MAXIMISING PERFORMANCE - The Employment Relationship at Work

By Louise Broekman, HR Coach Network

This article appeared in Issue 3#4 (May/June 2009) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

The Employment Relationship

The employment relationship is one of the oldest relationships in the world, and yet, it is possibly the least understood. For the vast majority of people the workplace is where they spend more of their time than anywhere else. Work teams spend more time together than the conventional family and the relationships formed at work can be some of the most meaningful for people. 

However we often forget the importance of the employment relationship. Employers wield respect and authority by setting the course of organisations on the one hand, and on the other hand, employees determine the success of organisations through their contribution and actions. Faced with the challenges of changing times, it’s never been more important to start thinking, acting and improving this relationship so that businesses get the best results.   

Ultimately, businesses don’t make decisions – people do!  So to get the best out of employees, the relationship does matter and it requires a shift from compliance into a relationship based on performance.

Performance Management vs Performance Coaching

The very nature of work has a large impact on our lives.  It impacts on how we live, how we view the world and the choices we make.  It helps us to define our purpose, to express ourselves and define who we are.   We also abuse it.  In good times it can be undervalued and individuals demand more.  It can change though in tough times, where it gives us a sense of security and stability.

When business is good it is easy to take our eye off the ball in regards to managing employees. When everything is going well, employers can find it easy to be distracted by success. When markets change and growth is harder to realise, there can be snap reaction to back to management that can jolt employees.

Management of tasks is hard work. It’s hard work for employers because they have to monitor individual tasks and individual people, it’s also unpleasant for employees because they feel as though they aren’t being trusted. More to the point it’s expensive. When employers or leaders spend their time managing employees they are not investing their time in developing the business. There is however, an alternative, Performance Coaching.

Performance Coaching is management with a difference. Instead of micro-management it looks at empowering employees to be responsible for the work that they do and to drive their own contribution. It gives employees an opportunity to develop and learn whilst being a more pleasant and less time intensive process than management. It is not only more productive but cheaper.  In order for coaching to work the right employment relationships or partnerships are needed.

Creating Partnerships for Performance

Research from the HR Coach Research Institute identifies that creating partnerships is a key to new workplace models.  For employers, partnerships change the employment relationship from people working “for me” to people working “with me”.

When we think of our workplace relationships in terms of partnerships, all of a sudden the relationship group grows.  Successful businesses do this well.  Partnerships extend past employees.  It also includes suppliers, clients, advisors and communities.  It is known as a cluster group.

Mutual SuccessStrong businesses have strong relationships.  This relationship where both the employer and the employee feel successful in a partnership is what we call Mutual Success.  How does the Mutual Success Model work?  It is simple!  My success is your success.  

Think of it this way, I operate a National business advisory network and help individuals and businesses to provide HR Coaching services to their local markets.  My success in my business is measured by how successful they are in their business.  I make sure I select the right people, invest time in building their strategy with them and coach them along the way.  I celebrate their success.

They in turn, measure their success by their clients’ results in their business.  They measure objectively the pressure in their business, develop an action plan with their clients and coach them long term.  The HR Coach celebrates their clients’ success.

The client then measures their success by how successful people are in their business.  They measure their performance, they build a plan for the next 12 months and they coach them along the way.  The client celebrates their employees’ success.

This creates a success chain that flows through to the broader community.

How Can Mutual Success Work in a Workplace?

Select the Right People!  Remember people generally do not want to do a bad job or not enjoy their work.  The most common failure point in the employment relationships occurs from the selection process.  

Understanding expectations from the employer includes their requirements for the job and the outcomes to define what a successful job means.  For employees, it is also important that they have an understanding about their expectations of the job, the environment and for their future.  The selection process occurs from both sides.  A “mutual selection” process is an outcome of a successful selection process.  The smaller the organisation, the more important the mutual selection process becomes.

Know what you are looking for. Select for technical ability “what I do” as well as behavioural attitudes or “How I do it”.  Research conducted by the HR Coach Research Institute identified that most employers would prefer to recruit for individuals with the right attitude and train on the technical skills for the job.  This varies though from most recruitment processes in the business sector.  

