Towards a High Performance Culture Towards a High Performance Culture

In Malaysia as well as in many parts of the world, employee training is considered a panacea to most of the ills that befall an organization. However,this is not always the case.Huge investments in terms of time and money are being made to train employees. However, the returns from these investments do not always justify the investments made. Despite this, continual training of the workforce is encouraged and occurs routinely in most organizations in Malaysia. This article serves to investigate why despite huge investments made in training; competence of the workforce does not increase proportionately.

Difference between trained and competent workforce

The success of organizations is due not only to business strategy formulation but also to the execution of that strategy. This execution is requires a competent workforce, capable of and willing to execute strategies. Having a well-­?trained workforce does not necessarily mean that it is competent in terms of terms of executing business strategies.

In coming to terms with this apparent anomaly, it would be necessary to distinguish between a trained and competent workforce. If training efforts in an organization is intensified, it leads to the development of a trained workforce. However, a trained workforce does not necessarily translate to a competent workforce.

A trained workforce comprises employees who are trained in key areas deemed important for ensuring success. A competent workforce is one that has three characteristics. Firstly, it must be one that comprises employees who possess the right mindset, attitudes and beliefs necessary for an organization to succeed. Secondly, the attitudes and beliefs must translate into behaviours that add value to the organization. Thirdly there must be a demonstrable and measureable outcome that leads to an improvement in an organizations bottom line. Clearly a trained workforce that does not demonstrate these characteristics will be ill equipped to execute business strategies.

Organizational culture

The development of a competent workforce requires a gradual and systematic management of an organizational culture. Transforming the corporate culture to a high performance corporate culture is what cements the collective efforts that yield results in executing strategies. Most managers bemoan that their employees may be trained but they are not competent because the culture in the organization is such. The blame lies squarely on the mindset, attitude and poor work ethics that exist. They proclaim that they have to live with this unfortunate situation because it is not possible to change the culture. They recognize that an organizations culture is critical to its success or failure. Yet very little is being done to manage organizational culture. To foster an environment conducive for the emergence of a competent workforce, it is necessary first to manage the organizational culture.

Culture is normally referred to as the way employees in an organization naturally behave. Organizations develop their own culture over time. Culture reflects the lessons learnt in the past. It is about the mindset that organizes the behaviour of the workforce. It has to do with learnt responses that affect their behaviour.

Organizations try to develop their culture based on espoused corporate values. But having corporate values does not mean that employees imbue the values prescribed by the core values that are displayed. Corporate culture is an important business issue because culture isn't one aspect of the game. It is the game. Therefore it has to be managed.

Achieving a high performance culture

To manage organizational culture it is necessary to measure and monitor an organizational culture over time. Considerable research has been carried out in establishing how organizational culture affects bottom line performance. The findings of this research suggest that a positive link between a high performance culture comprising a competent workforce and a company's bottom line exists. Research has also revealed that for organizations to have a high performance culture that drives bottom line performance, four key traits should manifest.

The traits that are essential are traits that relate to mission, consistency, involvement and adapt-­? ability. Mission essentially refers to defining a meaningful long-­?term direction of a company. Consistency defines the values and systems that are the basis of a strong culture. It ensures that the existing system creates leverage that may be used to generate competitive advantage. Involvement refers to building human capability; ownership and responsibility that determine how aligned and engaged employees are to meeting company objectives. Adaptability refers to how an organization is able to translate the demands of the business environment into action.

It has been demonstrated that organizations that demonstrate high bottom line performance have high culture scores in all four traits. Thus, such organizations are likely to have cultures that are adaptive, yet highly consistent and predictable, and that foster high involvement, but do so within the context of a shared sense of mission. By being able to identify which traits are lacking in an organization, it would be possible to rectify that trait and in the process of doing so develop a high performance culture.

Based on the above, organizations should seek not only to train their workforce but also to identify and rectify challenges they face in their organizational culture. Measuring and tracking these traits over a period of time through regular surveys will pinpoint challenges they face in developing a high performance culture. Only by doing so can they nurture and develop a competent workforce capable of contributing positively to the bottom line.


Dr Rumesh Kumar Sharma