Building a Performance Culture through Improved Human Resource Management Strategies

Article excerpt

Executives and managers in public service are faced with the task of building work cultures that support high performance. The federal government and many state and local governments have developed some form of accountability systems to measure the outcomes of their agencies. The public is demanding greater accountability for government programs. Much is expected from public agencies, and Americans would rather do away with under-performing programs. We need a symbiotic relationship between agency executives and managers and the rank-and-file employees upon whom we all depend for essential services.

Think of a "performance culture" as the commitment of the entire organization to work together to meet organizational goals and commitments on behalf of its many stakeholders, most important, the public that the organization serves. With this in mind, then, a performance culture can succeed only if the relationships between employees at all levels are open, transparent, and supportive. While executive leadership is critical, employees at all levels have a substantive impact on the ability of the organization to succeed, so leadership is needed at all levels.

Performance Studies

Recent studies of the federal workforce (such as federal human capital surveys) indicate a high level of employee engagement in their work. For example, 90 percent believe their work is important, 83 percent believe they know how their work relates to agency goals and priorities, and a similar number believe employees cooperate to get work done. However, employees have a much lower level of confidence in the ability of supervisors and managers to ensure high performance. For example, 78 percent see no link between performance and pay, 61 percent say creativity and innovation are not rewarded, and 71 percent say supervisors do not deal with poor performers. How do we go about addressing these challenges to create an effective, performance-based culture?

Pay for Performance

Many believe the answer lies in pay for performance. Often, comparisons are made with the private sector, where pay-for-performance systems have been used for many years. However, with the lack of trust that employees have in their supervisors, no pay-for-performance system by itself can provide the answer. First, we have to model performance accountability systems (measuring individual and group performance) in a way that can be supported by managers and line employees. …