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10 Skills of the Highest Performers (#3 will surprise you)

By Casey Pechan
June 30, 2014
3 minute read
Skills of Top Performers

Think about yourself. Now think about the people working with and around you. How good are you and your co-workers at:

  1.              Prioritization
  2.              Teamwork
  3.              Organizational Awareness
  4.              Problem Solving
  5.              Self Awareness
  6.              Proactivity
  7.              Influence
  8.              Decision Making
  9.              Learning Agility
  10.               Technical Expertise

The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) says building the next generation of high performing employees requires focusing on a new set of skills. It surveyed managers and employees globally to find the drivers of performance that differentiate those best able to perform in the new work environment and discovered these 10 competencies.

Why Do They Matter?

As businesses pursue “intelligent growth” strategies—meaning increasing revenues and cutting costs simultaneously—more executives are focusing on employee efficiency as a two-edged solution. They want a 20% improvement in performance to meet their business needs, and they think they can get that improvement without the cost of new hires.

Most executives surveyed believe at least 70% of their existing employees have substantial room for improvement. But workers don’t feel that way. In fact, they feel the exact opposite: they’re reaching their limits. Many employees hate work. They’re working longer hours, and harder than ever before, but these extra efforts are not producing extra gains. This mismatch between executives and employees suggests that there are “fundamental shifts in the work environment” happening now.

Modern workplaces are foiling employee efforts to do more—faster. Frequent organizational change is commonplace, but when workers aren’t prepared for change, productivity drops. Frequent change also makes connections difficult to build, and very hard to maintain. While more employees are working in collaborative roles, linked systems and clear direction aren’t always provided. The CEB reports 99% of employees use some technology on the job, but only 40% feel they have the technology they need to be productive.

What Can Be Done?

The best antidotes to drops in productivity and efficiency are adaptability and agility. With more than 67% of employees reporting an increase in active collaboration, there is a heightened need for connectedness and clearer direction.

We know established work processes aren’t helpful when objectives are dynamic. That’s why we must prepare employees for change, and give them the tools to adapt. We must help managers reorient to guiding and empowering their knowledge workers—to helping their employees navigate complex situations, not simplifying them.

Where Do We Start?

The CEB reports that organizations using existing [performance management] methods will likely fail to identify 65% of their new high performing employees. That’s where effective goal-setting software comes in.

With better goal setting and goal achievement insight, organizations can move away from “individual contributions” (e.g., individual work tasks and objectives) to “enterprise contributions.” This is the combination of meeting individual goals and how much network influence individuals have: how much do they improve the performance of others broadly across the organization?

Although individuals need to own their personal objectives, those objectives need to benefit others and the organization as a whole. The reason affects the bottom line: Companies moving employees to enterprise contributions increase profitability by 10%, versus a 5% profitability increase from improving individual performance alone. Proper goal-setting and tracking software can transform enterprise contribution from an abstract objective, into an actionable metric.

If you want to promote high enterprise achievement in your business, develop the 10 traits of new performers, and focus on the following:

  •      Big-picture objectives over process
  •      More autonomy and empowerment by setting clear objectives, providing transparency, and being more flexible
  •      Connecting your employees to the information they need, and letting them use it

As the newest goal scientist at BetterWorks, I’d like to get your perspective on what tips are working for you. Email me at