Balance Scrabble letters

Why info-action balance is key to driving people performance

Organisations today have more information and metrics than ever before. We’re all drowning in data. It’s everywhere – from a clamour for making more data-driven decisions to the formation of the ‘people analytics’ job function. And yet the numbers that really matter, the ones relating to employee engagement, productivity and performance aren’t shifting. So, in order to really move these dials, something else has to change. We feel strongly that this ‘thing’ is a need for greater balance between having the right information and taking the right action.

Beware: information overload

The technological revolution has had a profound impact on us all from a ‘world of work’ perspective. Against a backdrop of huge competition and rapid, on-going change organisations have naturally sought to use technology to measure and learn more about their employees. This has led to a situation where we have an abundance of information on employees – their engagement, their behaviour and personality traits, their performance, their leadership potential, their attendance record, their flight risk… the list goes on.

The trouble is, with more responsibility shifting ‘to the line’, managers are becoming overloaded. We’re all struggling to translate the information into intervention, data into action. What’s needed is a way of cutting to the critical action that is needed to improve things like employee wellbeing, capability and performance.

But, data is good!

Now, we absolutely are not saying that getting and analysing different people data isn’t worthwhile. This is, after all, part of what we do with our own partners through things like engagement surveys and 360 feedback processes! However, what we are saying is that there’s a big risk of too much time being spent on the gathering and poring over of data with not enough time or thought spent on acting on what we find in the numbers.

This is issue is being exacerbated by things like ‘always on’ employee listening tools. Again we aren’t knocking different diagnostic approaches but rather are cautioning on the need to consider your context. Think hard about what’s right for your business – what kind of approach you can resource, what the appetite is from managers for more/more frequent data and how well equipped are they to interpret and act on it.

Turning information into action

When you boil it all down, what you need is simply to put the right information in the right people’s hands. Here are a few steps to consider to help you achieve this:

  • Start by you ensuring you are measuring and impacting those things that compel your people to take action
  • Gain a good understanding of the current conditions within your environment which either prevent people from considering the information or that prevent them from taking responsibility to act on it
  • Make sure information you’re giving to managers is relevant, timely and meaningful to your people and organisational goals (this will create personal accountability for driving change).

The visual below illustrates how organisations differ in terms of their readiness and ability to turn information into action. Where do you think yours currently sits?

info-action grid

Identifying keystone habits

When trying to deliver organisational change, shift a culture or any other significant action, getting everyone pulling in the same direction is imperative. Personal accountability (as shown on our visual) is what you’re aiming for. And ‘keystone’ habits are fundamental to achieving this. They are integral to a programme’s success (or failure), acting as a catalyst for change.
Consider the following question:

“If you could move your entire organisation forward on just one thing, what would it be?”

Next think about the habits most associated with this, being careful not to confuse habits with thoughts, feelings or competencies. They are actions – stuff we do and, by changing actions, you can change outcomes. It’s critical you identify and focus on ‘the one thing’ that will create the greatest shift.

Striking a balance

Ultimately this is all about striking a balance that works for your people and organisation. There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint for driving improved people performance (sorry!). But there are major gains to be made by adopting a more balanced approach…

Don’t swamp your managers with so much data they can’t see the wood for the trees! And don’t spend so much time measuring and crunching numbers if it limits your ability (and time) to act on what you find. Instead, train and support your managers to quickly sift out the key nuggets of information and translate these into effective actions. You’ll find this is a crucial foundational step of driving improved people performance.

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