People Centered Management
No single managerial practice can be singled out as a panacea for performance improvement. But there are principles we can apply that have been tried and tested in different contexts, in a variety of areas:
Work design - practices that enhance employee autonomy and control lead to job satisfaction-engagement, reduced absenteeism and increased well being.
Employee participation and empowerment similarly leads to improvements through enhanced motivation, quality improvement and taking ownership of goals/outcomes. Control over one's job (autonomy), task variety, clarity in expectations, along with a "meaning quotient" (preferably linking one's job to broader organizational aims) can go a long way towards creating and sustaining positivity in both attitudes and behavior.
Then comes the critical area of learning and development that includes the acquisition of knowledge and skills through training and feedback. Research findings consistently point to the positive effects of enhancing skills and self confidence which in turn results in higher productivity and a range of desirable extra-role behaviours.
Also, performance management practices such as providing regular feedback combined with participative goal setting instils an organizational climate for support and fairness, without which disengagement can easily set in. Indeed, when coupled with organizational incentive systems and processes (fair performance appraisal systems, clarity around individual goals, and empowerment of employees) these tend to foster higher levels of motivation.
So, creating the conditions for engagement calls for the deployment of virtually the full range of managerial competencies, in addressing different psychological processes (cognition, affect and behavior) just as a good coach can bring out the best in athletes. It requires a mindset that recognizes that employees’ fulfilment and well-being should be a core organizational goal that can contribute to win–win outcomes, the true test of managerial competence.
More on this critical topic in future blog posts.