Part 1: Why is it difficult to deliver high performance in organisations?
“People make the place” (Schneider 1987).
Organisations struggle to deliver high performance not because their leaders are bad, but because they do not often have the right people in the middle. Right people – meaning those demonstrating behaviours, dispositions, inclinations that fit the culture and make team work effective and pleasurable. Those with the right attitudes.
A primadonna or a saboteur?
Much has been written about the limited effectiveness of the CV, the faulty interview process and about the frequent failure of recruitment outcomes. The addition of one or two popular psychometric tests is increasingly included as organisations move beyond simple recruitment techniques. However, even popular psychometric tests come with their own set of very real problems. And the most popular ones OR the really good ones (which is not always the same) measure the whole set of traits, arbitrarily chosen by the test creators and not necessarily what you would want or need to measure in your organisation. So, as a result you may get a very competent, experienced and skilled narcissist or a saboteur.
Technical, managerial, even leadership skills can be learned through company sponsored programs – provided there is the desire and commitment, i.e. the attitudes of employees to do so. Companies also expect employees to have the drive and desire to improve their skills, to practice and develop them over time (attitudes again). However, attitudes cannot be taught. A company cannot make a person into someone other than who they are. Hiring managers in modern, competitive organisations should be seeking talent with the attitudes and attributes that closely fit the particular job requirements as well as the corporate culture. Bear in mind that ‘fit’ very definitely does not mean a ‘clone’. For example organisations seeking high performance may see ‘fit’ as including diversity.
Why do competency frameworks fail?
Many organisations employ a Competency Framework. Such frameworks typically define what an employee has to be able to do (skills), what an employee has to know (qualifications/knowledge) and how and where to deploy such knowledge and skills (experience). However, competency frameworks do not address how highly motivated someone might be to do these things, how stressed they may get and how good they are at handling stress and its impact on the quality of their decision-making processes. Competency frameworks, will not show whether someone is ‘fatalistic’ when things go wrong, or responsible, how much energy and effort they will expend to overcome a bad situation, how motivated they are to make things succeed through thick and thin. A competency framework does not indicate whether an individual is a highly motivated, team engaging, mentally resilient high performer. In short it is no help in guiding understanding of, and/or ensuring you have a high-performance workforce in the heart of your organisation.