A high performance culture looks different at every company, but there are some qualities that you will find across all industries. A few key characteristics include:
- A commitment to developing strong leaders
- The ability to embrace change and act quickly
- A strong strategy for continuous improvement
These are just a handful of examples; for a comprehensive list check out The 10 Qualities of a High Performance Culture. Once you have identified the attributes you want to develop within a company, the trick is to build the culture in a way that it becomes ingrained. A high performance culture is not marked by a single success, but by an overarching change in behaviors and attitudes.
Building a High Performance Culture
The ultimate goal of a high performance culture is to have every individual contributing to their fullest. This is a lofty goal, but it is achievable if you take the right approach. In order for every individual in the company to adopt this mindset, they have to want to do it. You can’t just expect people to enthusiastically embrace your ideals for the company. It has to come from within, and it’s up to leadership to bring this out in every employee.
Plan the Transformation
When you’re in the business of changing hearts and minds, you can’t just wing it. Whether you are aware of it or not, even the most charismatic leaders always have a plan. The first step is to define your current culture and compare it to where you want to be. Identify the gaps and determine the behaviors that need to change, be eliminated, or introduced for the company to shift into a higher gear.
A culture transformation requires more than just putting your ideas on paper; you must have a plan for training, communication, and measurement. All of the key stakeholders (executives, line managers, human resources, etc.) must be on the same page about the goals for the transformation and the strategy for making it come to life. Work together to determine what training resources are necessary, how you will communicate throughout the process, and the various roles and responsibilities of the change management team. Create a timeline with milestones to ensure accountability and so you can measure success along the way.
Deploy Your Plan
The key element of successfully implementing a transition to a high performance culture is communication. Kick off your plan by clearly communicating why you are initiating the transition, what changes you expect to see, how you plan to get there, and when you will start to see measurable changes. For example, you might say that you want to see a 5% growth in profitability each year for the next three years so you can invest more resources into the company and increase capacity. To do this you need to improve productivity, so everybody will participate in a series of training activities to give them the necessary skills for managing their time, working effectively in teams, and improving internal processes. Training sessions will start rolling out immediately and you expect to see some measurable changes within the next two quarters.
Communication doesn’t end after the initial kick-off event. In order to keep individuals engaged and enthusiastic, you must communicate often and throughout the entire process to let them know how well the team is doing, what the next steps are, and what they can expect in the future. The more prepared people are for change, the more seamless it will feel.
It is crucial for individuals to feel invested in the process from beginning to end. Remember that you are trying to change their hearts and minds. Nothing will close a mind faster than an executive order to simply change the way things have always been done. However, when individuals have the opportunity to participate and provide feedback, they are more inclined to do whatever they can to ensure success.
Measuring the benefits of committing to a high performance culture will allow you to determine whether you are on the right track so you can make corrections along the way. It is also important to celebrate successes to keep individuals motivated. If your goal is to have every individual enthusiastically firing on all cylinders, showing them that their efforts are worth it will help them stay engaged.
In some cases there will be financial metrics you can use to measure progress, and in other cases the shift is more intangible and you will have to use other metrics like employee satisfaction levels, turnover rates, missed deadlines, contribution of new ideas, and performance reviews.
Maintain the Change
When building a high performance culture you don’t just meet your goal and then revert back to the old ways. You constantly build on your successes and strive for continuous improvement. Some of the tactics you can use to maintain a high performance culture include:
- Keep up the culture of accountability
- Celebrate successes and recognize individuals
- Recruit new employees who are aligned with the culture
- Gather feedback on a regular basis
- Make sure leadership continues to embody the cultural ideals