29/11/2012 07:22 GMT | Updated 28/01/2013 05:12 GMT

12 Steps to a Superstar Workforce

This week is 'Cyber Week', the week after Thanksgiving, when online retailers see a large increase in their e-commerce website traffic. Coupled with Christmas parties and other festive frivolities, this time of year is notorious for wandering attention among your usually dedicated staff, as they sneak a peek at the Christmas bargains on Amazon and Ebay.

But don't ruin everyone's festive high morale by slapping on an internet ban! We often find that poor performance at work results from vague or unachievable goals, poor leadership or inconsistent HR and staff management policies. Here is my twelve-step plan to creating a high performance culture in a positive way:

(1) Give a clear DIRECTION as well as GOALS

Ask someone to plan a route from Sheffield to Skegness and they would know the main goal of the exercise. But there are three main routes, so unless you also give them direction - i.e. lowest mileage, fastest time, or most scenic route - they may not give you the route you wanted. Time spent repeating the process = lost time and reduced productivity.


What's the point of going to Skegness? In 2005, Yours Magazine voted Skegness the best place to retire in the UK. If your vision is to establish a chain of seaside retirement homes on the East coast, then regular trips to Skegness make much more sense. What is YOUR vision? Make it clear, bold and inspiring. And involve your staff!


What is your purpose in life? Get down to the nitty gritty with this one. Your mission statement should put it right out there - don't be shy! The McDonald's mission is: "To provide the fast food customer with food prepared in the same high quality manner worldwide that is tasty, reasonably priced and delivered consistently in a low key décor and friendly atmosphere." You might not find it tasty, but their fast food customers obviously do. Everything about McDonald's is carefully planned out and their staff know exactly what is expected of them. Do yours?


"The way we do things around here." Values shape your culture and let staff know how to behave. Examples might be: Teamwork. Excellence. Leadership. But always back this up with examples of what good "teamwork, excellence and leadership" looks like. Then tell everyone! (Subconsciously.) If you do this bit well, customers will actively seek you out based on shared values. Innocent is great at this.


If potential candidates for your advertised vacancies already know what kind of company you are (from your values and culture), you will attract this kind of person into the organisation through effective recruitment. Your mission and vision will become self-fulfilling prophecies, and applicants will self-select on this basis. Result? You gain a highly motivated and committed team who work well together AND you reduce staff turnover and training costs.


By following the steps above, you will help people to identify what WINNING looks like. So many companies we work with expect people to instinctively know what winning is. Clue: they don't! Make sure your KPIs match your service offer. If "delivering exceptional customer service" is part of your mission, don't give your customer service team maximum call duration KPIs. Mismatched KPIs and objectives = demotivated staff. Commitment then dwindles, performance decreases and staff turnover increases.


Culture can be a woolly area for many organisations, especially as it often evolves over time, and may be led by the strong personalities of one or two individuals. But it's important to recognise and define your culture so everyone knows the accepted patterns of behaviour.


It's not as dull as it sounds! To know what a high-performing Superstar looks like, you need a baseline to measure from. A competency framework is a great place to start. This 'behaviour roadmap' will help individuals to understand what success looks like and how they can reach it. And SMEs can create one without tons of paperwork. Competencies should be both functional (required by the job role, e.g planning and organisation - project management, resource planner) and behavioural (required by the post holder, e.g. exhibits confidence - sales)


Now you've introduced your framework, make sure you put it into action and regularly benchmark against it. I really mean it when I say people should look forward to a performance review. Employees should know that they will be listened to (it may be an opportunity for them to get some more training and career development time), and it is a chance for managers to get to know their staff even better.


People are different, and so are your reactions to them as managers. You might like bubbly networkers, but don't forget about the reserved individual who comes in and leaves on time but still gets all of their work done. It's important to think about the types of behaviour you need to see demonstrated in your business. This isn't about personality, but about demonstrations of ability. So don't ask for "bubbly", ask for "able to build relationships quickly" you can still do this without being bubbly).


Reward for exceptional behaviour, not 'the norm'. People are paid to come to work and do their job so don't give attendance allowances or shoe money - rewards should be reserved for effort that goes above and beyond.


It is said that every great leader is always training up their replacement. Embody everything you want your employees to aspire to, and put points 1-11 into action and you'll be well on your way. In order to foster leadership skills in others, you should: communicate (everything), empower and engage your staff, and lead by example. To foster motivation and engagement, leaders need to ask questions, and be prepared to listen.

True empowerment takes time. Dynamics change as new members join the team. But to create a truly exceptional high-performance workforce, the whole organisation has to see itself as a team, not individual departments. Everyone has to be working equally towards the same goals. If you put my twelve-step plan into action in your organisation, you should find yourself surrounded by high-performing superstars in no time!