Are Your Top Leaders People Accountable?
Research at the Metrus Institute* shows that while the immediate manager accounts for perhaps 50-70% of performance results, senior leaders and the policies they institute are also crucial to optimizing talent and performance. Organizations — and their senior leaders — need to consider the impact these individuals have on the rest of the workforce population, while also implementing ways to ensure senior leaders are held accountable for helping drive employee performance.
For example, Garry Ridge, the CEO of WD-40 Company creates strong People Equity — a term referring to the value created by people investments — in a variety of significant ways:
Responsiveness. Ridge is accessible when employees need to reach him, often returning e-mails to them within hours or even minutes.
Empowerment. Senior leaders empower teams — or “tribes” in the WD-40 Company vernacular — to take responsibility for not only reaching goals, but also for operating as high performance teams. These teams can have collective hiring and firing power, and can also recommend development for new members, giving them accountability for, and opportunity to, influence performance.
Aligned policies and processes. Ridge and WD-40 Company HR leader Nancy Ely build strong talent systems and policies that support a high People Equity environment. For example, they begin the year planning for every employee to deliver top-box performance. While they may not all achieve that goal, a far higher percentage do than in most firms. New hires must pass muster with the teams they will be joining; the teams not only rule on whether a new hire has the right competencies, but also on whether they will be aligned and engaged in their organizational culture.
Strong values. Senior leaders inculcate values that provide a signpost for their people in and around the organization to measure up against, and they actively behave in accordance with these organizational elements. Since they cannot be everywhere to oversee actions, senior leaders let the values do the heavy lifting, and allow employees to ask themselves, “Are our behaviors consistent with our values?”
Adaptability. Rather than just dictate narrowly prescribed behaviors, the leaders at WD-40 Company recognize that you cannot create 95% engagement levels by ignoring country, region, and cultural differences. They ask their tribes to adapt their goals and values in ways that make sense to them locally, resulting in dramatically higher performance than groups that are narrowly controlled.
Measurement. WD-40 Company has worked diligently to consistently measure and assess how well they are doing against these actions. This ongoing process has created a high level of self-accountability among each of the employees and leaders.
Sadly, these types of behavior are not the norm in companies today. Many executives are inaccessible, don’t adequately model organizational values, hold control tightly, and have one-size-fits-all HR policies. It’s time to rethink the criteria we use to select, evaluate and promote leaders. Competencies that do not lead to high talent optimization aren’t very helpful, nor are leaders who simply meet the numbers but destroy human capital en route.
* Schiemann, W. (2012). The ACE Advantage: How Smart Companies Unleash Talent for Optimal Performance. Alexandria, VA: Society for Human Resource Management.
William A. Schiemann is CEO and founder of Metrus Institute, the learning and research division of Metrus Group. Dr. Schiemann and his firm are known for their pioneering work in the creation of the People Equity (ACE) talent optimization framework, strategic performance metrics and scorecards, and for strategic employee surveys that drive high performance. In addition, he is the author of Hidden Drivers of Success: Leveraging Employee Insights for Strategic Advantage (co-authored by Jerry H. Seibert and Brian S. Morgan, SHRM 2013), The ACE Advantage, (SHRM 2012), Reinventing Talent Management (Wiley, SHRM 2009) and Bullseye! Hitting Your Strategic Targets Through High-Impact Measurement (Free Press 1999). He has written dozens of articles for business publications and is a frequent global speaker for both public and private forums.