Business owners and employers have an opportunity to improve their recruitment process to include questions and assessments on both technical ability and behavioural attitudes.  If you have any questions about this, please contact a Member of the HR Coach Network for examples of Interview Guides that assists with this process.

Define the Expectation.  Know what the strategy is for the workplace and for the job, measure it objectively and communicate it.  Unfortunately, employers are generally ill equipped in defining their strategy and realistically understanding how employees link into the business goals created.  

In uncertain times, this becomes even more complex as the strategy requires agility and flexibility for changing conditions.  Especially in times of uncertainty, it is critical that all roles are clearly defined with measurable performance indicators and feedback mechanisms.  Every role must count.  If both the employer and employee are clear on the expectations, it enables the relationship to evolve into being “self managed” by the employee.  This is an ideal environment for mutual success.  

Develop an Action Plan.  We all need goals. If the goal in workplaces is for individuals to take ownership, then employers must give them something to own.  Creating common goals provides purpose and a means to link in together.

The management of common goals and managing expectations of performance does not need to be complex.  It does however, require discipline.  Once a business defines its business goals and expectations for roles, the creation of a HR Plan, including key events and dates, provides a road map for the relationship.  Employers who share the HR Plan with employees, enables individuals to “self manage” in the process.  

Coach for Performance.  Coaching is very different to managing.  Management of others is an expensive activity because you have an individual doing the job and another checking.  That means there are two people doing the job!  This relationship can also create problems.  If I am checking up on you – I am the adult and you are the child.  Coaching allows people to contribute and be self managed.  

To start thinking about how to implement a coaching culture in a business, review how the work is delegated, who problem solves and who makes decisions, the effectiveness of meetings and performance reviews.  

Celebrate Someone Else’s Success.  Successful business cannot be done without successful people.  By celebrating someone else’s success takes business beyond financial gain to how we contribute to each others’ success.  Remember – “It’s not just all about you!”

If employers seek sustainability and growth long term, the success of the business will be predetermined by how successful people are within the business.  Identify how and what your workplace celebrates.  Often employees are recognised for the first time at the farewell party.  What do you do and what can you do better?

Build strength from a balance of building good strategy and creating successful people within.  Capability and confidence is built from within.  The strength of internal capability and confidence will provide opportunities for innovative workplaces to maximise performance for comparative advantage.  In times of uncertainty, the strong will survive and thrive in this environment.

Techniques to Maximise Performance 

Let’s look at the techniques in a four stage process:

Strategy – Measure the business today and identify the strategic options for the future.  Create meaningful goals or milestones that can be achieved.  Carefully analyse who can partner with you to make your strategy happen?

Team – Involve your partners in the planning process or if you have a large team, ask for their input prior to the plan development.  Roll it out in your continuous planning process and show a chart of what is planned – so everyone can “see”.

Action – Coach individuals on their own action plans and what they will be doing to contribute to the plan.  Make sure that individuals are capable of achieving the tasks and have the resources to do the job.  You then have to let go!  Allow people to problem solve their own problems and create Action Meetings where it shifts from a “command and control” to a problem solving and planning opportunity.

Results – Measure again to make sure you achieved your goals that were established in the beginning.  Then remember to celebrate the success of others in making the strategy happen!

Employer Checklist

  • Do we have a well defined strategy or operations plan for the current environment?
  • Do we have a HR Plan that articulates the key activities in the workplace for the next 12 months?
  • Do we have a clear understanding and expectation of roles
  • Do we share our expectations with our employees?
  • Do we measure and understand our employees’ expectations?
  • Do we have an environment of “mutual success” within our workplace?
  • What can we do to maximise performance of our workplace?
  • What do we celebrate as successes in our workplace?

Star Workplace LogoFor further information on the National STAR Report©, the Strategic Action Model™ or participating in the STAR Workplace Program, please contact or 1300 550 674.