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Learn from the best: case studies of high performance

Our latest research identifying the 7 organisational habits that drive high performance is based on data from over 100,000 employees responses from around 200 organisations. We also interviewed 10 CEOs from the highest performing organisations to see if what their employees were saying was, in fact, reality.

The interviews demonstrated that there was a strong link between the CEO’s analysis of the organisation’s actual performance and their employees’ perceptions. None of the CEOs were complacent or entirely satisfied with their organisation’s achievements, but they believed that they were progressing well and performing better than most of their competitors or peers (confirming their status as high performing organisations).

Below are three case studies of high performance organisations that adopted strategies in support of the seven organisational habits. They experienced an increase in employee engagement, productivity and performance.

1.   Communicate clear strategies and goals (habit 2)

The CEO of a public sector client was struggling to get employee buy-in for their organisation’s newly rolled out strategic direction. He was becoming increasingly frustrated that staff members could not answer the question, “what is our strategic intent?” The traditional means of communicating strategic decisions via the end of month employee recognition event and through the internal newsletter weren’t working. To solve this problem he initiated two new actions.

Firstly, posters were put up around the organisation communicating its main goals. Secondly, every manager was instructed to have a one-on-one conversation with their direct subordinates about their role and how it contributes to the strategy. Summarising the organisation’s main goals in writing for the posters forced clarity and preparation for the manager discussions and assisted the team’s collective pursuit of strategic imperatives relevant to them. Now when the CEO asks people what the strategic direction is, they can not only recite it, but say what they are working on to achieve it!

2.   Genuinely care for your people (habit 5)

One organisation we assisted recently was facing a revenue and expense squeeze. Previously, in a similar situation, they had cut costs by making people redundant and employee morale had suffered. This time, the leadership team took into account the feedback from their recent employee survey and associated focus groups. As a result, they informed their people of the situation at hand and gave each office and department a target for cost control with an opportunity for employees to contribute ideas.

The impact was impressive with employees taking ownership and arranging a range of measures including: leave without pay, shorter working weeks, cost reduction programs and business improvements. Costs were contained and the need for redundancies averted. Interestingly, even though people were working harder, employee engagement visibly improved. By asking employees to help solve the problem the company was able to continue building its inclusive culture. Furthermore, the organisation reduced the risk of breaking the psychological contract with its employees by involving them in developing solutions.

3.   Listen and adapt to your customers’ needs (habit 6)

The employees of a call centre within a services organisation consistently rated lowest on satisfaction and engagement in the annual employee survey. Further investigation into the employee comments indicated the employees felt unprepared to deal with difficult and impatient customers. As a result, the Director of People and Culture implemented training in customer resolution, which was conducted on a regular basis. Employees were also encouraged to share their experiences with other employees on how they resolved certain incidents. A wall was erected in the call centre area displaying tips on how to deal with difficult customers and to share positive experiences, which made the call centre employees feel more empowered and enabled in a pressured environment. This enhanced their engagement levels.


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