3 Crucial Aspects of Managing People
Organisational performance is driven by resources, technology and people. Although people are not the only ingredient in organisational performance, there is a wealth of evidence that effective management of staff is essential. Research undertaken over the past two decades in Australia and overseas shows that when people are managed well, organisational performance is higher.
The research also shows that there are three crucial aspects of effective people management: knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs); motivation; and opportunities. When organisations hire staff with appropriate KSAs and train them, staff are more effective in their jobs. But employees also need to be motivated to utilise their skills effectively.
The key to motivation is performance management and rewarding staff equitably for performance. KSAs and motivation, however, only work when employees have the opportunity to use their skills effectively to solve problems and innovate. Opportunities can be provided through forms of work organisation – such as team-based work – which allow employees to make decisions about their work and develop better ways to work.
This means that really effective organisations are the ones which don’t just focus on KSAs, motivation or opportunities, but combine them so that the three factors mutually reinforce each other. These combinations – often referred to as ‘high performance work systems’ – have been demonstrated to go hand-in-hand with superior performance by individual staff, by work teams and by whole organisations.
We know what works, but in spite of this the research indicates that relatively few Australian organisations effectively implement such systems. It seems likely that this reflects a lack of resources, particularly in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), but even more importantly a lack of knowledge and skills on the part of managers about how to go about implementing high performance work systems.
In the current climate, where much of the conversation revolves around changes to the industrial relations legislations, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that the implementation of effective people management is more likely to drive performance gains than changes to workplace regulation.
The real challenge for Australian industry is to equip its managers with the knowledge and skills to implement high performance work systems and to deliver better working environments and better organisational performance.