No Image Available

Shirley Barnes

Read more about Shirley Barnes

Getting staff to pull in the same direction for the good of the organisation


In today’s economic environment, where reducing costs and improving productivity of employees is top of the agenda, how can we get staff to pull in the same direction in every aspect of the business to achieve the business goals?

Individual behaviour, attitude and motivation, team working and alignment to objectives and values – and compliance – may need to be addressed. And all at low cost.

The task can at first appear to be daunting. SMEs may think it’s out of reach financially or resource-wise, while larger operations may outsource the job at high cost but notice a falling off of improvements after the consultants have departed, unless knowledge transfer has been part of the deal.

In particular, execution of a vision, or strategy, can suffer [if not fail] if close attention isn’t paid to staff behaviours, attitudes and alignment.

In large organisations, the classic reaction has been to call upon external consultants to use a variety of tools to map the organisation culture and then roll out a change programme. That may involve time and motion studies to highlight where individual improvement is required, followed by training.

Greatly desired
‘Sustainability’ is a key word in change. So is cost. Against an economic backdrop of low growth or deflation – and, in the public sector, budget cuts – sustainable gains in performance achieved at low cost are greatly desired. How can it happen?

Medex Research is an SME and the lessons learned there can be scaled up or down. The company is a full service global market research agency, operating in the medical devices and diagnostics market.

Medex traditionally used paper-based appraisals to track staff performance to ensure that its people were permanently focused on the essential business objectives and values. Managing director Sarina Masson recognised the drawbacks of paper and decided to switch to a new generation of employee performance management.

Complete picture
The new generation is automated and web-based and gives management a complete picture of what is going on in an organisation from the employee performance and behaviour perspective.

Masson says, "Many people are now more familiar with web-based applications than paper ones, which makes the switch to web-based appraisals an increasingly painless one. There is the added advantage that they can be rolled out very easily at any time locally or globally. All that is needed is web access and computers."
Medex’s appraisals are carried out with two objectives in mind, which are set against the business goal of always producing the highest-quality research, in order to secure solid long-term client relationships, (i) staff development, including meeting training needs and how best to improve performance, if it needs improving. "The system will tell us if it does," says Masson, and (ii) using the system to build and maintain quality across the business.

Focus on staff development and re-direction
"We’re different to a lot of other companies, but similar to market research companies, in that sales output can’t be objectively measured," she adds. "So we focus on staff development in areas like analysis and report writing – generally, how to perfect the different stages of market research.

"Now in its second year here, the system is key to optimising our employees’ market research skills, as well as their knowledge of the medical industry, through highlighting any gaps in it, which we then address."

Masson says the system "has helped us formalise and systemise employee appraisal and career progression.  Paper-based systems can be run very informally and will take more time. A computerised, web-based system enforces good discipline by the managing director, or the head of HR or whoever manages its use."

The introduction of a new approach to performance management "also gives the opportunity for staff  ‘re-direction’ in their personal development. It’s not just useful for showing where training is required; it can pinpoint where change is required in attitudes, attention to detail and overall quality of work, in line with company goals.

"And it helps with fostering a better ‘connection’ with the company, in terms of individuals helping other staff; for example in generating more sales, being pleasant to work with, having ideas for the business and the workplace, being  proactive in company support – including the way clients are serviced – and working better as a team.   

"Where a company’s positioning is ‘quality’, the system supports the drive for excellence in every area that contributes to it," adds Masson.

Medex’s experience of the online approach is a good pointer for other organisations, or even specific departments in large operations. It is that there is a new way for change and it’s one that challenges both the fear and cost of change, as well as the assumption that employee performance managements solutions are cumbersome and time consuming and reliant on external niche consultants.

They are not and they can be managed by internal or external HR staff or the MD. All that is required is a keyboard, a computer and web access.

Shirley Barnes is client services director at Dinamiks Ltd.


Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.