Leon NooneThis is a guest post by Leon Noone. Leon helps managers in small-to-medium business to improve on-job staff performance. His ideas are too unconventional for some managers. Find out for yourself at Leon’s blog, Secrets of Managing Employee Performance for Better Business Results, where you’ll be able to receive a free copy of his Special Report “49 Practical Tips for Better People Management in Small-Medium Business”.

You need well trained, competent employees in your workplace. That’s a given. I’ll go so far as to say this: the only way to measure whether training’s successful is on job trainee competence.

If the trainee isn’t competent on the job, your training’s failed. And 95% of the time the trainee is not to blame for training failure.

Is Competence Enough?

If by “competence “we mean “skill”, it isn’t. We all know of highly skilled individuals who were unsuccessful and ineffective. But sometimes we’re blind to the limitations of mistaking skill for competence.

Measuring Competence

We tend to measure competence as repeated demonstration of skill and behaviour. Put simply, if someone can do something well over and over again, we’re satisfied that they’re competent. But that’s not enough at work.

Competence Isn’t Effectiveness

All of us need skillful employees. That’s just the start. If your employees aren’t skillful, you’ll face serious business problems. But you may also face serious business problems even when your employees are highly skilled. If you don’t believe me, consider the teams in the NBA or English Premier League (Soccer). These leagues are replete with players of great, even extraordinary, skill. But few of the teams are successful at their business: winning titles. The same is true in any workplace.

Work As A Social Event

Workplaces are social entities. Work is a social event. Unless you’re a sole trader, you work with people. You know that already. The implications are what can bring us undone.

Social Event Not “Love-In”

It’s absolutely essential that employees work effectively together to help create and sustain a viable business. It is not absolutely essential that the employees “like each other”, “relate well” or “get on together”.

I’ll stick my neck out and say that people who work together effectively will learn to “get on”.  If you’re part of a successful team, you’re far more likely to be tolerant of individual idiosyncrasies than in an unsuccessful team. Merely encouraging staff to “get on” is no guarantee of successful on job performance.

Training And Performance

Well trained, competent staff are necessary. But successful on job performance won’t necessarily follow. Poorly trained staff will damage your business. Well trained staff won’t necessarily improve it. Most staff performance issues relate to what employees “won’t do” rather than what they “can’t do”.

Implications Of “A Social Event”

If you want your employees to be successful and effective you must train them well. But because they work with others, you need to ensure that:

  • They know exactly what performance is expected of them. And “exactly” means  just that: no waffly, high sounding, grandly worded phrases, just clearly expressed, measurable performance standards.
  • They know, understand and accept the job roles and goals of the people they work with. Role and goal conflict is common in the workplace. It causes much interpersonal conflict. The conflict’s merely a symptom. I must know what’s expected of both you and I and both of us must accept that each of our contributions are vital to business success. When that’s the reality, disruptions arising from so called “personality conflicts” will disappear as we focus on co-operation for effective business results.
  • You, as manager, put systems in place that make it impossible for your employees to fail. “If your systems are poor, your people will fail”. It’s as simple as that … and it won’t matter how skillful they are.
  • Your employees not only understand the importance of systems, but are competent to operate them, understand what they exist to achieve and are encouraged to recommend system improvements for better business results.
  • Your remuneration and reward systems reward both successful individuals and teams.
  • You know exactly what performance you expect from your employees and your business:  that’s probably the most important element of “successful and effective”.

The New Employee: A Special Case

Most training effort is usually devoted to the new employee. That’s fair enough. But it’s the new employee who’s most likely to be affected by the social implications. New employees want to “fit in” as quickly as possible. They want to show that they have the skills. As they see it, that’s how they’ll gain respect from their more experienced workmates. New employees need the support of effective systems and clear roles and goals to help them settle and become effective contributors quickly.

Redefining Competence

For effective and successful employee performance, competence means much more than demonstrating skill. Your training must reflect the social realities of the workplace. The basic human unit in the workplace isn’t the individual. It’s the team. Workplaces are comprised of individuals. But the teams determine effective and successful performance. It’s the manager’s role to create that.

Conclusion

Businesses fail for many reasons. In some cases the best systems, skills and people won ‘t make much difference. Training alone, no matter how well done, will not lead to successful and effective on job performance.

Remember  that work is a social event. Managers who understand the social implications of the workplace will always have a better chance of running a successful business than those who don’t.

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