not help to explain an employee’s ability to balance individual and network performance. Rather, it’s employees’ effectiveness at core competencies like prioritization, teamwork, organizational awareness and problem-solving that determine how effective they will be.
The good news is that the core competencies identified in the public service Standard Service Performance Agreement, such as “thinking things through” and “working effectively with others,” align to those competencies that determine enterprise contribution. However, in order to achieve the full potential impact that the organizational environment has on enterprise contribution, agencies must define more acutely what the competencies mean for them. By using real-life examples, agencies will be better equipped to promote, integrate and recognize this kind of performance.
Measuring enterprise contribution
Integrating enterprise contribution into performance measurement systems is challenging. The words collaboration, teamwork and coordination flood today’s work environment, but little has changed in how performance is measured. A majority of organizations continue to focus on individual contributions as the sole input for performance evaluations, creating a paradox in the performance system: the workforce is told they need to collaborate, but they are measured on individual contribution.
The most successful organizations work to balance competition on the individual front with the need for cooperation, emphasizing the successes of enterprise contributors in performance reviews and across different business units. Yet, it’s not as simple as telling the workforce to do something different. Instead, these organizations show individuals how to be successful and work to draw consistent parallels between what is needed and expected from performance and what is measured.
To do this effectively, the best organizations design performance management strategies tailored toward helping employees understand the impact of enterprise contribution. There are several steps agencies should take when designing these types of strategies:
1. Navigate role complexities: Managers play a critical role in everyday performance management, and specifically in helping employees understand how to be enterprise contributors. The best managers navigate, not simplify, role complexities to enable employees to identify opportunities for enterprise contribution that move beyond collaboration.
2. Filter collaboration opportunities: Enterprise contributors do not collaborate for collaboration’s sake. Rather, they focus on opportunities where they will be able to use and contribute to the agency to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Agencies that are best at building enterprise contributors equip teams to filter contributions to and from the agency to determine which have the most impact.
3. Incorporate influence of peers in performance reviews: Instead of only including how an individual contributed to others in reviews, agencies that effectively drive enterprise contribution also help employees see how others contributed to their performance. By embedding peer contribution into self-evaluations, agencies are able to identify how well an individual is working with and through their network to drive performance.
Employee performance has changed and it’s simply not enough to ask people to collaborate with each other to drive organization outcomes. Agencies need to use the performance management system to establish and evaluate performance to bring out what they ultimately need – enterprise contributors.
For the Canadian public service, the implementation of the new government-wide performance management system offers a unique opportunity for agencies to enhance performance and drive towards enterprise contribution. In doing so, the public service can start to shift the reality of the needs of the workforce into the performance system and drive toward more tangible, better outcomes from an overall organization perspective.