The 4 Enemies of Employee Effectiveness

By Kenton Bohn, Director of New Business Development

Your enterprise employees will thrive at work — if you remove these 4 obstacles

Every employee in the enterprise has a unique and valuable inventory of talents and experiences. When these contributions are recognized and resourced, they give your company a serious competitive advantage.

In addition to their uniqueness and diversity, enterprise employees represent a massive investment. According to Deloitte, Fortune 500 companies allocate 50–60% of total expenditures on payroll. On top of that, they’re spending more than ever to recruit, train and equip. Given this sizable investment, maximizing employee productivity and effectiveness should be a top priority.

While serving as technology consultants for business and technology leaders, we at Lextech have identified four common barriers to employee effectiveness:

  • Enterprise Workflow Chaos
  • Playing It (Too) Safe
  • Culture Problems
  • Ignoring the Power of Systems

Doing everything in your power to understand, identify and eliminate these barriers will have a profound impact — especially if you have large groups of employees performing similar work activities.

Enterprise Workflow Chaos

While the work of every employee in the enterprise matters, there are often large groups of employees doing similar and very high-leverage work: sales people, field engineers, pilots, mechanics, retail associates.

Ironically, many of these workforces struggle with complicated workflows that often comprise multiple enterprise solutions and systems — each with a different user experience. Many of these solutions were never designed to work together, and they definitely were not made for a specific workforce’s unique work activities. It’s left them in enterprise workflow chaos.

Enterprise workflow chaos is the enemy of employee productivity. It siphons time away from your employee’s individual brilliance and high-value work. It can lead to measurable increases in turnover, and declines in employee and customer satisfaction.

Playing It (Too) Safe

Leaders of digital transformation or employee effectiveness initiatives should be cost conscious and be careful about taking on risk. However, when being prudent causes leaders to automatically evaluate an initiative based on cost and risk instead of impact, these leaders can miss large opportunities.

Low-risk employee effectiveness initiatives may seem attractive because they are widely adopted and easier to get approved. In addition, they can deliver modest value (even if executed poorly). But this isn’t usually where you find opportunities to take big steps forward.

We’re not saying throw caution to the wind: Taking a big step forward for employee effectiveness may require you to act differently — but it doesn’t mean it will automatically be risky or expensive.

Taking a big step forward for employee effectiveness may require you to act differently — but it doesn’t mean it will automatically be risky or expensive.

Culture Problems

Culture is such a common topic that it can be easy to look past the impact it might have on employee effectiveness. Most organizations understand the idea and value of “good culture” — and even have very visible culture initiatives. In fact, the ubiquitous existence of culture initiatives and language can create the belief that your organization is safe from culture problems — when that may not be the case.

One of the warning signs of eroding culture is a lack of data transparency. When culture is healthy, trust is high, playing fields are level, and information is shared openly regardless of what the data indicates. But when trust begins to falter, internal teams may begin to restrict open access to data — to maintain control or avoid scrutiny related to performance.

Workforces doing strategic work need access to good data. If they have unfettered access to it, along with the tools to make sense of it, they will be free to perform. Without it, decreases in productivity and performance are all but guaranteed, either due to poor decision-making or because of time lost looking for needed data.

Ignoring the Power of Systems

We often call a collection of people in a business a team. But they are also a system, because they are related and interdependent individuals that interact to produce a result we call “team performance”. In this sense, each company is a system, made up of smaller systems such as divisions, departments and teams.

Every system has rules: a collection of objectives, values, guidelines and tools that influence how the parts interact and the results they achieve.

So your team, or workforce, is a complex system of parts (or individuals) and rules that all work together to produce a result. This brings us to an uncomfortable truth: Whether you like or dislike the result, your workforce is producing the results it was designed to produce.

To change those results, you need to change the rules, or some combination of the objectives, values, guidelines and tools. In many companies, the knee-jerk reaction is to fire the current workforce leader, then hire a replacement to bring in “fresh thinking” — but this tactic often masks or ignores the systemic flaws that still exist, regardless of leadership.

Eradicate Enterprise Workflow Chaos

All these barriers to employee effectiveness pose a great challenge. It’s hard to take risks — even calculated ones. Addressing culture problems can be exhausting and take a long time. Systems can prove difficult to change, especially when you’re part of the system you want to change!

However, addressing Enterprise Workflow Chaos is different. Different because it is easy to identify. Different because it can be measured. Different because a small change can make a big difference.

Eradicating Enterprise Workflow Chaos is a very powerful way for leaders of large workforces to “change the rules” — especially if you know you have good employees but can’t identify what keeps them from reaching their potential.

Look outside of your department, division, company or even industry if necessary. Get to know your workforce like you would your customer. If you want to change the result, you have to change the system.

Your enterprise employees will thrive at work — if you remove these 4 obstacles

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