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How High-Performance Organizations Constantly Seek Process Improvements

Effective talent management is a key capability differentiating high-performance organizations. But managing talent well isn't just a matter of interactions with the workforce. It's also process-driven. More specifically, process-improvement-driven.

From Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, and Kaizen, to Zero Defect Programs, Total Quality Management, and other approaches, the elusive quest to continually improve how they do what they do challenges organizations worldwide. And it should. i4cp research has identified 25 KPIs that drive high performance and confirmed the important role that process improvement plays. Indeed, high-performance organizations focus on process improvement at a rate more than 2.5x that of their lower-performing counterparts.

Many companies implement formal, structured programs to monitor and improve the quality of their work methods. At i4cp member company Flextronics, training empowers frontline supervisors to manage more collaboratively through the use of one-on-one conversations with employees, group discussions, and problem-solving. The result: positive effects in soft savings (cost avoidance) and hard savings (expense reduction). Flextronics also involves hourly employees in Lean Sigma and Six Sigma process-improvement efforts, aiming to lower lead time, enhance quality, and reduce low-value activities.

Do you have to be a Six Sigma Master Black Belt to drive process improvement?

Of course not. Business leaders can build solid foundations to support effective talent management through process improvement by implementing the logical, well-thought-out tactics leveraged by high-performance organizations:

Align goals throughout the organization. Are your employees' individual performance objectives--the activities on which they focus their efforts every day--directly supporting your overall organizational goals? Audit alignment and revisit it annually or on a regular schedule that makes sense for your company.

At the same time, ensure employee development plans are consistent with organizational goals. Then take it a step further: Will those employee plans drive development of the knowledge and skills required to achieve organizational goals in the future? If not, marshal your workforce planning team and conduct a skills analysis to identify potential gaps that could signal talent risk.

Power-up your frontline managers. Invest in comprehensive training to help your managers build critical performance management (read: talent management) skills, and don't wait another day to begin. High-performance organizations make sure their managers know how to set employee goals that support company objectives.

High-performers teach managers to give and receive feedback constructively, and how to write and deliver performance appraisals effectively. Finally, in high-performance organizations managers develop the skills that make conversations about employees' job performance (and the processes involved) comfortable enough to occur on an ongoing and informal basis. It isn't hard to learn from the practices that distinguish high-performance organizations. Or to see that implementing high-performers' strategies can help lay foundations for effective process improvement and talent management. That's why i4cp research focuses exclusively on identifying the practices that differentiate high-performers--the strategies correlated to better market performance.

Increasing performance by up to 3x

For a roadmap to performance improvement in all five of your organization's human capital domains, explore i4cp's The People-Profit Chain™. Or, if you're ready to gauge your organization's ability to leverage talent and drive better market performance, consider The People-Profit Chain™ Assessment.
Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.